The Training Move Up: Dressage

When I first got into eventing, the year was 2002. My ride was a hotter-than-hell Irish Sport Horse mare who was the definition of a fire-breathing-showjumper. Dressage was definitely not her thing, but despite the high (terrible) scores in the sandbox, she was a freak of a jumper, and eventually we faced down our first Training horse trials together at a place called Why Not an American Ark.

Following that, I went to college, the mare was bred; I focused on Ivan who was nowhere enough trustworthy to event, then Foster who was trustworthy but not sound enough to make it past a Training CT, followed by Smitty who only lasted 6 months, and then a certain giant yellow pony came into my life that I hoped would one day carry me around the black numbers again.

Foster schooling a Training cordwood fence, November 2013

I’m lucky enough that I am able to be in a program with Jack where we get consistent lessons and have a trainer (trainers, because dressage) who believes in our ability and helps me make smart decisions about my path forward. Jack is not usually the easiest of horses, increasingly on the ground (OMG bath time UGH) but also in the saddle, so I need every ounce of help I can get before we tackle 3’3” solid fences. But the trainer told us we were ready, and so to Stableview Farm (gorgeous place btw!) we went.

We arrived in time to get out and hack around the dressage court area, and though Jack was tense and tight backed, he mostly settled and we had plenty of nice work that encouraged me for the next day. But it wasn’t meant to be.

That is, we had a beautiful beginning to our warm up. He was a bit tense, but settled, and was giving me really quality work. Then we moved to a different part of the warm up field that was closer to our ring, and that’s when Jack noticed the Prelim horses galloping and jumping just behind the treeline, and promptly lost it.

Now Jack is a spooky horse, but typically not a naughty one. And I don’t think he was being naughty per se, but he was also not listening- his brain was gone with the wind. So I spent the last couple minutes before my test on a horse that was bucking (and he never bucks), trotting sideways, bolting, jigging, and pretty much doing everything but relaxing. I did my best to hold it together in the ring, but I’ve included both my comments and the judge’s in the video below:

Overall the collective marks continued to be a bit of a sh*t show:

Quality gaits but balance not consistant. Willing, but ride a bit hectic. Relax!

And so we finished dressage with our highest dressage score in 2 years, a 37.9. But whatever… on to jumping, right?

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