A good weekend on paper - part 1
We left Perth just after midday on Friday arriving with plenty of time to get settled and set up before a ride on Henry. Capel grounds are fantastic, but a very challenging environment for some horses. Basically, everything happens in the same huge open field and you can see everything, dressage sj and xc from where ever you are, all the warm ups are in the same area and there is a lot happening at any one time. It’s great in some ways, but also hard for poor Henry.
He came out on Friday afternoon quite fresh, with a few bucks happening but I put him to work and he settled brilliantly to do some nice work. I was really impressed at how relaxed I stayed, because I would so often get far too worried, and try and sit quietly without asking him to do anything. Putting him to work is what needed to happen, and he settled into the familiarity of work.
Friday night saw henry making new friends with his yard buddies, while we enjoyed dinner and wine with a friend before getting a reasonably early night.
Saturday morning I chose to preride and he was more settled but still needed about 40 minutes of work until I felt he could do a test. I washed him down and plaited, gradually getting ready for my test at 12. I figured I would need about a 40 minute warm up and got on with about 35 minutes up my sleeve.
He came out so much more relaxed and I got him to a good place quite quickly, but then he got a bit tense again. I probably needed another 5 minutes to get his head back, but they were ready for me and I didn’t realise how early they were running. So I presented to the judge, got him together and was about to enter at A when the pony in the arena next to us did a canter transition right behind us, and Henry lost his shit a little bit.
I did an extra circle but I knew I was cutting it close to enter the arena in the required 45 seconds, so wrangled him as best I could and entered. It was not pretty, there was cantering on the centre line, and a buck for good measure, and we proceeded to have a very tense test.
I got to the first 10m loop and got very disoriented, leading to a bit of a wonky loop, Henry had his ear up my nose and then I got mad. He is nearly 7 and knows better than this. So I put my inside leg on, held on to the outside rein and told him to get on with it! Much to my surprise he did! The canter was more relaxed than the trot, with a semi decent transition, both up and down. It wasn’t anywhere near as soft and relaxed as it can be, but for the day I was surprised at how much he came to the party when I asked him to step up.
Changing rein across the diagonal showed some decent trot, where he was rounder and freer in his movement and in the walk he started to relax even more. The second trot loop was a bit improvement, I didn’t get lost and Henry was actually a bit round. The canter was also better.
His halt at the end was square and it was a relief to get done. I knew going into the weekend this was going to be a challenge, but I stepped up and rode the horse I had, and it payed off. I was expecting the test to be a total write off, so was disappointed because I was hoping for a little more relaxation and submission, especially after all our recent hard work. I had a medicinal gin and felt better, though watching the test back showed me it was as bad as I thought.
I wish I had thought to look at my watch before I presented to the judge, I rode about 15 minutes early, when I could have gone at my time. It would have made a difference, but you win some and lose some I guess, and that just how the sport goes! Something to pay attention to next time.
Usually I don’t look at the score after dressage, but I made an exception this weekend and it was just as well. I’m not sure what test the judge was watching but it wasn’t mine! We got a 6 for our entry with the comment ‘slightly above the bit’. I lost it laughing, I guess a buck is above the bit! I was expecting a 3… We ended up getting quite a few 7’s, and only one 5. Very interesting scoring, but I suppose this test will make up for a test where I think I did well and the judge disagrees!
At the end of dressage day there were 9.2 penalties separating first and last place in a massive class. Sunday would be very interesting score wise!
Saturday finished off with a wine and walking the cross country, before dinner and bed early. We had a busy day to look forward to!