Tuesday, October 1, 2019

BVX 2019: Day 2, Dressage Freestyle and Flat Classes

Friday morning dawned nice and brisk - a sure sign of the impending Fall season. The horses had already been fed breakfast thanks to Show Buddy's brother, and I took Annie for a little walkabout to stretch her legs and eat some grass. We passed by the Dressage ring, which had the pony Dressage and 2nd level and up riders working through their tests.

Annie seemed bright and alert, but happy enough to snuffle at some dewy bits of grass alongside the walkways. Since I wouldn't be riding until after noon hour, I took my time walking her around and returned her to her stall in enough time to walk the venue with the Boyfriend and dogs. We managed to get a quick breakfast, and I started to get things ready.

The dogs were pretty well behaved. Although, I don't think
we will bring them next year. It's so hectic to be showing, going
to the rodeo, drinking parties, etc. The dogs had fun, but they also were
sad they had to be leashed the entire time, haha.
Friday is always a bit hectic, as several different disciplines are running consecutively, which often meant classes were being held to wait for riders finishing up in their other classes. Its a bit of a mad dash, as the Dressage Freestyles are often held on Friday, in conjunction with the English Flat classes. Which, makes it pretty crammed. A friend of mine literally walked out of her hack class into her Dressage Freestyle (and another vice-versa), so it was pretty crazy!

Because of this, I also opted to stay in my Dressage tack vs swapping saddles over several times. I had to wrap electrical tape around my browband tho to be class legal, which ended up being a comedy of errors when it was time to do my Freestyle. More on that later.

I was kind of nervous about the flat classes - Annie and I have ridden in the ring with horses before, but not like this. The flat classes were MASSIVE. I remembered from Annie's first year at the BVX that that particular ring was spooky for her, and I hoped the jam-packed classes wouldn't cause any anxiety. If anything, I hoped they would boost her confidence a bit.

After we warmed up, I parked Annie near a few friends and she was pretty content to stand and wait. A friends mare got a bit impatient and she had to take her walking, and Annie kinda got antsy about it, but we found another grey mare to stand by and all was right in the world. As long as we stood by gray horses, we were solid citizens, and even went to sleep. Without our gray horse buddy, we were still pretty well behaved, but certainly more on edge and looky.

Just a little map.
We were mostly crammed in the space between the jump ring
and warm up pen, as well as overflowed by the Dressage ring.
At one point, while waiting for our first class to be called, I casually counted the horses in the outer perimeter of the ring. I counted 50, which made my skin crawl a little bit, considering we were quite tightly packed. Just watching pedestrians try to walk through the hoards of horses was a bit nerve wracking, but a lot of these horses are show pros and they all were pretty cool about it.

Our first class, English Pleasure, started around 2:00, and I entered the ring with quite a few familiar faces. I felt pretty good about being in the ring with friends, and although Annie was a bit hesitant about entering the ring and leaving her gray mare friend behind, she did the thing and flickered her ear uncertainly at me, "Am I doing this right?" she seemed to say.

The class got underway and I knew right then and there I would have zero issues - she felt a bit worried/looky, but was doing the things that I asked. During our first canter, a girls mare side-stepped into us and kicked out at Annie's face. It caused Annie to kinda recoil and we flailed our way into the canter, but got it done. I gave her a pat of encouragement and she recovered quite nicely. Unfortunately, we picked up the wrong lead just as we were passing the judges booth, but I simply brought her back and asked again and off we went. The class went pretty well and I was happy despite the fact we did not place (out of 13). The goal of the class was to get a calm, consistent, and relaxed round. A few bobbles, but we more or less achieved it!

The Boyfriend offered to film my class. He decided to
film it as a time lapse... Hopefully it doesn't give you
too much of a headache, haha!
Can you see me and Annie?
(Hint: look for the gray horses lol)
Our second class was Road Hack (15.3 and under), and I was feeling pretty confident - not necessarily to win, but that Annie would be calm and cool enough to do the thing, which is all I was looking for. This class went well, and I was impressed with the strong trot she gave me when the judge called it out. It felt like a good trip, and she earned many pats for her efforts. We were warmly rewarded with a 4th place ribbon out of 11 riders. I was beyond ecstatic - she really did well!

Last class for the flats was Hunt Seat Equitation and again, we had a pretty decent trip. Unfortunately, because I was running a tight timeline for my Dressage Freestyle, I was not in my close contact saddle which made any efforts to display correct hunt seat equitation difficult. I didn't mind tho - it was a good opportunity to get around the ring and I had zero motivation to throw saddles on and off my mare, especially since we were one rider out from our Freestyle when we finished this particular class. We did not place out of 10 riders in this class.

A cherry picked screenshot of us dancing.
I felt good going from my flat to the Dressage, it served as a good warm up and it felt as though it got Annie's brain engaged. I popped over to the Dressage ring and met up with Show Buddy, who was not doing any flat classes this year, and caught up quickly while going over my freestyle. I noticed at the last second the tape was still around my browband, and a friend and another woman came over and started peeling the tape off. Except, I'm an idiot and literally wrapped the tape around the browband vs placing a simple strip across the fancy beads. They managed to get it done tho, and thank goodness because my name was called and we headed off, walking around the ring and waiting for the music people to get the CD ready. Annie went from tired and relaxed to high alert and hollow. It was unfortunate, especially since the Dressage ring is quite close to the large flat class ring (and warm up ring). She wasn't far away from other horses at all, but I guess maybe she thought she was done with hard work for the day?
Getting some Cedar cuddles.
Note the wrapped browband, lol.
Regardless, the music people were having issues getting my CD to play, and since I had halted at V, ready to head around the court and down centerline, Annie started to lose her mind being told to stand and stay standing. She was good for the most part, but I could feel her tightening, and her eyes started to get a bit hard and glossy. After what felt like an eternity, the judge called me over and stated that my music was defective and they were going to let someone else go ahead of me until they could figure it out.

I gritted my teeth, a bit frustrated, as I had paid someone to burn my music and several other riders had used this service with zero problems. Show Buddy went ahead of me, and she also had issues with her music being played. Thankfully tho, they got her going and off she went.

They managed to get my music working  after Show Buddy's ride and it took a lot of cajoling to convince Annie that yes, it was our turn and yes, we were going to do the thing.

We had some good moments, which are not to be forgotten.

The test... oh the test.

It went much like our first test on Thursday did. Which, is unfortunate. She just felt super tight and any amount of leg sent her spiraling into an offended rage. I kept my cool tho and rode her as best as I could through it, but would be lying if I said I wasn't disappointed. We had just ridden through some pretty decent flat classes and she couldn't hold her shit together long enough to get us through a simple freestyle.

Everything was super flat-footed and rushy - the lack of suppleness and relaxation meant that we did everything at mach 20, and there was little to no change of gait for the lengthens.

^If you watch the video, pay close attention to where
in the ring the disobediences occur and what way we are going.
If you watch closely, you'll see she falls out of her canter or
cross fires closer to A, which makes me think this is a buddy-sour/
lack of personal confidence issue rather than a skills issue. Also watch
for when we pass the opening at A - see how her tail swishes and she gets
offended when we pass it instead of going out?

The unfortunate thing about this freestyle is that the person I paid to match up my music didn't match it up properly I don't think, because you can see us come to a screeching halt near A, as the music for walk should have been near F instead. I did mess up the ending though, as I forgot to head down centerline a second time for our second leg yield. I shouldn't have weaved back onto centerline tho, because it just made it look super awful, haha.

We managed to pull an even 63% despite the shenanigans and tied for 6th place with another rider.

I mean, I rewatch the video after not seeing it for weeks and part of me is like "It isn't that bad", but it still kinda stings to know how hard we worked for this and she kinda fizzled out on me. Still, I can't help but smile a bit because this was my first ever freestyle - in all my years of riding I had never bit the bullet on doing on and now I finally have! And at First Level no less!

An unfortunate littering of 4s and 5s, but it is what it is. 

While I do think the judge was pretty generous, I also kinda sighed
when I saw the remark "Keep canter work straight forward for her"
I don't know how much more straight-forward I can make it - canter
means canter, not flail, Annie.
I also cringed at our harmony scores. Oof.

Overall, I'm still a bit sour about how our Freestyle went, but at the same time, I have to remember that:

A) she didn't spook at the logger sports and/or the speakers in the arena
B) we didn't leave the arena
C) that I cannot compare our journey to anyone elses
D) that I still have to review the personal growth in Annie's riding journey, especially that tricky canter (which would have fell apart last year had she been that wound up).
E) sometimes you just have to chalk it up to a learning lesson and say hey, we'll do better next time
F) not all of the movements sucked - looking at you change of lead to the right, canter circle left, second lengthen, and trot turn right.

Our foray into the Dressage ring isn't over, and I have some ideas up my sleeve to improve her confidence and lessen her anxiety inside and outside of the ring. It'll take months to develop tho, and I have to be patient and trust in the process as we learn and grow together.


  1. I'm so happy and excited for you. Sounds like a pretty busy and epic weekend that you both handled really well! Congrats on the ribbons!

  2. It's so disappointing when rides don't go how we hope, plan, and practice. But good for you for seeing the good in there, and not letting it frustrate you too much. You're still so far ahead of where you were last year, even if you guys still have a few things to keep working on. That's riding though right? Always room to improve!