Monday, June 13, 2016

Houghton Spring Dressage Show

After the bad feeling the first dressage show judge left me with, I wasn't particularly upset when I scratched from the show the weekend after that one. I waffled back and forth about whether or not I was going to even go to this show because pouting, and when the times came out I immediately knew I was going to scratch from Saturday. My rides were scheduled for 7:08 a.m. and 4:08 p.m. That seemed...excessive when it came to waiting, but really it was the perfect excuse to not have to go.

I had one and a half days of real dressage work in the two weeks leading up to our Friday show. Sanctioned dressage show debut? Second time at Second level? Meh. I couldn't muster one single fuck to give, and we spent most of our time either frolicking on trails or jumping around outside. Possibly I am the world's whiniest adult, but I don't give a shit.

soak time with friends

I finally strapped on my dressage saddle Tuesday or Wednesday before the Friday show and attempted to get a ride in super early in the morning to beat the heat. Unfortunately, the heat was too much for a Bobby to cope with (He probably would have been fine if it hadn't swung from snowing one weekend to 90* with 5m% humidity the next weekend. Worst. State. Ever.) and he had a little brush with heat exhaustion. As I stood there hosing and scraping my poor horse with a pile of tack at my feet from where I'd dumped it to get to the wash stall quickest, I almost whipped out my phone and sent off an email to scratch from the whole shebang.

too tired to even eat grass.

But I didn't, and Thursday afternoon I climbed back on to check his buttons. He completely fell apart even turning to go across the ring, so I knew the simple changes were going to be a complete disaster again if I didn't do something. Armed with pockets full of candy, I broke everything down for him. Walk across the ring and nothing happens? Cookie. Walk across the ring, halt for half a second without freaking out? Cookie. Walk across the ring and trot at X without freaking out? Cookie. And so on and so on. We ended with really good, really quiet simple changes wherever I asked for them, so I was feeling a little better after that.

Hubby got me all wound up about taking 590 (which is only a couple miles from my barn) past Rochester during rush hour the morning of the show and tried to convince me to go the longest way around known to man, but I ended up sticking to my original plan  and running into zero traffic from there all the way down to the show. I did, however, run into crazy fog once I hit Geneseo and it didn't let up all the way to the college. I crawled along with my hazards on for ages, occasionally hitting 45mph, and finally pulled into the barn's driveway super thankful there hadn't been many people on the road.

it was a little clearer on top of the mountain the school sits on

Bobby unloaded like the consummate show pro he is, even ignoring the field of horses that escaped from the paddock we were parked next to and went gallivanting off behind him. I checked in and saw that they'd pushed my second test back by about ten minutes which was fine, but they were also going to have pushed my second test on Saturday back to 5 p.m. LOL, no.

They kept announcing that the show was running early, so even though I knew I had all the time in the world and my horse doesn't need a lot of time to warm up at shows, about forty five minutes out I started scrambling to get ready. Fortunately I was put back in my place and got distracted by my fucking brand new show helmet my dad had gotten me for my birthday. I was trying to get the thing on with proper hunter hair because that style really is fabulous, but no matter how hard I squished my helmet down, it just didn't feel secure. "Great," I thought. "Now I'm going to have to fucking return this helmet even though I ordered it in a bigger size to fit with my hair under it."

Of course, on Sunday, while I was getting ready to school before the hunter show and wasn't rushed or flustered, I got my hair tucked under there in a second flat and my helmet was snug as a bug. So lesson learned: When it's as ungodly humid outside like it was that Friday, probably nothing short of a fish tank designed for a whale shark is going to fit over my hair which means I need get a fancy dressage bun holder with copious amounts on bling so I won't have to resort to ye olde scrunchie again.

my blingy ass earrings also went flying as i wrestled with my hairnet. #dressagedivaproblems
pc: megan stapley, who i forced myself to stick to only 3 pics to buy...this time.


Bobby warmed up really well, and I quickly slotted real dressage riders into the top spot of people to warm up with. Even with someone doing piaffe/passage work in-hand on the rail, everyone knew where the fuck they were going, and followed all the unspoken warm up rules. I knew they were running all different levels at a time, so it was easy for me to focus on my own work instead of sneaking peeks at other people and feeling like I wasn't good enough. It's easy to feel like you're doing pretty okay for your level when you're passing a GP horse.

Hearing another announcement that they were running early and seeing that there was no one in my ring, I asked the organizer as she scurried by if it was okay if I went ahead in. Given the all-clear, we double checked our number and test with the judge and headed down centerline.

Bobby can be really hit or miss with his halts. When he doesn't throw down a perfect one, he likes to swing his haunches left, or crane his head around to look at me, or just ignore me when I ask for him to trot off. This test he halted super square and crisp...and then shifted back a step before trotting off. That was new. Yay, innovative horse!

I overshot our first medium a bit, but I focused on going more conservative to keep it more correct. Less leg flinging, more sitting and using the butt (see above picture and those engaged hind legs). We snagged a 6.5 for that which I was happy with as I know Bobby can show off a lot more--we just need to work on strength building to keep it packaged and fancy.

i'm also sitting up better than this now!

The shoulder-in and travers were both obedient if boring and scored sixes. The turn on the haunches was, uhhh, not our best. I didn't prepare well enough and we fumbled through both too strung out. Our walk work was too quiet for the judge, though I was just happy he wasn't jigging. The shoulder-in right is always Bobby's worse direction, and really probably his worst movement in general. He gets super tense when you ask for it and he dropped down to the walk for a couple steps before I could boot him forward enough to get back into it. The travers was fine though, and he never got upset about my correction so that was another win.

We got the comment "needs jump" on our canter which is absolutely no surprise as BM yells this at me all the time. But a jumpy canter is a big canter and big canters are scary, ahhh. Working hard on that the past few rides though. Aside from a couple other hints at "Put your leg on your horse and make him go forward" the canter work was all fine, including a 7 for both our simple changes! I took my time through them, making them straight and calm and sending Bobby mental pictures of candy, and he was a complete rock star for them.

An obedient halt ended us with a 7.5, and 6s and 7s for collective marks. Instead of comments like, "Go home, you're drunk" (maybe a slight overreaction from last judge's remarks), we got such feedback as "Capable pair" and "Quiet, willing horse". She told me to "ride bolder", and I was able to pull something from almost every single one of her remarks on the movements. I really value constructive criticism, and this judge gave me a lot to work on without making me feel like I needed to get knocked back down to Intro.

she had some really good canter pics, but i look a little less like a buffoon at the trot.


I didn't let Bobby see the trailer at the last show, but I was parked right next to the ring this time, so I pulled his bridle and loosened his girth while I chugged down half a bottle of Gatorade and sat in the shade for fifteen minutes to try to cool down before getting back on for our second test. Bobby quickly dozed off, and I was glad I'd given myself a little extra time to try to ramp up the work a little for 2-3 because he was dead. I spent more time trying to jazz him up and get him moving off my leg than I did going through any movements. We watched the test before us go while Bobby stood with a hind leg cocked ringside which is not like him at all. He's never naughty, but he does like to keep moving. The poor dude was hot and sleepy. Being so good for five minutes straight is tough.

2-3 was one of the bigger divisions for our level, but I hate the canter movements for 2-1 so much that I'd rather compete against better horses than have to do that test. Most of the horses we were up against probably farted fancier than Bobby, and they sure as hell were bred to do their job better than my horse, but I know I'm good with geometry (when paying attention), so I was determined to pick up any fucking half point the judge would give us.

Bobby didn't play around in the halt this time and we started off the test with a 7. The first medium was "conservative" which, as I said before, was by design. The lateral work was ho-hum, and I didn't prepare for our first 10m circle enough and Bobby's haunches went winging out way too wide. So much for that geometry. Derp. The second circle was better, and our rein back was polite enough for another 7.

the cutest brown mule beast ever to live trying his sleepy little heart out.

Our canter work was straight sixes ("Needs more jump." Dang it, Carly! Ride your damn horse forward!) except for a 6.5 for the second change.  We finished with a 7 for the trot transition and a 7.5 for the final halt. I finished the test grinning and patting my horse like a crazy person. I knew it wasn't flashy and that we'd had some wobbles, but he was so quiet and so obedient that I was thrilled. The judge's comments were to make him more supple in the lateral work and to work on maintaining the energy.

I stuffed all the cookies Bobby would eat into his face before letting him get back to his nap and cleaning up my stuff. I snuck a look at the score board before going to grab my tests. 57.31% for 2-2 and first place. 57.68% for 2-3 and 5th place. I was really hoping I'd be able to squeak out a 60% for 2-2, but I was happy with my scores, and happy we'd improved even a fraction from one test to the next--and that we'd actually beat people at 2-3!

sleepy horse just wants to be left alone.
also kind of bummed we didn't get one of those
fancy ass ribbons you dressage people are always sporting.

I'm mostly happy we redeemed ourselves from the schooling show. Looking over my tests made me want to get back on my horse and work on the judge's suggestions instead of throwing my dressage tack across the room like a child and vowing never to ride in it again.

We played mostly over jumps all last week with lots of trail riding to give Bobby a mental break. He gets adjusted Friday, we go on a hunter pace Sunday, and then next week we'll back to the grind and aiming for shows 7/10 and 7/23-24.


  1. Dude, massive high five! I feel light years away from second level so you are on the highest pedestal right now. Glad the heat stroke wasn't serious and you got your showing mojo back.

  2. The pro pics look great. Congrats on the ribbons and also on the good tests and constructive criticism.

  3. CONGRATULATIONS! I know how hard you have worked and you should be thrilled with Bobby. He's a rock star!

  4. You guys look wicked fancy! So glad you were able to get out there and show off a bit!

  5. Congrats! Sounds like a fantastic day. SOOO glad the judge was a normal human this time.

  6. Awesome work. Its funny our hunter trainer has us install most of the same movements in our horses, but without the precision and perfection of riding dressage. Makes reading and watching you guys work enthralling and a little enticing to me. But idk if I can ever control each butt cheek enough to ride like you guys ;)

  7. Congratulations! All your hard work sure seems to be paying off!

  8. Wahoo! What a good outing! An obedient horse is always appreciated. Good judges make you want to go to barn the next day and practice, so I'm glad you got someone fair! Re Ribbons: you'll just have to go to more recognized dressage shows! I've only seen a handful of places that give out the smaller ones.

  9. Wow, damn, I'd kill for those scores at a rated show! Congrads, and you guys look super fancy!

  10. Yay such sweet redemption!!! Also I love the idea of sending mental images of candy lolz

  11. REDEMPTION!!! Suck that, bad dressage judge! So happy for you both. The pics are really nice.

  12. So awesome! Go cookie monster Bobby. :)

  13. Yay!!! Congratulations. Awesome stuff.

  14. Having a calm horse ad a calm horse that beats pop is awesome. Congrats!!!

  15. Yay for shiny ribbons! And for constructive criticism - the best kind :)

  16. Way to go to you and Bobby (mostly Bobby) for keeping it together! Awesome

  17. THAT is how it's supposed to go! Not perfect, but still positive and fun. I definitely come off of shows like this ready to really work hard too.

  18. Wooo! Congrats on a great show. Bobby can DRESSAHGZ with the best of 'em!

  19. That's fantastic! Congrats! So glad things went better.

  20. Woot! Congrats, what a fancy pair!

  21. Wow, congratulations!! 2nd level seems like it's a long ways away right now so this is totally role model status for me.

  22. Wow, you guys look fabulous!!

  23. Holy crap you guys rocked it!

  24. That's my Alma Mater! Brings back good horsey memories.

  25. So I am suuuuuuper behind, but reading this post made me happy and I wanted to comment. So glad for you both! The relaxation in the ring is the hardest part, once you get that down the rest will come! :)


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