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Monday, 18 November 2019

Dressage Competition Report - 17.11.19

I have to say in the week leading up to this competition, I wasn’t hugely enthused…It hasn’t stopped raining for what feels like weeks, with ground flooding all over, although I’ve seen MANY worse photos for fields, stable blocks and even houses, so I won’t complain too much! As it turned out, luck was on our side as it didn’t all day & we were even able to enjoy some blue sky and sunshine at some points…But that wasn’t all that was great about the day.

I’d had a bit of a shakey (to say the least!) training session with Cathy on Monday night. Anyone who follows us will have seen that not only is negativity banned, so is perfectionist Sophie also now not permitted at our winter training! I explained it all in my training update blog post, so have a read if you haven’t seen it already. However, the best thing I did was to watch the videos Andrew had taken during the session. Not only did I realise that the work we did go wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought it was during the session, but also Cathy repeatedly said to ‘stop speeding’ which I couldn’t grasp at all. I didn’t feel like we were going fast at all! Watching back, it was speedy at the start of the video and towards the end, when we remembered, it was a much steadier rhythm with good engagement and activity.

This was my goal for the competition – correct rhythm without losing the key ingredients of activity, engagement and impulsion.

Our times were fairly kind (10.48am & 12.17pm) meaning that I could ride Louie Saturday afternoon, get his legs and tail washed, leaving only plaiting for the Sunday morning. With all the rain, the horses have been kept in on Friday & Saturday, and with a bit of a wet and miserable Saturday afternoon, we only went on a short 45-minute ride. I didn’t fancy riding through all the muddy tracks and fields to then have to wash it all off, so we opted for a shorter one sticking to hardcore tracks. Louie was a little spookier than usual, but it did him good to get out after staying in for a couple of days.

On Friday & Saturday, Louie was lovely, really snuggly, more so than usual, and interested in everything you were doing. It’s lovely when he is like that – he gives the best cuddles, even when they are upside down while you're brushing his front legs!

Unfortunately, it makes plaiting somewhat more difficult… Having Louie’s head turned towards you while trying to get neat plaits in, isn’t ideal. Andrew arrived at the yard halfway through and for the most part, straightened Louie’s neck out, but instead, Louie thought it was great fun to play with whatever Andrew was holding…even when his hands are in his pockets! So plaiting took us a little longer than normal, and left us a bit short on time when we arrived, with just 10 minutes to give Louie a munch on his haylage.

We got onboard, bang on time at 10.15am. It gave me the few minutes to walk to the warm-up arena, and a good 5 minutes to walk Louie round on a long rein. We’d worked on this “new” rhythm on Thursday evening, while also trying to stay straighter around our turns, and I was surprised how naturally Louie took to the correct rhythm. He warmed up beautifully and was obedient, accurate and listening.

We headed to the indoor about 5 minutes before our test. When they have set up a 20x60m arena, the warm-up inside is much smaller, especially with two other horses in. I really don’t like it as I feel it doesn’t help me to think forward. I let it get to me…for about 10 seconds. They I remembered NO NEGATIVITY and binned the frustrations in my head. I’m glad I did as the temptation to push on when we were trotting around the arena waiting to go in was strong! Rhythm, rhythm, rhythm… Keep the rhythm if nothing else. That’s all I tried to remember (& my test!)

The first test Louie was a little spooky and inattentive at points, but on the whole, put a nice test in. Best of all, we pretty much kept a consistent rhythm throughout the test, which not only helped our balance, but I could feel the extra time it gave us in between movements. After my test, perfectionist and negative Sophie tried to join in, but as I cooled down and walked back to the wagon, I kicked them both into touch.

I also did something I’ve never done before…I watched my test back in between classes. I’m really glad I did. It showed me how good the rhythm was – how consistent it was and how much activity I’d managed to maintain. There were parts that weren’t quite in front of the leg, but it was a really positive progression towards establishing a better rhythm and having more cadence.

Here’s our test…

An hour and a half soon passed in between tests. By the time we’ve done our test, cooled down and untacked it was 11.05am. Louie had his massage pad put on and his lovely fleece show rug from Silvermoor, while Andrew and I headed to the café to enjoy a hot drink while we waited. At 11.40am we headed back to the wagon and I was back in the warm-up by 12pm.

We warmed up for 10 minutes outside, just checking the aids, making sure the trot was active and the canter had a good push to it. We also check our counter canter. It’s not as established as I’d like, but looping back to the track and going in a straight line for a few meters is within our abilities, but I always like to check in the warm-up.

Once again, we went inside and the combination before us was just starting their test, so we trotted around, focusing on rhythm, straightness and bend/changes of rein. As we trotted around the edge of the arena when it was our turn, Louie felt more relaxed in his movement, so I was pleased knowing that this time he should be a bit more attentive. He was.

He’s such a good horse – he always tried his best, always wants to please and is such a lovely natured boy along the way. Plus he’s a sharp as a razor, which is great for teaching new things or adapting the way you’re doing things.

We took a little spook as we entered, not that you see it on the video much, but Louie took a quicker and bigger step forward, and for about a third of a way down the centre line we let our rhythm be a little quick. I noticed and corrected it, which is visible in the video slightly, but I was pleased I’d picked up on it so quickly and corrected it before our first turn off the centre line.

Here’s the video of our second test…

I came out feeling much better about our second test, with the biggest points to work on being our counter canter quality and transition back down to trot. It was a shame we had a little trip on the first diagonal, which led to a bit of a late canter transition too, but on the whole, I felt positive about how it had gone. I was pleased we’d maintained our rhythm and despite it being our second test, Louie didn’t drop off the leg to keep it steadier as he has done in the past.

After cooling down & sorting Louie out at the wagon, we gave him his alfa A oil & left him to enjoy his haylage and another massage. He’s a lucky guy with that many massages! Andrew and I took to the café again, where we’d spotted soup and a roll as a tasty and warming treat! It was delicious and warmed me lovely.

The class didn’t finish until an hour after my last test, but the time soon passed by sorting Louie, enjoying our soup, watching a few test and chatting to a few people. I’d seen the first test scores, and was very pleased to see we sat on 67.92% and won the Bronze section! I was over the moon and it wasn’t long before we read our score sheet to take plenty of constructive comments home to work on.

I headed back up to the wagon to bandage Louie’s back legs for travelling home and swapping his massage pad for his magnetic rug underneath his Silvermoor fleece. Once he was back on the wagon, we headed down to collect our second score sheet. Once again, I had a very pleasant result waiting, seeing a score of 69.52% and again winning the Bronze section!

I’m going to be super honest, in the wagon on the way home, even with two cracking scores and two wins, I still let perfectionist and negative Sophie hitch a lift home. How could I have any doubts or disappointments about the day!?!? A totally new way to approach our rhythm and still achieved strong scores! Anyway, I put her into silent mode and opted for a snooze instead!

I’ve watched the videos a couple of times back, and I’m really proud of how we did. We had one thing to consider and stick to, and we did just that! Here’s to continuing to work in this rhythm more and start to push on with our progress over the winter months.

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