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Bel Joeor Sale and Giveaway!

Amanda from Bel Joeor is hosting a big sale on her Etsy site and a giveaway on her blog!  She makes beautiful saddle covers and bags.  I highly recommend checking out her shop and entering her contest.  

State of Maine Dressage Association Schooling Show - September 16, 2018

Ellie and I competed in our fourth and final SMDA dressage show this past Saturday.  I will be honest, I choose to do this fourth one in order to gain our final year end scores, so I choose to ride Intro B and C again.  After showing at Training 1 back in August, I knew I wanted to move up, but I also realized that if I just did one more SMDA show at Intro, I could be eligible for awards.  It seemed silly not to qualify, as we have worked too hard this year not to.  But I also wanted the opportunity to ride Training 1 again in a show environment, instead of having to wait until next spring.

Because SMDA does not allow riders to compete at Training level if they are also riding Intro A or B, I had to asked permission to ride "HC", which is an abbreviation for hor concours, the French phrase that means riding without actually competing for a ribbon.  Thankfully, the board gave me permission and I signed up for all three tests.  It did not seem like two little Intro test and Training 1 would be too much effort in one day for Ellie.  In fact, it was great to get her into the ring three times within just over an hour of time.

As I wrote about previously, our ride at home on Saturday was great.  She was listening to half halts, she was being polite in the trot and canter, and our center lines and transitions were all spot on.  I was really hopefully she would bring that same mindset to the show the next day!

spoiler alert: she did bring the same mindset to the show!
My only goals were to put in two solid Intro tests as a farewell to the level haha, and to get all of our canter leads correctly.  Leads have been a struggle this year, so I really hoped this show would be an improvement.  Ellie hopped off the trailer in a calm state of mind and set about eating her hay like the little professional she had turned into.  She acted like a seasoned show horse and I already felt so proud about that before I even got on her.  She didn't need a walkabout, she didn't need to see all the things, she just showed up and knew her job.  She had been to this venue twice before in May and June, but it had been eleven weeks (yes, I just went and counted haha) since that June show.  Even though we showed a ton this year and some folks have been a bit judgmental over that, it has totally paid off to have a horse that by now is content to show up somewhere and be happy and calm. 

SMDA always schedules too much time for the Intro level rides, so the show always gets ahead.  Plus there were a few scratches, so I made it a point to get us in the warmup sooner rather than later.  Yes, I know I can wait until my scheduled ride time, but that just seems silly to have everyone wait around for me.  If Ellie had needed the warm up time for whatever reason, I would have taken it, but we did our usual warm up routine and were soon ready to go.  Ellie warmed up well without any fuss or issues, and I stuck to walk/trot only since it was just Intro B.  She seemed a bit tense in the test, but overall was quite good.  Our test was all 6.5s and 7s, with a 7.5 on the medium walk after the free walk, which netted us a 68.125% and a second place by less than a point.  Judges comment was: Pair has much potential!  Work on further developing suppleness as haunches tend to swing out slightly in circles.  Good luck!

We had just two rides until our Intro C test, but management took a short break in order to keep the show on schedule.  That gave us plenty of time to return to the warm up and canter.  I focused on keeping Ellie on my aids, and she listened to every single half halt (THANK YOU MARE!) which meant that we got both canter leads quite easily.  I only cantered twice in each direction as to not break the magic spell haha, and off we went to try Intro C.  

YOU GUYS.  This mare was PERFECT.  Intro C has not been the best test for us, in the small ring where movements come up quite quickly.  But we nailed it.  I knew as I rode that it was the best Intro C, actually probably the best test at all, we had ever ridden.  She was obedient and listening and it felt fun and easy.  I was literally grinning like a fool during the test.  Our scores were all mostly 7s, with a few 6.5s and one 7.5 on the final upwards trot transition, for a score of 68.500% and first place.  It was the highest we have scored on Intro C all year and the FIRST TIME EVER WE GOT OUR CANTER LEADS IN A SHOW!  Whooo!  I was so so so proud of her and so happy to finally feel like we could put in a clean and accurate test.  Judge's comment: Capable pair on the right track. Work on reaction to aids for smoother canter transitions.  Good luck!
Small child requested his photo be taken as well. 
Note Ellie's legs in background lol
The judge's comments were right on, with the haunches swinging out and prompt canter transitions two of our biggest things to work on right now.  Both have improved tremendously since May when we did our first dressage show, but they are not quite where I want them to be, which would be her always traveling straight and stepping immediately into the canter.  But to get the correct leads and do it within a stride of me asking is pretty damn awesome.  A show acquaintance came up to me afterwards and remarked how good Ellie looked in Intro C and that the test was "foot perfect".  I would have to agree.  It was a great way to end Intro level.

We had a forty minute break until Training 1, so I had time to let her hang at the trailer while I reviewed the test movements.  I did not want to confuse my tests, since riding three in just over an hour tends to do that to my brain haha, so I had not reviewed it yet that day.  I did not want to do much warm up at this point, but I did want to test out our canter leads one more time before we went into the ring.  Again, she was great in the warm up, though a little leery of the huge Friesian who was LEAPING into his canter transitions haha.  I don't blame her, as I thought we were going to get run over a few times.  She didn't do anything naughty, just "grew" a little each time he flailed around anywhere near her.

This test was so much better than the first time we tried Training 1 back in August.  It was a combination of riding it HC (no pressure), the fact she is further in her training (half halts especially), and because it wasn't the first time ever haha.  I am so glad I thought to ask to ride it HC because it gave me a huge confidence boost.  We nailed all our canter leads and she was super good overall, just a little unsteady in bridle at times.  She doesn't know this test and it is a little more involved than the Intro tests.  

We again scored all 6.5s and 7s for a score of 66.304%, a full six point improvement from our first try last month.  Had we been competing for real, we would have won the test.  Judge's comments were: Horse is fairly obedient but needs to improve suppleness and develop steadier connection for better ease of movement in this test.  Good luck!

This show was everything I wanted for the near end of our show season.  We have made good improvements as a team and Ellie has settled into her role as a show horse.  I could not have asked for a better show overall.  I wish we had videos of our Training 1 test (and even Intro C which was sooooo good).  My phone has decided to not work properly unless it is plugged in (new one arrives today, hopefully!), so while my husband and the almost three year old child tagged along, I did not get any video.  :-(  We have one more dressage show this year at the end of October at our lesson barn, where I plan to ride Training 1 twice.  I think that will be a great way to end our first year of showing.  


Carly said…
Sounds like a great way to say farewell to Intro!! And I love that feeling of seeing your baby horse hang out at the trailer in a show atmosphere like a grown up. That's made me so proud of Opie this year, too. All that hauling out for experience does great things for their chill factor!
TeresaA said…
What a great way to finish the year! Well done- you have worked really hard and it's paying off!
Intro was definitely the right way to start our year but man, I hope I never have to ride another Intro test ever! LOL! I will ride Training level for the next five years before I ride Intro again. I am not a fan of the tests at all!

I agree, Opie has had a similar show journey as Ellie this year and it is so gratifying to see them act so chill at a show. I have no problem with the ton of exposure at local and cheap schooling shows if it lays a solid foundation for the future. :-)
Thank you! It has been such a great year. One more dressage show at our lesson barn and I hope we can nail Training level (before the tests get changed for 2019)! :-)
Sara said…
Well done! All that show experience has paid off for you both. What a great way to say goodbye to a level and prepare to move on up. Good luck in October.
Amy said…
This is making me want to put in the time and do the local dressage series near me next year and go for year end, lol
Martidoll said…
way to go! who would have thunk last year when you were riding in the snow and muck you would get this far. congrats! You guys look great ;)
Thank you! I do think getting her out and about as much as I could definitely helped her!
Yes! You should give it a try! Great goal for 2019!
RIGHT?!?! I knew we could do it, I just didn't know if we could do it this year. I am pretty happy with the progress for sure! Thank you!
Liz Stout said…
I love the success you and Ellie have found this year and am so over the moon for you that this show was everything you wanted it to be and more! She's such a gem.
Thank you! She is really a great horse and I am so excited for her future! :-)
LiveToFly said…
Congrats! What a wonderful way to end intro!
Thank you! It really was a great day!