Tuesday, September 8, 2015

BVX 2015: Western Dressage Recap

After finding my ride times from the previous day, I was pretty pleased I wouldn't have to be up too early. Our first test was at 10:36, with our second at 11:06. I fed the mare three hours before our classes again and gave her the pail of beet pulp with added Chill in it.

Around 9:30 I pulled her out and while pulling off her blanket found that she had literally shit all over it the night before. Disgusting, mare! She was still wide-eyed and alert like the day before and I was slightly alarmed and concerned. But, again, I knew this would be a good time to treat it all as a schooling opportunity - nothing more and nothing less. We didn't come to win and I needed to remind myself about that.

I chose to warm up about 40 minutes before my first test (Western Dressage Training Level Test 1), as I didn't want to over-do it in the warm up. We walked to the arena and I mounted up once in behind the fences (not because I thought she'd take off or anything, but it gave us both a peace of mind).

At first she was fidgety in the warm-up and I had a hard time putting my legs on without her being over-reactive to it. I finally managed to settle her into a good work ethic and although she felt like a bit of a steam-engine at the lope, I didn't mind it too much.

After warming up, I decided to stand outside the arena and let her walk around the Dressage-ring a few times. There were potted flowers, a white chain and a bunch of other things all over so I wanted her to have a good look. I shouldn't have worried because mare did not care!

We waited for the three other riders to go first and before long, it was our time to shine. I opted to trot around by letter A and work on flexing her around to get her focused. It worked and I was pretty pleased when they rang the bell and my reader began calling for me to "enter A working jog". The rest of the test went pretty well and we had some good moments, as well as our share of "ugly". I found the judging to be fair for our test and was pleased with our results as well.

Not much engagement at A enter working jog. She was pretty looky.

As always, and as I predicted, our halt was a complete mess. It's almost like she knows we are at a show and refuses to halt quietly. I've had a few people give me tips on it and honestly, you can't DO anything when she pigroots and decides to go hollow in that moment. If you fuss, she'll start to back and swung her haunches all over the place (see all the tossed up sand? Yah, that was us). Understandably, we earned a 4.0 for that maneuver, which I felt was pretty generous given the crap-tastic nature of it.

Halt at X.
Suzie: "NO."

We did manage to redeem ourselves in the 20meter jog circle where she was on the aids and listening. Her nose could've been tucked in more but at that point, I wanted a quiet round with minimal fussing. It wasn't about winning, I reminded myself (I did a lot of this).

20m jog circle at E.
Our lopes were a bit messy and unorganized because Suzie wanted to "ZOOM".

Finally getting our shit together near the end.
Final halt - Mare proves she CAN stand quiet!
Pats for a job well done.
The most ironic thing about our first test is that our lowest scoring maneuver was also our highest scoring... our first halt garnered a 4.0 and our final earned a 7.5. Our overall score came out to 57% which isn't fantastic, but isn't awful. I was pleased that we didn't jump out of the arena or spook at the judges booth - which is always a common fear among competitors. For her first foray into the Dressage ring, I can't complain. The judge remarked how tense she was and although I agree, I can't say I was too concerned by it. She'll get better with time.

For our second test, Training Level Test 3, I made a boo-boo in deciding to stand and wait. There were only four of us in the class so it wasn't like we waited long, but I now realize I should've went back to doing some schooling.

No matter, our test was still a bit jumbled in the beginning with the refusal to halt at X (the judge commented that we ought to school that movement. I had to stifle a laugh because Suzie has no problems with stopping at home or in the warm up arena). We were able to get some good work in the jogs but we totally tanked our lope departures and lope-jog transitions. Mare had a fire-cracker up her butt and it took a pretty serious half-halt to get her back to earth.

Enter A, working jog.
You can see her hollow-back and tense nature.

Lope between A-K and circle at E.
You can just see how unfocused she was on me.

Slowly harnessing that crazy energy during our walk work.

Better, but still hollow.

Our final jog of the test which was the best of the morning.

Pats for a job well done and a 'thank you' for not killing me.

Our second test was not as great as our first in terms of the lope, so we received a 55%. Unfortunate and embarrassing, but I was still happy. I secretly wanted to get about 50% since I already knew Suzie would be a hot mess and we did it! I couldn't have been happier and although we had some very giraffe-like moments, we still beat our Dressage test from last year on Tally (wherein I received a disappointing, but well-deserved 48%).

The other ladies in the class had competed in Western Dressage before and not surprisingly, I placed 4/4. Although, in the second test one of the ladies went off course and the judge allowed her to repeat the movement and she still placed in the top 2... It was a little bit of a peeved off moment for me, but I let it ride knowing that we both did our best in not going off course, leaving the ring early (LOL), or falling off.

Our first foray into the world of Western Dressage wasn't too bad and I wouldn't mind repeating it next year.


  1. Sounds like it was a positive experience and you had a great attitude :) Your show shirt is amaaaazing. I wish english dressage was more open to color/pizazz.

  2. It'll get better next time! I think dressage is one of those disciplines where it takes a while to figure out the best warmup/routine/etc.

  3. yay!! i love all the pictures haha - you guys really do look great. those scores are nothing to sniff at for a first effort, either. also i'm always kind of relieved when the judge only points out things i already knew about, vs. identifying previously unknown holes in our training. bc that's all it's really about anyway: demonstrating your current level of training. seems like you guys did a great job of that too!! congrats!!

    1. I'm not too heart-broken over the scores. They could've been much, much worse. I was more concerned we'd have an unplanned "leave" from the Dressage arena, ahaa!

  4. She looks like she had some really nice moments in there! Even with her greeness. Good job keeping her together!

  5. I've really enjoyed reading about Western Dressage from both you and Draft Mare!