After his reasonably successful schooling show debut back in February, Madigan’s trainer, baby school rider, and I started eyeing rated shows. We settled on Oklahoma Dressage Society’s spring show for a couple of reasons. It’s in Tulsa, so it was close enough that Madigan could come home at night. It offered the USEF 4 Year Old Dressage Test. Neither his trainer nor rider were planning to compete, so scheduling wouldn’t be weird.
The 4 year old test was only offered Saturday, so I signed him up for that and Training Level Test 3. His baby school rider borrowed a barnmate’s Fairfax Gareth, and Madigan went very well in the weeks leading up to the show.
I hauled him to the Tulsa Expo for schooling on Friday night. We groomed him, tacked him up, and led him to the cavernous Ford Truck Arena. Tulsa has incredible horse show facilities that are home to events like the Pinto World Championship, the POA National Congress, the NSBA World Championship Show, and the Arabian & Half Arabian Nationals. Every stall has electric, there’s covered access to every arena, the wash racks have hot water, and the arenas have good footing. The Ford Truck Arena about the size of a football field; two dressage rings were set up side-by-side in it for this show.
Madigan was concerned on Friday night. It’s not like he’s never left home- he’s been to other farms, a couple of horse show venues, the vet clinic, and on trail rides. But this was by far the largest and busiest place he’s been. Once his baby school rider got on, they walked around the arena for close to half an hour. Madigan was on his tiptoes and staring bug-eyed at everything from the stadium seating to the other horses. Fortunately, a young rider from our barn and her experienced horse were there to walk with Madigan and help him settle. Once he got to work at the trot and the canter, he was focused and much quieter.
I hauled him home Friday night and back to the Expo Saturday morning. His rider bathed and braided him before returning him to his stall to hang out. Madigan looked a little wide-eyed at all the activity but quickly zeroed in on his hay bag.
He did Training 3 in the early afternoon. He looked relaxed and confident in the warmup. In the ring, he did about as well as a very young green horse could. He found the corner at M scary and looked nervous throughout the test. The judge found some things to like about him, including his trot and canter. She rightfully dinged him for tension, and he ended up with a 60.8%.
Madigan went back to his stall after that, as he had 4ish hours between tests. When he returned to the warmup, he looked even better than before. However, I expected him to be weird in the arena because the other ring already finished. He was going to be alone in a giant, weirdly silent arena. He surprised everyone with a very pleasant 4 year old test, though!
The 4 year old test works differently than regular tests. Horses aren’t judged on the test’s specific movements. The test evaluates the walk, trot, canter, submissiveness, and general impression. Marks range from 1-10 (decimals like 7.3 are allowed) and the total is divided by 5. The score is also provided as a percentage. (The FEI 5 and 6 year old tests are scored this way, too.) The movements in the test are a combination of Training and First level.
Madigan scored a 6.6 (or 66%), which I think was fair. He looked less nervous than he did in T3, but he was still more tense than the judges would have liked to see. His canter and general impression were good. I’m not surprised his other gaits didn’t score super high. I’ve always maintained that he is not a 10 mover and that I do not need him to be a 10 mover. He needs to be smart, brave, and able to help me out occasionally.
I’m certain higher scores will come with more experience. I can’t complain about his very first rated outing, though. His rider was tactful and calm, he got better as the day went on, and he tried hard to be a good boy (and was)!