As part of my 2019 goals I had wanted to attend more of the Percentage/ Clear Round Days hosted by the local-ish saddle club. A short 45 minute drive to school some Dressage tests and pop over some jumps seemed like a fun way to spend my Saturday, especially because I wanted to prep more for shows.
Things started out quite well - I schooled Annie the evening before and she felt actually pretty darn good. We rode for about 30 minutes and called it quits after some really nice canter leg yielding.
I headed out to TBC Fairgrounds in the morning, and had to make a small detour to pick up another roundbale for the horses. It made me slightly late to the Percentage Day events, but there were enough riders that it didn't impede my ability to ride tests. I got tacked up, let the organizers know I was there, said hello to a few friends, and then hopped on.
Annie felt... tense.
While we have ridden in the large outdoor arena for Anthony clinics, we have not played in the Dressage arena much. I'm not sure if it was the hustle and bustle of the grounds (during clinics, at most we see maybe 2-3 other horses) or something else, but I knew the day was going to be a bit frustrating.
I rode the horse I had tho, and made sure I didn't back down when she decided to start cross-firing in the large arena. She seemed more interested in what the other horses were doing, and was refusing to bend. I kept on her, insisting she do The Thing. I was fair tho, bc #ZenNinja.
We headed over to the ring to do our first test - TL 2 - and I just knew it was going to be a shit show. Annie felt tense and argumentative, which was a very bad combination in the arena.
I debated posting the videos, but maybe someone will get a good laugh at how terrible it is?
There isn't much to say, really. She was tense, cranky, and NOT having it. I had issues with bend. I had issues with steering. I had issues with her lead. And I had issues with her sucking behind my leg (hence the canter down centerline).
I'm not happy with this test, and I'm having a hard time just shrugging it off. I think we scored a 56% from the volunteer judge.
In the moment, I was pretty proud of myself for not becoming unhinged. I simply just kept riding, kept asking, kept insisting, and kept being the #ZenNinja I knew I could be. After the test, we wandered back over to the jump arena and worked on her leads, cross-firing and bend. She settled into a nice rhythm in that arena after expressing some #feelings at the canter.
I felt pretty positive and headed back to the arena for TL 3.
This test was marginally better, and we scored at 61.4%.
Some moments felt good - especially that last canter. But the rest of it felt like I was trying to get a dog to drop a bone - futile and ending in someone getting bit.
I still insisted, still rode my mare, and I'm a bit disappointed she didn't really meet me halfway.
But, I guess it is what it is. I have a few ideas to work on this - one of them being to erect a Dressage sized arena in our community ring to practice the actual figures and to practice working in a "smaller" space. We do not have access to a Dressage ring, so I am always amazed at how small the sandbox feels when we go show. The next thing is to incorporate more stretching into our warm up - long, low, and reaching over the back. Next on the list is hauling out to this very arena and riding in it when no events are occurring. And lastly - keep attending these "fun" days for exposure as this was our first "show" outing of 2019 (our last one was in August of last year).
Aside from that, I'm not really sure what else I can do to encourage her to relax and work over her back. I have to hope and believe it gets better, because otherwise I'll just spiral.
I opted to finish on that note, as the final bits of our ride were pretty decent, and headed back to the trailer to strip tack and throw on our jumping gear.
Annie seemed happy enough to wander back and hang out while they went through the trot pole rounds and I opted to pop her through the 18" (low X) round that was offered. She was a bit of a butt-head when I asked her to head to the arena, passed other horses and enter the ring on her own. A little tap of the whip and we went through the gate and were off.
Overall, a pretty consistent and quiet round. The objective was just getting her in and out of the ring multiple times to prep for flat and jumping classes. Having to stand quiet in between rounds can be a task in itself for young horses, but Annie handled it well and seemed quite happy to be in the jump ring. We had a minor bobble coming down the line, but otherwise it was a decent round. As the rounds progressed, I became more and more insistent on her respecting my turning aids, especially when coming out of that plastic jump line.
Onto the first 1' x-rail round and again we had some minor discussion at the gate. Otherwise she felt pretty good here - I was more insistent about her respecting my half halts (note heading towards the brown jump). Our turn into the plastic jump line was better, but I def hugged the right side all damn day for whatever reason, haha. The bending line rode quite nicely as well in this one.
Our second time at 1' x-rails. She felt good, but def wanted to rocket off after a few jumps. She was a bit pissy because I had made her stand at the in gate to wait for our second round and she was quite sure she was going to die being all by herself. Regardless, I made her do the thing and she begrudgingly complied.
I initially was going to just stick to the cross rails, but something inside of me sparked and I decided to go for the 2' division as well. Truthfully, I had A LOT of fun cruising around at this height and it actually felt comfortable. Aside from the bobble at the plastic jump line (and subsequent rail), we coasted through quite easily. Unfortunately tho, a few horses Annie had decided to be besties with were taken back to their trailer to head home and mare objected strongly to that. A few times in some of the videos you can hear her neighing at them and I had to make a few extra circles when we first rode into the arena to get her attention back on me.
Our second round, I really pushed for the long, sweeping circles, and she did a pretty good job of respecting that. She was quite responsive to the half-halts as well, which made my job easier. We had a weird bobble at the plastic jumps again - she was pulling hard to the right, and I responded by pulling left... and right? Wtf. And then when we landed, she just lost gas and decided to see if we were done. We recovered quite well tho and the last line rode nicely.
We played one last time at the 2' division, as we were permitted to due to the dropped rail in our first round. Annie felt much more amicable in this one, and despite still calling for her BFFS (approx 44 seconds in), it felt like our best round. She was happy to adjust herself when I asked, and although we still didn't get a great turn into the plastic jumps, we had a much nicer exit then all the other rounds combined.
I chose to finish there, despite having one more ticket for another round. We had some really good success in the jump ring, despite having some issues in the Dressage court.
Overall, a day well spent and I made some mental notes as to better emulate some relaxation and better cooperation. I don't imagine it'll be an overnight fix, but we'll start small and build from there. I counted the jumping as a spectacular win, because I actually gave my mare a really nice ride over the fences and didn't loose my noodle when the jumps went up in height.
As always, I appreciate any helpful or insightful commentary from those who have experienced similar issues with their horses!