Charm and I went to our last show of the season yesterday. It was in the 90’s when we trailered there on Friday, but fortunately our ride time was 9:19 (yes, dressage shows are that precise) in the morning on Saturday. The ring was still half in shade. Any small advantages appreciated.
We got the lowest score of our entire dressage career. But I’m not disappointed, and I will explain why. I had a different goal for my intractable mare. We had been doing some serious work on paying attention and this was our opportunity to see some improvement.
First, Charm’s “personality” shot–
Miss Sassypants’ general attitude about horse shows
We did not warm up in the usual place, which is a large Cover-All indoor ring with eye-level window openings that terrify her if anything is going on outside. Instead, we utilized an enormous grassy outdoor space between the Cover-All, the large ring, and the smaller dressage ring. I told her we were going to warm up out here because this was where we were going to be riding our test and she might as well get used to the scenery. Instead of doing the usual warm-up, which would have been a progression from walk to trot to canter to test movements, I concentrated on keeping her attention on me at all times, not on the golf cart going by, or the other horses pounding the turf, or people wandering around, or arriving horse trailers. So far, so good. Here’s what she would rather have been doing–
What she felt like doing if she could get away with it
So I tested out my aids to see what kind of reaction I was going to get and what counter-measures I was going to have to take in the ring to keep us looking at least normal. I had been forwarned that our judge (an “S” judge, which means they are qualified to judge at Grand Prix level in national events) was extremely picky. So since Charm and I are basically discombobulated most of the time I did not expect a high score, hence my not being disappointed by the results. I inquired if she was ready to give me a decent leg yield. Yes! I inquired about a trot-canter transition. Nope–the Princess and the Pea was bothered by one braid at her poll that was a teeny bit too tight, and let me know about it with some expressive head-shaking. We worked on that, and got it down to some perfunctory head-shaking. I asked if she would like to give me an instant trot out of halt, and by the way keeping her nice frame as she did it. Yes! I asked if she would adjust at the canter, faster-slower. Yes! I asked if she would give me a consistent circle. Yes! Would she do all these things all the time in a perfect First Level frame? Well, not really–but I knew that.
What she could have done if she felt like seizing the day
So we upped our standard results from 3rd out of 3 (or whatever last place is) to 2nd out of 3. Charm was totally with me through the entire test, but wasn’t nearly “up” and “round” enough for this judge. I suspect the judge is on the edge of applying a Grand Prix standard to a First Level test, but that’s just my opinion. Anyhow, we got 50.735, which as I mentioned previously is our lowest score ever. But the winner was only 1.324 points above us. Which goes to show that everybody got scored severely. Which is, as I keep repeating, exactly what I expected. I met my “attention” goal and showered my mare with neck rubs and carrots, and we both went home quite happy.