Sunday, August 5, 2018

Timberland Schooling Show: Training Level

Following our lesson on the Friday, Cat (the Judge) advised me to wear spurs in the show ring. I had wanted to avoid using them, because I felt like when I did use them during my lesson, I ended up just nagging with them. I found it hard to keep Annie accountable as well as trying to do the lesson competently. In my head I knew that this whole Forwards Issue would be best hashed out between the two of us in the ring, alone. No time pressures, no skipping over things to work on other things, no pressure to be "perfect" - just me, the horse, and a tappy stick.

But, when the sun shines you gotta make hay.

Or do a low-key clinic and show your horse? Or something like that, haha.

So off we went - to the horse show, with no real expectations and no real agenda other than to school the horse and keep the Forwards Train rolling.

The show itself was going to be pretty informal; no placings and no ribbons - only percentages. Part of me had hoped there would at least be placings, but I kinda understood the reasoning why. The whole aspect of the show was for practice and placings didn't really matter. Although, I find it really interesting to see what other people score to get an idea as to how the judge scores. Since I was friends with the show organizer, I was informed the Judge was pretty fair across the board and most people in each division (W/T to 3rd level) were all in the low-high 60s.

The Judge, Cat Armitage, has a very large resume in respect to Dressage shows. She has not only judged a lot of high profile shows, but has scribed under very prestigious judges from all over the world. She's very well traveled, and seems to understand how to judge various breeds, which is kind of cool since we do have quite a few Andalusians in the area and they are often judged the same as the average horse - which, they aren't. I've seen a few friends get low scores because their horses are more retracted through the neck and paddle with their front legs - it isn't that it's wrong, it's just different and some people don't know how to judge that.

Jackets were waived, thank god.
Sneak peek of our TL 2 test.
I forgot to mention in my previous post that there was a Dressage informational session that I went to after my lesson. I popped Annie in a stall (the same very stalls she kicked boards down in last time we were there...) and stayed for a few hours to understand the scoring system, easy ways to rack up points, how to understand judging and what percentages really mean. It was very enlightening and at some point, maybe I'll write a post about it but I feel like if I blab on about it, this post will be even longer than it already is.

Annie did well hauling to the event and set to eating her hay quietly as I wandered around the grounds collecting my number and asking if the show organizers needed a hand with anything. They said no, so I went and sat in the stands and promptly regretted coming to a show in 27 degree heat (80F). It might not sound hot, but we are used to much... milder temperatures, haha. Anything above 25C and we friggen MELT here.

I watched a few of my friend's rides before wandering back to the trailer (after obsessively popping my head over the stands to check on Annie... who continued to eat at the trailer quietly) to get ready. And once I finally managed to slide into my breeches... more like shimmy because I was pouring sweat, we were ready to rock and roll.

I had planned on being on Annie 30min before our first test, and it may sound as though it wasn't enough time but already having a Not So Forward horse, a day of intense heat (for us) and needing to do 3 friggen tests, it was imperative I didn't use up all the horse I had.

I had already had it in mind that if the first two tests went well, I'd scratch my third. It's just TL, so it's not like it's asking much of Annie but I wanted to be fair, esp if she somehow decided to meet me halfway.

We warmed up in the open grass area and after a brief moment wherein Annie forgot how to canter on her left lead, we had a pretty nice warm-up. Unfortunately, she was not so responsive to the legs still but I worked with what I had and tried to keep things simple. Ask first then poke with the spur.

It worked well enough and Horse Show Buddy commented that we looked nice, which made me smile but also made me worry that by the time we'd enter the ring, I'd lose it.

And, we kinda did.

The judge rang the bell and we entered our first test - TL 1.

Cherry picked screenshots.
We had a nice straight entry, but it quickly went bad as Annie plowed into my hands and decided to stop... before X. The judge didn't ding me for it, but it was clear Annie knew the game of the Dressage ring and that we'd halt in the middle... or... close to? I wasn't expecting it, so we kinda floundered into a halt. From there, I'd say the test was OK. Annie wasn't really with me and had the "don't wanna" attitude so I ended up having a very stiff horse to try and circle at E. We fell in and out of the circle a bit, mostly bc she refused to bend around my leg and be a nice riding horse.

I think it was partially bc Annie thought we were done after warm-up and she just didn't wanna. I ended up having to jab her pretty good with the spurs more than a few times, but I am proud of myself for not sitting back and just letting her disobedience continue. Which shows for our canter - she didn't wanna so I spurred and off she went.... hurried, haha.

And from there, our transitions became El Poo Salad. Any down transition we had had Annie slamming on the brakes and me jabbing her back into my hands. I played around a bit in the ring with the amount of seat to use and the amount of forward I needed to get her having before down transitioning.

TL 2 free walk.
For what it's worth, I'm kinda disappointed in our free walk score. We have always scored 7-7.5 and an occasional 8 on it. This Judge just didn't seem to like the fact Annie wasn't really reaching with her hind end. I had a few people comment how beautiful it looked from the stands, so I'm not sure if that's a huge sticking point with the judge bc for me... a horse that is marching and extends their neck downwards is a good enough free walk for TL. But, I digress. It just made me try harder for my next tests.

Once we got things back together after the free walk, it started to flow OK but I still wasn't happy. Annie was resistant in the bridle and unhappy with being poked (maybe just GO then, mare?!). As the test depicts, she was not as supple as she could be and refused to bend. Bc... angry mare.

And with still being super behind the leg, we missed the turn down X for our final centerline and I kinda wiggled my way back to the center. From there, Annie shifted her haunches and although the halt was square, our scores clearly suffered for it.

It was decent enough for a 63% and part of me is embarrassed we're only in the low 60s, but I guess it's better than being in the high 40s and low 50s like last year? #weisnotgoodatdressage

Cat called me over after my test and commended me on making the horse accountable - or trying to - and that I need to prepare myself more with turns and such. Which, like, I tried to, but it's SO hard when you're riding a horse that feels SO fucking sticky. You'd think going slow would make her easier to turn, but we just don't have any oomph to power us through the turns or circles so we wiggle, fall out, etc.


I exited the ring and waited alongside the court for my next test. We had two riders and then would be back in the ring, so I skipped warming up and this was a very large mistake.

I had thought I'd save Annie's energy but it only made her think she was done so when we entered the ring for our second test she was NOT happy.

Looks like a nice trot - this was me trying to get her
ramped up to canter between C and M. 
This test rode OK, because I managed to get her a titch more forward but in my quest for forwards, mare got PISSED and ended up breaking to canter a few times in our final trot circle. Which, I was kinda annoyed with because Annie was just being dramatic about my leg and after leaping into canter once, felt like it would be liberating to do it again... and again. At the end of the test, Cat told me to not to pay much attention to the "3" I earned for the movement due to the disobedience because she understood what kind of demons we were playing around with and I made the right judgement call when she sucked back. Part of me was kinda upset tho because had we gotten a satisfactory number (6 or higher), we would've been close to a 65%. But, what can ya do.

Cat called me over at the end again and we talked about the fact Annie was more resistant in this test than the previous one, but also that I had managed to keep her pretty decently forwards. She also let me know I had only received scores of 6 and above (aside from the one 3). She was happy enough with our free walk to reward a 7, and I literally tried to push as much of a walk out of the mare as she'd allow. Thankfully, mare met me halfway and complied kinda... haha.

Cantering the other way!
That test also earned us a 63% and although I felt like it was worse than our first, I was assured it wasn't. It FELT like complete poo tho - Annie was NOT happy with me making her do the things in the heat, especially when we just TOOK A BREAK THANKS.

I wanted to just finish there, because I was sweaty and tired and frustrated and kinda embarrassed. Cat, however, gave me some pointers at the Judges booth and said, "Now apply it in your next test. Good luck." so I kinda was like... I guess I'll do the thing?

This time, instead of standing around I went back and stood until we were one test out and went back to work. Just walk and trot - getting her in front of the leg and pushing her into the hands. I didn't give a shit and it was time to grow up. She flicked her tail a few times and wasn't happy but kinda gave in and obliged... kind of.

Comparatively, this was our best test of the day. We didn't make giant strides (no pun intended) and only eeked out an even 64% but overall the quality felt better and it felt like Annie was with me more than in previous tests.

I rode my pants off and we had another break to canter at our working trot, but again Cat was sympathetic to it and we actually earned a 5 since I managed to get Annie on board with getting her shit together.

I was happy with this test and all the scores reflect that. We lost rein connection, but I kinda worked with what I had and tried my best to keep her from continuing to giraffe around the arena bc she was mad. But again, kinda hard to push the horse into the bridle when there is no horse to push?

Overall, I'm happy. Initially I was kinda let down but at the same time, it made me realize that if we are getting low 60s without forward, can you imagine what we'd get with forwards (and the subsequent steering abilities that come with it)?! So, it made me feel excited for the future and to keep pushing myself and Annie to get to where we want to be.


  1. Forward makes everything sooooo much easier!

  2. wow that sounds exhausting but great job well done! Whew.....I need a nap for you. HA....and I know if you arent used to the heat 80s can feel hot as heck...

    Annie has come so far since I started following you! Kudos for all your hard work (and before you know it you will be up to your ears in snow :)) HA!

    1. Right? I felt like I needed a nap after all that, haha.

      And yes, we are DYINGGG here right now with the heat. Ugh.

      Thank you so much and yes... yes we will be! I'm not looking forward to all the shoveling :(

  3. I think you are being a bit hard on yourself (as most of us tend to do) - it didn't look bad at all! You changed your contract with her a few weeks ago about her being responsible for her pace, and being a mare, she's still trying to negotiate the details. It'll come, and make life so much easier when it does! (And then it will still likely show up again for the next few shows even though at home it's no problem. Ugh. Horses.)

    1. I am always hard on myself, so I appreciate you saying that <3 Things are getting better - slowly. Just have to keep going and keep the rules the same :)

  4. It is so hard when the mares don’t want to cooperate. I think you did well by keeping your mind on the schooling. I find that the best thing to do is right before 5e judge rings the bell do a few up and down transitions being really clear what you want. Might work wi5 Annie. You might have already done that so then ignore my advice.

    1. Right?! So frustrating sometimes.

      Ohhh that's a good idea! I didn't do it at this particular venue bc I didnt' wanna just start a fight but it has become a new part of our warm-up routine because... too bad so sad Annie! haha.

  5. You guys are definitely making huge progress!

  6. Your last point about 60s without forward was exactly what I was thinking. Imagine where you're going to be once you're on the same "forward" page?! Going to be so awesome.

  7. This sounds like a really good experience. I’m kinda dealing with the same feelings of kinda wanting to feel “let down” by a ride even when I can objectively identify very real, very important positives from it. It’s a mental block problem that is tough to overcome. That said tho, you and Annie really seem to be doing very well and it says a lot about your partnership now that you’ve been investing in so many training opportunities and have gotten so much from them. Nice work!

    1. It's tough when we as riders get in our own head. Ugh. Why can't we just appreciate the little things instead of always trying to get the whole damn pie? I def sympathize with you tho, because it isn't easy trying to change your mindset. One thing at a time tho!

  8. I mean I don't understand Dressage shows as much but my recollection says 60's are pretty good and you should definitely be proud of yourself. Especially seeing how far you and Annie have come as a team!