Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Derpsage, Red Edition

One of the ways I bond with horses is by going places with them, especially to horse shows. I think that's why Mo and I have really advanced in our partnership this year--we've been through some stuff together. I love Red but he and I don't have that "in it" feeling that Mo and I seem to have. So how do we fix that? Horse shows.

I've been focusing on dressage with Red for a couple months now, and we'd gotten to the point that we weren't going to totally horrify a judge, but I knew we wouldn't knock anyone's socks off either. I entered him in two dressage-only tests at a local combined test on Saturday. I went in thinking we'd likely score in the high 30s or low 40s in BN B and N B (both supes boring tests until the end where they just get weird).

I had no idea what Red would be like at a show. He has an excellent USEF record, but there was definitely some questionable training going on in his jumper life (more to come on that in the future). So it's entirely possible that he was living on Carolina Gold and Perfect Prep and hours of lunging--that happens in the jumpers too, weirdly. So would he come off the trailer, pick up the horse show atmosphere, and lose his marbles?

Honestly, I think last year, he would have. When I occasionally took him on field trips last fall, he was kind of a nut. Nothing too scary that I couldn't sit, but just SUPER wound up. In general, this year he's been a much more civilized dude. So he stepped off the trailer, was all "Yay they make grass here!" and was very polite while my mom held him and I tacked him up. I didn't even consider lunging, just hopped on and cruised around the show grounds so he could see everything. He kinda bounced at the walk for a few minutes, then took a deep breath and just ambled around like the professional he is.

Rainbow flag on the saddle pad!

Warmup was tough--it was hot as shit by that point, only like 9:30am. The warmup was basically on a hillside, so it was hard to get my show jumper to balance himself. Event horses learn to balance on hills a bit, but he's never had that chance. He wasn't being bad, but he was definitely against my hand a bit and rushing around, and I felt like I was getting sucked into bracing in my arm and taking my leg off.

About as balanced as we were going to get

So I took him down to a walk, patted him on the neck, rode him back up to the trailer where my mom lightly sponged him off, and then let him stand in the shade for about 15 minutes. That left me like 10 minutes to actually warm up. The "ring" emptied a bit and I managed to find a relatively flat area to do some 20m canter circles. His trot work always improves after a canter, but I didn't have much time to really get the trot together before it was time to go. I was fine with that, because even if I'd given myself more time, I don't think we'd have gotten anywhere good. He was washing out with sweat, you know? I think that break in the shade was better for his brain than drilling the trot. It's not like I was hoping for a bronze score that day.

Chillin with the best show mom ever

When it was time to go trot around the ring, I was again a little unsure of what he'd make of things like the letters and the judge, but the judge was sitting in an SUV on the other side of a fence (great visibility, I'm sure) and the letters were small. I don't think he really noticed any of that. I felt that he asked me a question about what we should do, so I asked him to please release the base of his neck and stay in a rhythm, ha. We were hit or miss with the coming-round bit, but he did stay in a non-rushing rhythm and was actually pretty relaxed.

Listening ears

Now listen: I memorized the tests the day before the show. I'd never practiced them. I don't have a dressage ring anywhere to work on geometry. It occurred to me on the way to the show that I have probably never done a trot-halt transition on this horse, ha.

BN B was the first test, and it was fine. He inverted at times, softened at times, and I was trying my best to get him to be in a nice pushing trot without rushing and to get the geometry right and keep my stupid show jumper shoulders back and let my leg be long and half halt at the appropriate moments and so on, and guys, I just really want to get in the jumper ring where I have half a clue what I'm doing. But the test was fine, appropriate for the level. We got a 39, so right about where I figured we'd score.

Decent for the level

Frame-worthy, huh?

WTF upper body, but he looks fine

leeeeean wid it

Could my reins get longer?


Not dressage! Carousel horse!

This is kind of as good as it gets at the canter for him right now

Hey, the halt wasn't tragic

I had 40 minutes before N B, so I just hopped off, let him eat grass with his bridle on, watched a few friends ride, chit chatted, and hung out. Like a real professional, ha. It was 95 degrees and humid and Red does not care about dressage, so what was the point of going back on the hillside to get a better trot? There was no point, is the answer to that shit. It was fun, though. A local equine dentist was hanging out with his wife at the show and he was totally enamored of Red, who was resting his chin on my shoulder, like he does. "He's so SHINY! I don't usually like chestnuts but he just GLOWS. What is he???" I think he'd have taken Red home with him if I'd let him.

He was posing so nicely all day

I climbed back on about eight minutes before my next test and just did some changes of bend in the walk to get him moving forward and off my leg a bit. We went back in and had a somewhat better test, I thought, in that we got a bit better in the geometry and I felt he was, for the most part, a touch softer in the bridle. The judge gave us another 39 though, so I guess she didn't think we improved.

He does need to go more forward

I love how he was listening to me

Wheeeeere is my lower leg going?

Shoulders back, jumper rider

Hey, kind of okay!
Another decent halt--maybe I don't actually need to get around to practicing these?

Her comments were on point, I thought. She noted when he was soft and when he was bracing, and said she'd like to see a more forward trot. I would too, but right now when he goes forward in the trot he gets a little tense, so I was sacrificing forwardness for relaxation, given that relaxation is before impulsion on ye olde training scale. I think it was the right choice, and also that she was correct to note it.

No ribbons because I was riding HC, but he'd have been second in Novice and like third in BN at a not-super-competitive show. I showed the tests to M and she was happy with them as a starting point. I told her that I was having some self-loathing issues about hating my riding, and she said, "We are not going to beat up Jess! Go pick on someone your own size!" Ha.

Time to set up a couple of jumping lessons. I like dressage fine, but I'm bored and I want to think about something else for awhile. I think the stripey-faced ones agree. Sorry, DQs. Not totally there yet. Love you though!

I fucking love him


  1. Sounds like you guys achieved what you were going for - get to know Red in public and be good! Relaxation trumps most everything for me, he's not ready to ask for forward and relaxed, which is cool. You know who else spent a year + getting "needs more forward" comments? My trainer's 4* horse when he hit training level/prelim. He just wasn't ready to be pushed like that in the sandbox. That red Thoroughbred I told you about who is also sensitive and getting reprogrammed and learning how to chill out is also going in that same boat. It just gets better from here!

  2. I would be thrilled if I got my position to look like your position.

  3. Aw yay Red! He's so cute in the last photo! I have a similar one of Riley and I at a show where we are going over our XC course map together:)

  4. You guys look great! And he looks so shiny. Sounds like you made the right call with the relaxation vs energy, sometimes (most times) it's better to have a good experience rather than go for more. And if you did go for more, you may have gotten "nicely forward, needs more relaxation" since it's always something with judges haha.

  5. aw what a good boy! seems like a really solid first outing to serve as a baseline. i love how hard he's listening and trying too. and "Yay they make grass here!" is pretty much my horse's reaction to anywhere new too lol

  6. Sounds like a tough show environment and like you did the best things for Red at the time. Which, to me, is one of the more important things. Especially given Red's history!

    Also you probably DID have more bend and softness at Novice B. But since you're being judged at Novice not BN the judge also had higher expectations.

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  8. Yay Red! Glad you had a great outing together.