I watch a lot of upper level dressage at work; I spent most of the winter streaming competitions from the Adequan Global Dressage Festival on one of my monitors. I like to watch the tack store’s sponsored riders compete, and I like to see what trends are occurring in high level competition.
I didn’t realize how much all that Grand Prix dressage had warped my thinking until I watched Thursday’s dressage competition at Rolex. Here were horses who looked positively relaxed; none of them were going around in the ultra-collected frame I’m used to seeing. There were no tempi changes, no piaffes, no pirouettes! Nearly everyone was riding in a snaffle! Dressage at Rolex looked…almost easy.
Don’t get me wrong- I know it’s difficult. I know I can’t go out and ride that FEI Eventing 4* Test right now. But as I watched Rolex competitors, I thought, “This looks okay. This looks like something I could learn to do.” I never, ever think that about Grand Prix dressage. I look at riders like Lars Petersen or Shelly Francis and I think, “They’re so quiet! Their horses are so collected! How do they do that?!”
I felt inspired and refreshed after watching last Thursday’s competition. Suddenly, upper level eventing seemed attainable. Sure, it’s a long way off. I might never get there at all! I might take one look at a cross country fence like the one below and die of fright. But it’s nice to know that 4* dressage looks a lot more doable than I ever thought.