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Sunday, 27 October 2019

Dressage Competition Report - 26.10.19

Our first outing since mid-August! I can't believe it's been so long... For anyone who follows us on social media will have spotted that our Voltaire dressage saddle arrived last week. We'd given it a test drive at home on Monday and did another schooling session on Thursday, so it was extra exciting to give it its first competitive spin out!

I entered a local British Dressage at Alnwick Ford doing two Novices, both of which we've done a couple of times before and didn't present too much we needed to brush up on before we went - a few changes of canter leads through trot and a walk to canter transition.

I got my times on Thursday late evening, expecting fully to be mid-late morning and hopefully being able to get Louie washed on Friday evening, leaving just plaiting to the Saturday morning. No. 3.15pm & 4.15pm... One of the things I don't like on a competition day is waiting around to head up to the yard, get ready and get going. I just feel in limbo a bit... Never mind.

A fairly early start and Louie was in the field with his stable all done before 8am, so Andrew & I enjoyed breakfast at home while watching about 60 minutes of the rugby. We headed back up to the yard for just after 10.30am.

I headed confidently across the field - I was feeling good that the Nettex mud away spray was going to make washing Louie quite easy! Halfway across the field, Louie dropped down and rolled. Great, thanks for that one... But actually, his legs were fairly white and I decided to leave the mud on his face & neck until after plaiting so it could dry and I could use the tiger tongue on it.

Thirty minutes later (& a lot of sh*t shovelling in the process) Louie had four lovely white socks and a white tail again. I used to towel dry his legs before bandaging them, but over the summer I spotted Premier Equine's quick-dry leg wraps at 50% off, so bought two pairs. I popped those on while plaiting. I felt a bit out of practice plaiting, but I'd soon finished up, and after a good groom, we were ready to go.

Arriving in good time, Louie enjoyed a munch on his haynet for half an hour, before I got changed and tacked Louie up. Andrew spent the time I was getting changed giving Louie an extra polish, and when I step out to tack him up, he always looks gleaming!

We headed to the warm-up, and despite an icy breeze and temperature sitting around 5 degrees, I opted for the outdoor to start with. I find it's much better for helping me get going and being forward as I find in smaller indoors with 3 or 4 others, I'm busy dodging others that I lose that push forward.

As usual, I gave ourselves 30 minutes, heading indoors with 15 minutes to go, and tried to work on getting Louie nicely suppled up and listening. I have to say I felt totally out of sorts. I was in my new saddle, struggling to always keep my balance, and trying to get used to a totally different feeling when using my leg...

I looked around in the warm-up and couldn't see anything else than lovely horses floating around, with lovely elevated paces and just gliding around leg yielding and doing shoulder-in. There I was...clumpy, unbalanced and feeling like a bull in a china shop. My confidence was down and I almost didn't see the point with all these beautiful horses in such a better league than me...

Anyway, it was our turn so I headed in and thought only to do my best. Until the point of writing this blog, I hadn't watched my tests back in full. I really wish I had while I was in my completely fabricated negative mood as although they are rusty and I can see where I'm unbalancing Louie, they are nowhere near as horrific as I thought. in fact, I'm quite pleased with them for our first ones back in a brand new saddle.

I felt like the test had been at 100mph and really unbalanced... But I was pleased to see our sheet was full of 7's, and just one 5 for our change of canter lead through trot. Overall the comment was a nice forward test but that he is coming against the hand in transitions. I agreed and really wished I had known the forwardness of this test was pleasing as to me it felt so quick! I also adjusted my second test as a result of that thought.

Back at the wagon, I really let all of my negativity get hold of me, which I'm disappointed with. Not only was it frustrating for Andrew, I was so frustrated that I almost packed up and came home. I thought better of it and now I was here, I may as well ride the second test.

After enjoying his massage pad for 30 minutes and munched on his hay, I tacked him back up to warm-up. This time I went straight in the indoor and was determined to slow my rhythm without losing the 'off the leg' feel. Louie's second warm-up is always quicker and much more organised than our first.

As I was first in our class, I was the only one warming up for most of the time and was trying desperately to put the thoughts I had out of my mind, and just concentrate on what I needed to achieve. After around 15 minutes, we headed in and Louie felt more relaxed this time, but I was concentrating on not letting the rhythm get too quick.

This time our test was full of 6.5's with a few 7's and only a 5 for our break into a trot just before we were due to do a canter change. The overall comment from the judge was nice paces but needs to be more in front of the leg.

We scored 65.63% in our first test and 65.38% in our second. So closely scored yet they felt such different tests. One (the first) was nicely forward but perhaps a bit unbalanced. The second was perhaps a bit lacking energy but more balanced in our turns and corners.

My own self-incited negative thinking had caused me to adjust and stray away from what I knew I needed to be working on. Looking back, I'm frustrated at that and pretty annoyed with myself for it. I did myself and Louie such an injustice with those thoughts and managed to change our way of going as a result.

I am however very pleased with our scores. Our judge was a list 2 judge who judges at Burghley & other 5* events, so to feel so crap about how our way of going was, to receive good scores and pleasing comments actually means a lot to me.

My biggest takeaway from yesterday is to control all those negative thoughts and not to be so self-critical. Louie attracts so many lovely comments from people in the warm-up, they can't all be telling fibs, and I'm a huge part of how & why Louie goes like that. I need to remember that in future!

We've not got another dressage competition planned at the moment, but hopefully, we'll be back out in November when I'll also have had more time to get used to my saddle too.

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