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Course Brook Farm Horse Trials - July 28, 2019

After a successful first-ever horse trial with Ellie in the spring, I decided to try a new-to-me venue for our July horse trial.  I also felt we were definitely ready to move up a level, from Introductory 18" to Elementary 2'.  Honestly, could we jump higher and do a more difficult dressage test?  Yes.  But I am a firm believer in setting my horse up for success by not over facing her, and knowing this would be a true cross country course through the woods, I didn't want anything to seem hard or scary to her.  I wanted us both to feel confident by having a positive experience.
Ellie and I traveled down to Course Brook Farm in Massachusetts on July 28, and while it was a long trip there, Ellie unloaded and settled in easily. Traffic had been heavier than I anticipated, so while we were not running late, I definitely had no extra time once we arrived. I did not realize this venue was actually A LOT bigger than I imagined, with 160 (!!!!) horses competing that day.  Ellie had…

State of Maine Dressage Schooling Show - May 20, 2018

Truth be told, I was a bit nervous about taking Ellie out to our second show of the year this past Sunday.  I personally have shown at this venue innumerable times over the past 29 years and with this specific GMO since 2003, but Ellie can be a bit "excitable" about new places haha.  It's a catch 22 because the only way a young horse is going to be calm and settled in new places is to actually take them to new places and work through the nerves.

Our first ride time was 9:15 but we arrived by 7:15.  My husband offered to come with me, but I assured him he should just come for my rides (just to be safe haha), so he and our two year old came over later on in the car.  I figured by arriving so early I would have plenty of time to walk her around the grounds, take her into the ring to walk around the outside of the dressage ring, and to lunge her.  I fully expected her to come off the trailer with her tail high over her back like she did this spring at our first off farm lesson, and I wanted to have plenty of time to work through everything before I had to tack up and ride.

Ellie was surprisingly good overall with a distinct lack of theatrics, which I appreciated!  We did a solid 45 minute walk around, where I was able to show her the grounds (it's a tiny little show venue owned by the town, so it doesn't take long to walk around) and bring her in both the show ring and warm up ring.

Of course, we couldn't actually enter the competition ring, but we walked all around the outside (there is a big permanent show ring and they set up the dressage ring inside of it), looked at secretary's booth, which is right against the rail at B, and then the smaller judge's booth, where the scribe was getting set up.  Ellie was wide eyed about a person in the little booth at first, but the scribe was super nice and let us stand there with her for a few minutes.  Ellie settled once she realized it was a human, and I let her graze a little on the edge of the ring there while we chatted.  It was perfect for Ellie because #snacksarelife and it helped her relax.  I walked her around twice in each direction of the ring, making sure she walked close enough to the plastic white rails so that dirt kicked up against them.  I have found horses to be sometimes a bit worried about that specific odd sound and therefore not want to go into the corners, etc.


Then we went into the warm up ring, which was empty, and while I had first though that I would lunge her, I just handwalked her around and then did a little tiny lunging circle using my lead rope.  I just wanted to move her away from me and make her yield her haunches and shoulders a few times. Ellie was great and I realized lunging her wasn't going to do much at this point, since we have phased it out completely at home and lessons and she just didn't need it.  She did call out a few times, especially if another horse called out first, but it wasn't a huge deal and it really wasn't obnoxious.

The show started at 8, so I hung out with her near the in gate for the first few rides.  She got to learn about standing still and just taking it all in.  I let her graze in an area away from the trailer parking, which isn't always a smart thing to do on strange grass, but it is early in the season and there haven't been any horses or trailers on that area.  It helped her relax to have more snacks haha.

By the time we went back to the trailer, it was 8:30 and time to get ready.  She stood fine for tacking up and waiting for me to get my helmet, jacket, and gloves though she swung her hind end around a little more than normal.  Again, still totally good behavior for being in an entirely strange place.  I am glad I didn't bother to lunge her, because honestly it would not have made any difference.  She did her usual too fast walk in the warm up at first, and she was definitely tense, but overall I could not have asked for a better experience for her.  She did NOT want to listen to my opening rein, so bending was not totally there and she was not settled into my outside rein, but otherwise she was obedient.  She did want to keep looking over at the ring while the other horses were competing, which was mildly annoying but not a huge deal.  There were a few scratches and while I could have waited for my ride time of 9:17, I agreed to go a few minutes early.  Honestly, there wasn't much more work I was going to accomplish in the warm up and getting her into the ring to do a test was the best thing at the moment.

The test was not horrible, but it definitely lacked relaxation haha.  I do not have any video and I wish I did to see how it looked because it didn't feel great!  She was tense but not necessarily nervous, just wanted to look around at everything but she didn't spook.  I deliberately kept her trot smaller than normal because I didn't want her to rush.  I was happy with the test because she could have been much worse, and though I figured it would be a low score because of her tenseness, the experience was more important.

We had about 45 minutes to wait, so I took Ellie back to the trailer to remove her bridle and let her eat hay and drink.  She wouldn't drink, which I hope she will overcome as she gets more used to going out and about.  I couldn't believe when I heard them announce the results of our class and we won with a 66.875%.  That seemed like an incredibly generous score from a judge who is notoriously low scoring.  Whatever, I had another test to get ready for and I was determined to nail our canter leads!

Since our last lesson, Ellie has been picking her leads correctly, especially the right lead which is harder for her.  This is because I am setting her up properly...imagine that LOL...but I am sure it is also because she is getting stronger.  And the day before the show, Ellie WOULD NOT pick up the right lead at first.  I had to just let it go and not stress about it, and once she finally picked it up, I made her canter and canter and then we quit on that note.  I didn't want to fight with her.  So I was slightly worried about what would happen in warm up.

This second warm up, Ellie was much less tense and actually accepted input from the opening rein haha.  She was relaxed and I felt confident asking for a bigger trot.  She settled into trot work much better than our first warm up.  I tried not to hold my breath when asking for the canter, but she was fairly prompt in the transition and got both leads first try.  I was super impressed and so proud of her.  We did a lot of spiraling in the trot and a bunch of canter transitions.  I let her have a walk break and we moseyed around a bit, then I picked her back up just before the rider ahead of us entered the ring.  I was so confident this test was be even better than Intro B.

And it totally was!  We even nailed our canter leads without any issue and she was so darn good.  I thought it was just as good as her calm tests at our lesson barn two weeks ago, except with the added bonus of not going to be earning a 4.5 for a wrong right lead haha.

I had my husband pick up my test and ribbon from Intro B and snap a few pics.  I untacked and had to wait forever for Intro C to be over, because while I was finished by 10:15, there were several other riders (and an entire 20 min break) before the class was over.  I waited for an hour for the test, but got to watch some of the rides, so that is always a nice way to pass the time.  I know that may seem silly to wait, but there would not have been any other way to get the scored test and I really wanted to see it!


Again, I was surprised, but not in a good way.  :-(  We scored a 57.5% which I thought was really REALLY low.  I mean, I know my horse is not going to always score well haha but that test was much better than the several 5s she awarded us.  The judge wrote, "Much more tension than the first test" which was super confusing to me.  Again, I wish I had video to actually watch but oh well.  I have no idea how she saw MORE tension in the second test because Ellie was so much more relaxed through her poll, neck, and back.  I asked for a bigger, more swingy trot because she was able to do it properly without rushing.  Intro B we had a 7s on movements that earned us 5s in Intro C.  A five is considered "marginal" by USDF judging standards and honestly there were movements in Intro B that probably should have been a 5 but we had all 6, 7, and 8s in that test.  Oh well. I am not sure what the judge saw in Intro C that I personally did not feel or pick up on, but it definitely irked me.  Yes, we won that test as well, but honestly I want scores to reflect our ability, not just earn first place ribbons!  

All in all, despite what I thought was two oddly scored tests, I am SO SO SO proud of Ellie!  I really wasn't sure what to expect from her, and I was expecting a bit of a hot mess based on how she has been on other new-to-her venues and experiences.  She is definitely showing growth in her attitude and willingness to trust me and look to me for guidance.  It helped increase my own confidence in her too! 

Comments

  1. The subjective nature of dressage is so tough. Although, I will say, I don't think it's good practice for a judge to compare your two tests. They're supposed to judge what they see in front of them, not compare the ride to another. But, I'm glad things got better and better! Sounds like you're on the right track for sure!

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    1. I agree that it was strange to have the rides compared, but oh well. So many judges don't seem to follow the guidelines at schooling shows (esp L judges).

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  2. I hate when I'm not on the same page with what the judge saw. Sounds like it was a big win for experience though! And I'll never be sad about blue ribbons for anyone. :P

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    1. No matter what, blue ribbons are definitely fun and she was super well behaved!

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  3. That's super random about the scoring... very odd. But I'm glad to hear that Ellie was such a good show pony :)

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    1. No matter what the scores say, she was super well behaved!!

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  4. What a good baby!

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    1. She definitely has a good brain esp for a redheaded mare hahaha! ;-)

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  5. If there's one thing I've learned about dressage it's that from time to time, we all get those random one-off tests back and are like WTF, how is what they were watching so different from how it felt? Especially from L judges 😂 but I'm glad it was still a positive experience for you guys!

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    1. Seriously, sometimes it is like uhhhh did you actually WATCH my test? LOL! ;-)

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  6. she is just so stinkin cute!! and i 100%% always stick around to wait for tests and final scores lol. bummer about what felt like inconsistent scoring tho. that always kinda bugs me when i don't really understand where a score comes from.

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    1. Yeah, definitely wish I had a video to watch (over and over) to try to understand the judge's perspective. Oh well! And yes, always gotta stick around for the score and potential satin haha!

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  7. Good for you and Ellie! That is weird about the feel of the test vs what the judge saw, though. It sounds like it was a great positive experience for the baby mare though!

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    1. Definitely worth the good experience but so weird! I wish I had video to watch over and over to gain more insight into what it looked like vs how it felt.

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  8. great job both of you. And judges. who knows right? But satin is always good and a good Morgan pony is the best :) Way to go!!

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  9. That's frustrating about the scores based on how your rides felt! I agree that winning is nice and all, but it's way nicer to have scores that reflect the ride and training so you can work to improve. Nonetheless, congrats on having a calm, happy horse with minimal theatrics and two blue ribbons!

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    1. Thank you! Yes, it was a weird feeling to not have the ride match the scores, but who knows haha! Maybe I am crazy!

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  10. First of all congratulations on such a successful outing on all levels. It’s hard to know without videos - she could be wrong or maybe Ellie loooked like she was going too fast?

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    1. Exactly, without videos to scrutinize I can't make sense of it. I am sure it could have looked worse than it felt haha!

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  11. Congrats!! Positive outings are what it is all about and you won that big time. I thought judges only judged what was in front of them? It’s odd she mentioned your prior test.

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    1. Thank you! I was definitely a bit taken aback by the comment referring to the previous test. I have found some L judges to do wacky things haha!

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  12. I mean.. yay for the satin? haha But yeah that can be a bit weird and disheartening when the same judge gives 2 wildly different scores and the remarks don't reflect what you felt.

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    1. So true! But the experience was great for Ellie and I have to focus on THAT instead of stressing about scores haha. And now that I look at the published scores, very few riders broke 60% so it makes me feel better hahaha.

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