Pre-show test practice

Last night during my dressage school, I had the opportunity to have someone video my test. I find this super helpful, having a visual to compare against and fix any niggling issues before (or at) the show. Obviously I don’t expect to be able to change anything drastic, but there are plenty of mental reminders for myself that will make a big difference in the way we score.

It’s not our best test, but considering the conditions, I’m plenty pleased. It started raining as we went down centerline, then within a minute it was sideways raining into the arena, which quickly escalated into a downpour accompanied by tremendous wind- it’s a testament to A’s sweetness that she was willing to sit and video the whole thing (Thank you, A)! There are some moments where Foster was distracted by the elements (particularly near the mirrors, as that’s where it was coming in), and he gets a little behind me leg. The free walk stinks, but again, we’re heading into the rain. I feel pretty confident that this will not be the case this weekend. Also, look at those canter transitions! Not that they are perfect, but definitely a far cry from the completely hollow moments of the past. We’re getting there!

I took a moment to watch a little bit of the video while in the saddle, and immediately decided that we looked as though we were trudging down centerline. The whole test (with a couple exceptions) could be more forward, but it’s a fine line between forward and tense, so I’ll just have to feel that out. I asked A to video one more centerline so I could push the trot a bit and see what it looked like:

I think it’s worth pushing for a little more brilliance down centerline, as long as I can keep him straight, so this will be a change I attempt in the test on Sunday. You can see that I push it a little too far in the 20 meter circle afterwards, though, so I will need to remember to back up my leg with half-halts so as to not get his head to pop up expecting a canter transition.

I’m feeling a little unprepared for the show in that I haven’t made a single list yet, and normally at this point it would be made and double checked a thousand times over. Hopefully I’ve done this enough that I won’t forget anything, but I just hate not having my list!

I hope you guys all have a wonderful weekend, and I’ll shamefully ask for good juju sent our way! Recaps next week!

Pre-show prep: On the Leaderboard

So, this happened:


Cabin Branch Series Championship Leaderboard

Cool! Not like, of course, we have any chance of winning (extra points for Foster’s good looks? no?), or really getting anywhere near the top, but it was neat to see. My luck has been that we’ve either placed in the top 4 or the bottom 2 (mostly thanks to me going off course in some way or another) at pretty much every competition for the last year. Foster’s dressage scores have been as follows at the last 3 shows:

  • CHP May HT: 31.3
  • Recognized Show @ FENCE: 30
  • CHP October HT: 31.7

So we’re scoring pretty consistently in the low 30’s, and my goal for this next show is to bring any 6’s up to 7’s. Here’s looking at you, canter departs! Also, I’ll be disappointed in myself if I get comments about his haunches being right. For jumping, I just hope to go double clear in both phases, and not have a sticky jumping round. Our jumping record for the last 3 shows has been this:

  • CHP May HT: double-clear SJ and XC
  • Recognized Show @ FENCE:  2 rails SJ / double-clear XC (with rider timing issue)
  • CHP October HT: 1 time fault SJ / double clear XC

Not perfect, but I’m not complaining. The 2 rails at FENCE were mostly my fault- he was unbalanced for the first, and a little flat for the second. Going double-clear this weekend would mean a lot to me, and I have faith in Foster’s abilities to make it happen!

So our more specific goals for the weekend are this:

  • 7’s on canter departs and downward transitions
  • 8 on free walk/medium walk
  • no comments about haunches in
  • square halt
  • no time faults showjumping
  • land on the correct lead every time
  • balance before every fence
  • no jumping or time faults cross-country
  • forward, forward, forward!
  • Have fun!!! (So excited- we have a huge group going!)


Moving Up

When I was younger, the decision to move up was solely based on whether or not I could get around a course at that level. Our dressage was crap wasn’t pretty, our skills not confirmed, but I could get around a Training level cross country course without any faults, and that was the measure of success we held to.

Merry at the Ark Horse Trials

Merry at the Ark Horse Trials

Upon my return to the realm of competition as an adult amateur, I decided I was fed up with the days of just ‘getting around’, and redefined success as a competitor. To me, success is putting in a dressage test I can be proud of, jumping around a show-jumping course in a non-scary and tactful way, and giving my horse a confident ride over cross country. That is not to say that mistakes cannot be made, but that at the end of the day I am not embarrassed of the way I rode my horse and that he is better for the experience.

Cross country is supposed to be fun! Photo by High Times Photography

Cross country is supposed to be fun!
Photo by High Times Photography

Since I bought Foster as a just-turned 4 year old, I have had the reins for his entire career. No one else makes decisions about what he does or when he moves up, though certainly I try to be open minded to advice when knowledgable advice is given. Our first event was at the maiden level (video below), and we trotted almost the entire course, and racked up time faults galore, but I could have cared less. We campaigned at the Beginner Novice level for over a year and a half, as we struggled to find confidence and rhythm on a cross country course. When he cantered around a Beginner Novice track with ears pricked the whole way, and came in over 30 seconds under time, I knew we were ready to move up.

And now as I consider moving him up again, I pause. Foster has now completed 3 Novice level events, and proved he can rock around a harder Novice course and still come in with confidence and spunk. He has schooled Training height fences, and training combinations. His dressage is rocking along, and with some tweaks to my warmup, I hope to break into the 20s soon.

Training Jump, yay!


I know that part of me wants to move up to Training so badly, because I’ve always sort of put it on a pedestal. I hated that I didn’t get to compete more at Training with Merry, and in my mind it is the first real test of a non-green horse. Training level demands bravery, fitness, and finesse in a way that Novice only occasionally hints at. And I am more than eager to prove my horse can answer those demands.

There are still elements of Training that he hasn’t mastered. He hasn’t seen corners, or chevrons. He hasn’t got confirmed lengthenings (granted, two separate trainers have commented that he may never have great lengthenings). So do I trust that when asked, Foster will answer the new fence-type questions?

I’ve been hoping and planning to move up to Training in the spring, but I feel at war with myself, trying to judge if he is ready versus trying to judge whether it’s my ambition just saying he’s ready. But if all goes well, we will conquer lengthenings this winter, and I will find a facility to expose him to more training cross country questions. The latter is tough, because I can’t think of any schooling facilities have corners and chevrons available to practice over. We’ll just have to do our best to prepare, and I will have to trust Foster to continue to be confident in his abilities and my riding. And if it doesn’t go well, we’ll come back to Novice without regret. Because at the end of the day, success is still about him, and not me.

How do you measure success? When do you decide to move up?