Show Recap: SPHT Dressage

This last weekend represented my third recognized event ever, with my last one being almost 4 years ago. Of course this was also Jack’s first recognized show.

Putting that into perspective, I’m pretty fucking thrilled with how it went.

Jack is still figuring things out about travel, making friends (and not becoming obsessed with them), and the show horse life in general. So Friday we packed up and got to the Horse Park, with plenty of time for me to do my first course walk and then get in the saddle for a long hack around the rings followed by a very light (read:12 min) dressage school.

The plan for Saturday was to do a pre-ride (15 min walk and 5-10 min transitions) in the morning and then get ready for my test that afternoon. Unfortunately Jack felt explosive and was screaming profusely, and I decided to let him express some anxiety on the lunge line rather than beneath me. He lunged for 10 minutes and with a much softer eye I got back in the saddle. 15 minutes of walking, and 5 minutes of walk-trot transitions and he went back in his stall for a nap.

We came out for our test about 35 minutes early, and again just spent a long time walking around a quieter part of the warmup, doing transitions between free walk and medium walk to ease his brain. Following our dressage trainer’s plan (which was determined at the schooling dressage show the weekend before), we then did 5 min of easy walk-trot transitions, then a short walk break, then a full walk-trot-canter set that basically continued straight into the dressage ring.

The plan worked perfectly. Jack felt super rideable and attentive, and allowed me to ride him through any tense moments.

It’s a bit hard to read, but you get the jist!

Again, pretty effing thrilled with this test. I got my first 8 on rider score, a goal that I’ve been working toward, and Jack really nailed a lot of the things we’ve focused on lately. Considering this horse wouldn’t go down centerline in August, he’s come a long way. We earned a 26.8 for the dressage, putting us in first out of 15 for the day.

Tomorrow, the showjumping update!

Recognized Show Recap: Showjumping

After spending Saturday night basking in the glow of our successful cross country trip, and partaking in Blue Moon and pub food (the best kind), our entire party attempted to get a good night’s sleep and prepare for the last and final phase of the event. The showjumping course consisted of a whole bunch of bending lines and a few rollbacks thrown in for good measure, and seemed like it would ride quite nicely.

FENCE showjump 2

When I got to warm up, it appeared to be a circus. Immediately while hugging the rail we encountered issues as another rider blazed up Foster’s bum and sent him (and myself) into a minor tizzy. I tried to regroup, and jump a couple fences, noticing that we didn’t have quite the energy I would have preferred to be jumping with. Since we were several rides out, I decided to let Foster walk around and conserve energy, and when the rider before us went in, we would do a quick hand gallop to get the forward momentum, jump a fence, and go in.

Just as started to put this plan into effect, disaster struck (mildly exaggerating here). I began my canter around the outside of the arena, and noticed a rider playing chicken with me on the rail. In my dealings with this rider (yelling ‘Outside! Outside!’ and attempting to pass on the right as ring etiquette demands), I failed to observe the dog sitting most sneakily just outside the arena. Foster, on the other hand, found the canine highly offensive and promptly threw on the brakes, spinning and throwing his head backwards with impressive velocity, straight into mine. Completely and literally sideswiped by the events, I sat there in the saddle, head in hands, trying to get a grip on the immediate headache that was pounding away under my helmet.

FENCE showjump 6

At this moment, J rushed over and offered me water and helped me get a grip on myself. She also, as politely as possible, mentioned that I needed to head over to the arena, and that if I didn’t, I could be eliminated. Great.

With that, I promptly decided I was not going to fall off, I was going to go forward, and in order to do that, I was going to proverbially light a fire under my horse’s ass. I went into the arena and determined to keep my leg on through the entire performance, come hell or high water, and that was that.

Of course we started out by bringing down the first rail. I needed to have him sit up as well as go forward, so that was my fault. Coming around to fence 2, which looked oddly huge, I did my best to lift his balance and get him really in front of my leg, which was successful, but lacked some of the preparation needed for the rollback to fence 3.  I’m pleased with the way 4 and 5 went, and especially happy with the way the oxer-to-vertical 2 stride rode, since our habit can be to not have enough power into the first element and then have to scramble to get over the second. Turn right to fence 7, another bending line to fence 8, which he left long and got a little flat, bringing down our second rail on course. Rollback to 9, bending line to 10, and done.

Overall, I can’t complain. Half of my division had rails, so I was not alone in my mistakes. For my part though, it’s not the prettiest riding, as I sacrificed a bit of finesse in favor of the forward going ride, but I like the pace set in the video. I know with a bit more preparation I can focus on my equitation, so that will come. And again with fitness, I was still able to come under time in the showjumping phase, even though Foster had run up a mountain the day before. Many, many things to be happy about, and lessons learned for future shows!

Purple tail for the win!

Purple tail for the win!

Final Thoughts
As our first recognized show, I thought this weekend was quite successful. A 30 in dressage, double clear cross country, and 2 rails in showjumping leaves us in a great place to improve for our next outing. We both learned a lot, and I laughed a lot, along the way. Here are some of the tips, tricks, and mistakes I learned not to make from the experience:

  • Not even power cords are safe from Foster’s mouth. His stall must essentially be puppy-proofed for every outing.
  • Too much blue lotion = purple tail. Snazzy, but not part of our color scheme.
  • Give more time than less time for warmups, I’ll thank me later.
  • Helmet cams are awesome, but they have audio- try to say less stupid things next time 🙂
  • Don’t be late for the start box!
  • Keep riding every fence!
  • Balance up, and hind legs under!
  • Bleach pens are white jods’ best friend

And the biggest lesson learned….


Recognized Show Recap: Course Walk + Dressage

Because this weekend was long and certainly adventure filled, I’ll be breaking up this recap into sections. Trying to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome and all that.

Thanks B for the photos!

Thanks B for the photos!

So we start our journey Friday morning, where J picked us up in her awesome rig to make the 4 hr trip down to Tryon. Minus one instance of yelling at rude drivers honking into our horses’ ears, the drive was rather uneventful. We settled the boys in briefly before hopping on to school some dressage. Foster had a lovely dressage school, and was attentive and extremely supple in the bridle, and I was definitely pleased with his attitude, and truly looking forward to dressage in the morning!


Then we headed out to walk the cross country course.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


From fence 2, it was immediately clear we weren’t at a schooling show any longer. Fence 2 was a tactical question, where the rider had to choose their approach carefully- a straightish approach that required a ride around another fence, or a more direct angled approach. From fence 3 on, the course was max height and held still further questions. A combination at 5A and B, four strides from a barn to a log but with lots to look at surrounding it. A 3’2″ (ish) brush fence at fence 7, two strides before the water. A half coffin at 12A and B, ditch then two strides to a fence. A hairpin turn to fence 13. A rather scary fence 14 that just beckoned for a run-out left. This course was going to demand an active ride, and had little let up in between questions.

I was pretty much terrified. So while nightmares of getting eliminated at the brush fence simmered in my mind, I did my best to ignore all and focus on dressage in the morning.

Luckily, a great friend and former dressage teammate came and visited me Saturday morning, which did a lot to distract me from visions of lawn darting on course.  We were having so much fun chatting that I ended up running just a tad behind schedule for the dressage, but still had a nice warmup for the test. He wasn’t quite as supple as he has been the night before, and I think if I had given him 5 more minutes of good work I would have gotten the quality that I wanted. But he was relaxed, and listening, and I felt like he would put in a pretty good test!

And old photo of B and I from our IDA days!

And old photo of B and I from our IDA days!

The test itself did end up feeling pretty nice. As I was riding, I knew there were places where I was maybe leaving some points on the table, so I tried to make the test as accurate as possible. I was a bit bummed with the free walk, as it wasn’t nearly as nice as what I have been achieving at home, but otherwise put in a workman-like effort. I tried to remind myself to keep my elbows by my side and practice better equitation, which ended up paying off.

Drop it like it's hot

Attempts at equitation

As you can see below, there are parts that were super successful (8 on a canter circle! The work is starting to pay off!) and also- my first 8 on rider (ah, that’s me?!), and Foster’s first 8 on gaits (yay pony!). Also an 8 on the medium walk transition. For the rest, I feel confident that we can bring up the 6’s will soon become 7’s and the free walk will become an 8. The test as is earned us a 30, which is also a new best score for us as a team. Our first 70% dressage score since debuting at Intro when I first bought him!

Sorry for the video quality/don’t watch if you are epileptic!

Whereas at a normal show (i.e, no prize money), a 30 would land me near the top of the leaderboard, my awesome-for-me score landed us in a 3-way tie for 6th place. Sitting at the top were scores of 16, 18, 19, and 20 – a couple of these ridden by former professional riders who are now (I’m told, I don’t know these people personally) too scared to move up to Training. But, whatever! My pony put in a great show and now we were out to tackle the daunting cross country course!