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Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Dressage Competition Report - 22.02.2020

Thank god....we FINALLY got out and away from home to enter a dressage competition! With storm Ciara, we'd had to cancel our flatwork training session, and storm Dennis later that week put hold to a riding club dressage we'd planned to head out to. The happiness though of it being cancelled on the Saturday night while I sat listening to the wind howling and rain beating against the window outside,  was real! In reaction, I put an entry into another local venue running express dressage format the weekend afterwards, and prayed the weather gods would be on our side.

They weren't, but it wasn't quite as bad as the weather forecast said...not quite!

My time was 1.29pm, so I decided, as I was on my own, I'd just head to the yard and take my time doing my jobs and getting Louie ready. He was pretty filthy, covered in stable stains and just looking a bit dirty, so I knew I wouldn't be short of things to do. With the winds, I wanted to leave no later than 12.15pm so I had 15 minutes to get his bridle on when I got there before heading into the warm-up.

I arrived at the yard at 8am, and gave Louie his breakfast, before dragging him to the hose to wash is legs and tail. Usually, when he is that dirty, I would have just washed his whole leg, but it was FREEZING! So I just did his socks, but after shampooing, looked down and realised I need some blue rinse. I don't even what to describe the colour of the water that ran from his tail...So dirty!!

But, after 30 minutes, we were heading back into the stable to pop Louie's quick dry wraps on all four legs. They are great at drying legs and keeping them warm, while also provide some protection from his poop while I mucked out.

Once I'd mucked out, I started plaiting. Even though express dressage doesn't require you to, I believe it helps to show off your horse's frame and if you're clever you can use plaiting techniques to change the perception of a horse's neck. Louie hasn't got the longest neck, so I try to make many smaller plaits to help it to appear a little longer...

I have to admit, there were times while I was plaiting where I could hear the rain on the roof, and hear the wind outside, and see the grassy dunes blowing, that I thought I was INSANE for going out in that weather. But, we are beachside, and it's open where we are, so I figured it wouldn't be so bad once we were off the seafront. I had a genuine conversation with myself about 15 times as to whether I should or should not go...

As I said, I was on my own, so I wanted to make sure that I had plenty of time to get the horsebox ready. And with about 45 minutes before I wanted to leave, I pulled it to the front of the yard, pulled down the shavings and loaded all my tack and show gear into it, before heading back into the barn to put Louie's travel rugs on and some boots.

The quick dry wraps had done an excellent job of keep his sock clean! First win of the day...

I'd decided to take the back roads to the venue as they were more sheltered than some of the spots on the A1... It took me a little longer, but not much and I pulled into the place right on time at 12.45pm. Unusually, I'd taken Louie with his saddle on. I don't normally, but with the wind, I didn't want to be struggling to get everything sorted when I got there.

My Mum was over form Spain, so it was lovely to have her drive up, with Andrew to watch our warm-up and tests. It was also the first time Andrew had seen Louie in about a month, thanks to an achille's rupture that he's recovering from!

I took everything off Louie and popped his bridle on, and headed into the warm-up. It was lovely blue skies, albeit very windy, but sunshine and nice skies...until I sat in the saddle. To which it felt like instantly, the whole earth clouded over and the end of the world was coming. Not ideal to warm-up, but we just got on with it and actually, it wasn't as noticeable as it sounds when you were concentrating on what to do in the saddle.

Express dressage is a quick style format, so you go in pairs with another combination, so although my first test was 1.29pm, we actually went into the indoor at just before 1.20pm. Cue the skies clear and sunshine again...

The great things is that oyu both have a trot around and when the judge is ready, the first person starts and the second perosn just waits in the corner, but outside the boards. Louie went into the indoor and was a bit tense, which although we were second to go, carried on into the first half or so of his test.

I always learn my tests, and it felt like I could hear a pin drop when we started our test, but it was actually just because there was no background noise like some other venues have.

Here's our Novice test...

I'd taken the decision to enter our first ever Elementary together. I went with the attitude that it was just a quicker test - as in, the movements come up faster. Everything contained within it, we were more than capable of doing, so this was going to be a good test of balance, rhythm and keeping it flowing.

After standing to watch our partner do their Elementary test, I wasn't sure how much spring Louie would have when I picked him back up. I needn't have worried as he was straight back to it, but what was great was that he'd lost some of that tension, and had a much better swing to his back.

We gave it our best shot, but I was SO pleased with how well it had gone. Louie showed some green moments in some of the movements, resulting in a loss of balance at points, but he was rhythmycal and obedient throughout.

Here's Louie's first ever Elementary dressage test...

The express format means that there is no waiting around. It is literally THE BEST format for winter! So you head home and wait to see your class results later than evening on Facebook. You test sheets and any rosettes are posted out to you a few days later.

I popped Louie back on the horsebox and was SO pleased with how well he had done. He'd just got on with his job in some awful weather in the warm-up, come in and stood patiently in the corner while the other horse did their test, and he'd really tried in both tests. I was beaming when I got back to the yard!

After sorting Louie out for the evening, I headed home and walked the dog. When I got back into the house, Andrew met me with the great news that we'd come forth in the Novice on 67.86%, but I was THRILLED to hear that we'd come SECOND in the Elementary on 69.38%!!!

Not only were we just over 1% away from the winner, we'd scored higher than the Novice test when it was the same judge! I was over the moon! Needless to say, Louie got plenty of treats and cuddles the next morning!

A couple of days later, we received our test sheets, and the comments were amazing, noting the promise to our test and how super smart Louie was!

I've not planned anymore competitions yet, but can't wait to get out and about over the coming weeks, and really tune up on what feels like such a fantastic start to having a crack at the next level of our dressage journey!

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