Since I’d already taken Moe to a dressage schooling show this year, I figured I might as well go for Oklahoma Dressage Society/Green Country Dressage year end awards on him. The club doesn’t have crazy requirements for awards- you must have at least 5 scores at whatever level you’re seeking an award for, two of which must be from the highest test of the level, and you must have received them from three different judges. I already had two scores from one judge from the previous show, so it seemed like less of a pain in the ass to finish out the season on Moe than get something going on Gina.
Because I’m an optimist, I signed us up for First 1 and First 3. First 3 requires a lot more than any eventing test we’ve done: 10 meter circles at the trot, simple lead change, counter canter, lengthenings at trot and canter, leg yields. Moe’s grasp of leg yields and lengthenings is rudimentary, but I figured we’d at least have the counter canter down because that horse wouldn’t know a flying lead change if it jumped up and bit him.
I decided to take Candy to this show, too. I wasn’t planning to enter her, only to take her along for the ride and maybe hop on between riding Moe and volunteering. I rode her twice last week; she did so well that I thought I might as well sign her up for Intro B.
My friend Holly has been riding Gina while Roscoe recuperates from his neurectomy, and she asked if she could ride Gina in Intro A and B at the show. I told her I didn’t mind at all before I remembered I only have a two horse trailer. Oops.
Then one of the students at the barn next door who sometimes takes lessons on Moe asked if she could do a couple of Training Level tests on Moe. The lesson pony she usually rides is out for the remainder of the season with an injury, and Moe was going to the show anyway, so…
That’s how I ended up with three horses and two riders at a dressage schooling show.
I opted to take Candy and Gina down on Friday night and have a boarder at the barn trailer Moe with her horse on Saturday morning. Candy and Gina seemed kind of confused about why they were suddenly dumped in a strange barn on a Friday night, but settled in to eat without a whole lot of fuss. It was very hot and humid, so I opened the big stall windows that looked outside and turned on the fans. I took Gina out in hand for a walk around the arena; Candy freaked out when she realized her friend was gone. There was a lot of shrieking, and I shut the stall window for fear she’d try to jump out. She calmed down when Gina returned and was fairly calm on her own walk around the ring. I left them with hay and water and hoped they wouldn’t do anything dumb during the night.
I arrived bright and early Saturday morning and helped Holly tack up Gina for their tests. Gina was pretty relaxed, despite Candy’s incessant wailing and gnashing of teeth once Gina left the barn. Holly put in a perfectly nice Intro A test for a 62% and seemed very happy with that score.
I headed to tack up Candy after that. She danced at the trailer while I saddled her, whinnying and snorting the whole time. Just when it seemed like she’d tired herself out, my friend pulled up with Moe and her gelding. Seeing Moe’s familiar face kicked off another bout of screaming from Candy, and I briefly reconsidered my decision to take this banshee out in public. Did I mention this was the first time I’d ridden Candy in a dressage saddle, too? I don’t know what is wrong with me.
I managed to climb aboard my horse and pointed her in the direction of the warm up ring. Candy went, whinnying every few strides and stopping to stare at everything. I stayed calm and tried not to regret leaving my neck strap at home. Candy jigged around the warm up ring a couple of times. I decided not to push my luck and headed up to the dressage arena before her brain finished leaking out of her ears.
Candy was a great deal calmer when she could see Gina, and she managed to walk like a regular horse for a couple of minutes before it was our turn to go. Our test went better than I had anticipated. While Candy was tense, she was obedient and our test was accurate. She listened to me and even had a couple of nice moments when she wasn’t giving the arena the hairy eyeball.
To recap, this was Candy’s first:
- Visit to this venue
- Schooling show
- Time in a real dressage arena with letters/rails
- Time in a dressage saddle (with me at least, so in the last 10 months or so)
I’m very happy with how she did. Sure, she screamed a lot. Sure, she was hot and tense in the warm up. But she listened to me throughout the test. She walked, trotted, halted, steered, and had no disobedience or real naughtiness. Candy’s a sensible horse, and I am confident she’ll continue to improve.
I missed Gina and Holly’s second test, but Holly assured me that it was fine and she’d had fun. We put the mares back in their stalls and headed to supervise the warm up ring for a while. On a trip up to the show office, Holly retrieved my test- I was shocked to see Candy had scored a 64%! The judge mentioned Candy’s tension, but was positive about our accuracy and gave Candy what I thought was a very generous 7 on her gaits. That put us in second place (of three) in the open division. Out of the 11 rides across all divisions (juniors, amateurs, and open), we were fourth. Go Candy!
Moe’s junior rider rode shortly after lunch; I left her to manage her own schedule. She was on and ready in plenty of time! Moe was being a banana; he was zooming around at an unreasonable speed and freaking his kid out a little. It didn’t help that Candy and/or Gina was whinnying for him (why? I don’t know) and he kept producing these sad little old man horse neighs. I helped her warm up before her first test, and he settled a bit. They didn’t have a terrible test, but Moe went around doing his best llama impersonation and his young rider seemed too nervous to do much about it. We had a brief chat before her second test, and Moe seemed much calmer. She rode really well in Training 2 and scored a respectable 65%! I’m super proud of this kid; she got herself and her horse ready and warmed up with basically no adult help. Her usual trainer (my neighbor) couldn’t come to the show, her mother was unable to come except to watch her ride, and she totally nailed Training 2.
Moe was hosed off and returned to his stall after that. I didn’t get on him for First 1 until about 15 minutes before our ride time; it was very hot and humid by this point and I was concerned he’d be sluggish in the heat. I was correct- he was a bit tired when I got on him, but seemed game to go again. That Thoroughbred work ethic is really something.
First 1 went just fine- the coefficients are on the stretchy trot (which Moe has gotten really into over the last few months), free walk (which he’s always been pretty good at), and the left lead canter (our transitions are not great). Moe was fantastic, and I finished the test grinning. We had a few rides until First 3, so we stood in the shade and chatted with friends until it was time to go.
First 3 has coefficients everywhere, it seems. Stretchy trot, the halt in the middle of the test, free walk, and the canter loops. I decided I’d really go for it on the canter loops. Moe seriously does not get flying changes; even when we’re jumping, he’ll just continue on a counter canter rather than change it. (Unlike Gina, who can apparently sense when I’m thinking about changing directions and will throw a flying change anywhere.)
I could feel that First 3 was a good test. Moe’s trot work was solid; I could feel the lengthenings across the diagonal. The counter canter loops went well, too- Moe is a bendy, nimble horse and it worked to our advantage. He was straight as an arrow on the diagonals and the center line, and I smiled throughout the test. The judge talked to me after First 3 (I was the last ride of the day) and said she thought Moe was a decent First Level horse, but that we needed to work on him pushing up into the bridle because he gets a little on the forehand in the lengthenings.
Moe scored a 66% on First 1 and a 65% on First 3, and I couldn’t be more proud. He’s a horse who tries hard, no matter the task. I don’t want to take up dressage instead of eventing, but I AM looking forward to the next show! (Except maybe not with 3 horses because omgwtf what a circus.)