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Sunday, 16 September 2018

Dressage Competition Report - 15.09.2018

We headed to West Park Arena to enjoy a couple of dressage tests, our first party since the Area Festivals mid-August, and although we had a dressage training session recently, we've not spent a lot of the time flat schooling since then.

It was a great day on paper - 3rd in our prelim with 64.42% & 4th in our novice with 65.89% - & since the last time we were there (January 2018), I can see Louie has really come on, developed and grown in confidence. However, I came away feeling a bit flat...

So here's how the day went.

An early start, and thankfully I got to the yard around 20 minutes earlier than planned, even if it was 7am!! Good job I did... Louie, who has pretty much avoided the cow poops all summer, decided to use them as a mattress overnight, and walked towards me sporting two lovely deep green front socks, half a green tail and various marks over his back socks 🙈

BUT no matter what, I was always going to wash them before heading out to dressage so knew it wouldn't put us back on time too much.

I started with plaiting to which was quite frustrating, as where I'd pulled Louie's mane quite short a few weeks ago, it hadn't grown back as much as I thought. I found it difficult to make the plaits tight at the base, but wasn't too disappointed thanks to some plaiting spray and a good old fashioned water brush!

Next...tackling those green messes on Louie.

At the moment, I've got a very bad back when bending down so scrubbing Louie's legs took its toll on me quickly, but thankfully Andrew turned up to finish up the back legs for me! You might think lots of cow poop and a white horse meant I was bathing for hours, but thankfully not.

First - a bucket of water and my Shires Ezi-Groom sponge brush to wash the thick off. Then a quick spray with the hose, before starting with my Wahl Aloe Vera shampoo. I always wash legs with this to aid and little cuts, bumps or scratches they may have that we don't see, but it's also a very effective shampoo. This left his legs off-white, so on went the Horse Health Brite White - every grey horse owner's go to product!

I'd already sprayed his tail with a tough stain remover and washed that before doing his back legs in the same way at the fronts. Before we knew it, Louie looks sparkling white, and just had a quick towel dry before his bandages went on. I always spray plenty of mane & tail conditioner onto his tail while it is wet, then plait it below the tail bone. It gives it a wavy look and makes it really easy to run a brush through when you arrive at the venue - usually a job for Andrew to avoid making my hands too silky for reins, even with gloves!

Bang on time, we were ready to leave. Hooray!

We arrived at West Park with about 15 minutes before I needed to get Louie sorted and myself changed. Louie just enjoyed a munch of his hay on the horsebox while I ran through my tests once more. Last time I was at the venue, it was FREEZING so I warmed up inside, but as this is smaller squarer warm up, I found it difficult to push Louie on and get him really taking himself forward. This time the sunshine came out and we enjoyed the larger outdoor warm up, before heading inside for the last 10 minutes before our test.

When it was out turn to go in, I'd made a couple of conscious decisions based on January's test.

  1. Trot the other way around the arena so Louie can see up to the viewing gallery. Last time I went along it so when he turned towards it from the centre line, he almost stopped to check out everyone up there!
  2. Trot in front of the judge's car, not behind. Louie is fab in traffic, but a parked car is much more suspicious and sometimes he has a bit of a wobble coming down the bottom of the centre line. This time he would have been past to have a good look in at the judge and writer before starting!
Both decisions seemed to pay off as he was much better when entering the arena this time.

Prelim 13

Louie was a little tense, moreso than in recent tests, but he was obedient & listening. Unfortunately, I think I worried too much about where I was going during my test & managing his tension, rather than riding the best I could and getting the most from Louie. 

Here's the test.

Novice 27

OK, foolishly, I didn't look at this test until Thursday afternoon. I never ride through my tests, only movements from it so I was glad I'd checked the test, as there was a "squiggle" TWICE in it - half 10m circle from B, at X half 10m circle to E.

While this isn't too complex a move, it came off the 20m circle at B and Louie & I have only really practiced 10m circles, without a change of direction and bend at X. So during my schooling session on Thursday, I worked in lots of circles - leg yielding in and out, 20m/15m/10m, before practicing a 20m circle to the "squiggle" a couple of times on each rein.

Unfortunately, I don't think I took enough of this into my warm up for the second test, as my circles were a little uneven and I think he could have been better balanced through better preparation from me. This is evident when we come across the diagonal in canter on the right rein, as Louie lost his balance in the turn, broke, went to re-strike off, but on the wrong lead. I decided it was better to hold for getting the trot rhythm back and make our next move better. Unfortunately, that decision took the movement down to a '3' but the I feel helped us with a better mark in the movement that followed.

Here's the test.

So why did I leave feeling flat?

Looking back at my tests, they're good, not our best, but I can say I'm pleased with them.

But... I don't remember riding my tests. That sounds silly, but I don't. All I remember is concentrating on where I was going and at what point I had to change the pace or do a certain movement. I don't ever once remember thinking - bring the poll up, lengthen the neck, get the swing in his back...

I didn't leave the arena after either test feeling I'd tried to show my horse off, just that we'd finished our test. I didn't feel like we have the bounce, swing and decadence that we had in the warm up, but that I don't remember doing ANYTHING about it.

So that's definitely where I'd gone wrong. But Louie, although not lacking energy, was MEGA snoozy. He snoozed while munching his hay, while tied to the side of the wagon, after our test when we stood in the sun for a few minutes - anytime he stopped, he snoozed. He is living out still, so maybe now is the time of year that he needs to come in the night before a party to help him feel a little more enthusiastic.

I feel like we have started on a progress plateau that needs to now be pushed out of its comfort zone & be stretched into the next development to help us take a step forward in our development. I'm looking forward to our next dressage session with Cathy to help us on our way with this.

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