Tuesday, August 13, 2019

TSC Dressage Show: First Level Debut

I'm a terrible blogger.

There, I said it.

An entire week has passed since our first level debut and it's nearly taking everything I have in me to put pen to the proverbial paper and talk about it. Not because it went terribly, and not because I don't want to, but holy cow these last few weeks have been a literal and figurative shit storm. The hay situation in my area is insane (crop yields are down 30-40%), which left me scrambling to out-source other avenues. And in that time, like a good ol country song, literally anything and everything started to go wrong.

The good news is that we managed to get it all worked out - thank god for friends who move literal mountains to help. The amount of stress and chaos that ensued left me in a particularly bad head-space. I am a planner by nature, so when plans go awry, I have a very difficult time processing the change. I can get myself out of almost any situation, but if it isn't exactly how I planned it initially, I am left reeling.

And the horse show was no different.

Spoiler alert: We went and did the thing.
In the baggiest of white breeches might I add (the
only downside of weightloss, haha!).
I spent several days, staring at the blank entry forms, attempting to decide what to put down. With Annie being side-lined mid-July with a nasty cold, I was left unable to ride much for a good two weeks while she mended. Finally, a week before the show we were able to return to our regularly scheduled program, as the week prior I had been slowly re-acclimating her to work.

In the end, I had chosen to ride three tests - Training 3, First 1 and First 2. The idea being that TL 3 would be a good gauge of the animal I had beneath me, as well as make our first show of the year start off with something "easy".

Saturday morning dawned and I was able to sleep in a bit, thankful that the show organizers scheduled me mid-morning, which also left me able to escape the brunt of the afternoon heat. I pulled Annie out and rolled up her braids (as I had bathed her the day previous), which looked very sad and unfortunate. Professional braider I am not.

The ride to the grounds was uneventful, save for a moment when we turned into the grounds and Annie jostled a bit. When I unloaded, I found that she had stepped on the section of reinforced metal along the bottom wall and had cracked off a small portion of the side of her hoof. Well done, mare. She was sound tho, and aside from the hoof looking a bit odd, we were ready to rock and roll.

Taking our time to warm up.
I had a good buffer of time before my tests, so tied Annie and left her to eat hay while I went and retrieved my number and show package. She stood quietly at the trailer, and I tacked up and got myself ready.

I had wanted to get in and have a maximum 30 minute warm up, as I know sometimes Annie requires a bit more warm up and each and every minute is precious in those circumstances. Unfortunately, despite feeling pretty confident when we went around at a stretchy trot, the wheels fell off the wagon and I no longer had a quiet, compliant mare.

The cross-firing was back with a vengeance and it felt like literal eons before we got it sorted out. We spent 80% of our warm up at the canter, reaffirming and reestablishing that #toobadsosad. I had no real input, other than insisting she continue to canter, and throw a circle in here and there. The carrying on, crookedness and tail snapping was all of Annie's own accord. We had no steering, we had no bend, and we had no rate-ability.

Truthfully tho, I did get flustered with her a few times, but I just felt so over the entire situation and it felt like it would never end.

It did end tho, and we had some beautiful canter that was adjustable, not crooked, and not angry. I couldn't help but muttering, "See, now you wasted your time and wasted my time in the warm up." as we took one lap of walk before getting back to work on the remainder of items I had wanted to school before heading into the ring.

Me, to Annie: "Is your thinker installed?"
A friend from Alberta, who is local to the area, was up visiting and had come to volunteer at the show and cheer us all on. She had been watching the entire situation unfold in the warm up ring and as we wandered out of the ring to find some shade before our tests, she simply stated, "Wait... what."

Annie is a weird one. When she gets tense or nervous, she resorts to cross-firing. And when she does, she looks like a 10/10 lame in the hocks, back, and knees horse. There is literally nothing I've found to be helpful when she does this, so I just sit there, asking her to keep bending (as much as I can), asking her to keep cantering, etc. Eventually, she realizes I am not going to argue back (in a perfect world... on this particular day, I did argue back, which only made the entire thing last longer) and settles back into a working role. The crookedness is magically fixed, the tail stops spinning, and she softens her face and back.

She's confusing, but hey, she's all mine.

We were able to sit and relax in the shade for about 10-15 minutes before it was time to wander into the large jump arena where they had set up the Dressage court. Annie has been in this arena a million times over, but this would be the first time a Dressage court and judges booth would be set up in it. I took my time and trotted down the long side towards the booth before shifting gears into a walk, as Annie gave it a little stare. Aside from the short glance, she kinda went, "Oh, this is new. Cool."

The bell rang and we headed down past A for our first test of the day.


^Also, shoutout to Alaina at Alberta Equest for being
the real MVP for test calling and videoing at the same
time. You go girl.

We've barely ridden this test in mine and Annie's relationship together - 1 and 2 were our "safer" choices given the lack of steering and erm.... leads over the past two years. Things have started to melt together, so I felt like this show was a good opportunity to up the ante, especially considering I had big plans to play around with First Level at the BVX show at the end of August.

This test overall felt good, but I did a terrible job of the serpentines - our area has been used to the BC Dressage tests, which are very different from the USEF/EC tests. We have never ridden EC tests before, so it was a bit confusing for me since I was going off of memory of previously ridden BC Training Level tests.

We had a few dumpy transitions, a few "meh" moments, most of which were due to my lack of preparation. Annie felt good, although a bit waffly in the contact and behind the leg (mostly due to our very... theatrical warm up).  I knew it was going to be a long day for her when she wasn't as snappy off my aids in the canter transition by C-M, and it proved to be true when she dropped to trot during our 20m circle and then again after our second 20m circle. Maybe she shouldn't have played up so much in the warm up??

This test wasn't my favorite of the day, but it was a good "warm up". Getting us in the ring, dusting off a bit of the show nerves (this was our first show of the year!) and get acquainted with the letters again. It may sound silly, but my brain fell out of my head trying to figure out the serpentine, even after asking about it several moments before heading into the ring. Ah, the joys of nervousness I suppose!

Longtime readers will be super pumped to note we scored an 8.0 on our 20m canter circle - this movement (among others!) had proven to be the kiss of death in previous tests... not anymore!

The judge was quite generous in her scoring, and we garnered a very surprising 69.30% and placed first, as we were the only entrants.

We had a short 10 minute break before First 1, and I opted to park in the shade instead of schooling again. It was getting hot and Annie was already tired. I read through the next test a few times, visualizing the test and figures in my head, hoping that I could ride a bit better and more proactive.


This was a pretty nice test and a great foray into our first "First"! We had some minor pilot errors, namely the half circle from B to X (which I overshot, and you can see a slight smirk and head shake as we tip-toed over X). Annie felt good though, and while our lengthens were non-existent on this day, I definitely pushed her for more and instead of arguing, she went to work and tried. I can't really ask for more than that! It just didn't feel like she had much gas left in the tank, and instead of poking her along with my spurs, I just went with it.

The free walk was a little "meh", but the swing in her hips was really nice. We had some issues with being proactive in this test again, but it's moreso pilot error than Annie. The commentary for this test was along the lines of "prepare sooner" and "show more".

Everything was kind of conservative on my end, but at the same time, I'm super proud we did the test and we nailed all of the elements without any theatrics or unscheduled hiccups.

For this test we earned a 68.10%, which again, I felt was quite generous, but was pleased to see the comments reflected some of the things I felt when I rode it. We scored third out of three in this test, with the highest score being 70.9%. So, I was pretty fricken proud that not only did we make it through, but we hung tough with the rest of the riders.

There was an hour and a half break between First 1 and First 2, so I was able to unbridle, loosen the girth and tie Annie to the trailer for a snack. She went for a very long pee, which I thought may have had something to do with her lack of forwardness, and had a sip of water before refueling herself in hay.

As the next ride time approached, I wandered back over and took my time readjusting tack and taking a little walk about. I had zero intentions of schooling, simply because I knew the horse under me was beyond dead. The big fuss in the warm up ring zapped all of her extra flair, so I tried my best to conserve the horse I had and hoped the pee break and refuel station did it's job.


We did a little lap of trot before heading in, and once it got underway I remember feeling pretty happy with this test overall. The test started off with a bang, and we lost a little of it during our lengthen once again, but managed to recover good enough for a decent enough leg yield. She felt super sticky tho, kinda like squeezing frozen molasses out of a toothpaste tube.

We did two bigger oopsies in this test which cost us quite a bit of marks. The first was our change across the diagonal, wherein I did not prep for our right lead canter soon enough and Annie picked up the wrong lead. We recovered well enough to score a 7.0 on our 15m circle tho, so I can't be too upset with that! Our second oops was near the end - I was in my own little world and part of this test is similar to the BC Dressage tests we previously used so I kinda fumbled once I realized we were supposed to be trotting at M. Poor Bannie was slammed abruptly from canter to trot as I tried to get my shit together. Oops, sorry Bannie.

Again, the commentary on this test was "show more", but I can't be too upset with it. Annie went out and she tried even though she was tired. The couple of errors we had were my own and I'm sure had she been a little less tired, it would have been that much better.

We scored a 66.3% on this test, and I kinda kick myself for the silly mistakes. But, that's how it goes and I was still super pumped to see we placed third out of four. We were a bit lower down the totem pole in regards to this particular test, but everyone was quite close throughout the competition, save for a handful of tests.


Overall, I am completely blown away by this show. We still have a TON of things to polish, rework, and remediate, but I finally feel like we can chip away at the difficult stuff without getting a ton of pushback from my partner. As silly as it sounds, it finally feels like there is a partnership there, and although we had a wheel come off the bus in the warm up, it didn't rear it's ugly head all day long.

I happily took my ribbons home and displayed them, cherishing all of the hard work and dedication it has taken to get to this point. And Annie received a literal boatload of carrots for being a pretty awesome partner, and for carrying me through my very first set of First Level tests!


  1. Wow! You guys have made some great progress this year! Annie is looking quite steady. Good job!

  2. Wow - great job getting there and doing the tests, despite having a rough few weeks prior! And - no ribbon photos? ;-)

    1. I had actually left before they gave out ribbons and did not receive them until the next day!

  3. Congratulations! Great job! Honestly, I could never even begin to remember all of those tests at the same time. Great job, and I agree with you. You and Annie are working really well together these days.

    1. Plus, they are NEW tests to us, haha. I was so used to the HCBC tests!

  4. I know I keep saying it, but you guys look SO GOOD. Congrats on the successful outing!

  5. You guys did so well. Congratulations!

  6. Woo congrats!!! And awesome scores ;)

  7. Great recovery after the difficult warm-up!

    1. I was glad she got herself together in the end haha

  8. Considering all the snafus leading up to the show and then the warm up - going into the ring and being able to pull off the best you could do and getting rewarded for it is awesome! Lots to be proud of!

  9. Congratulations on a stellar debut!