I was so excited to finally start taking private dressage lessons with my trainer last week, unfortunately I had a string of bad luck with my car and had to cancel. In the meantime, I began organizing my room and found my judges card and a story I wrote, from when Morgan and I participated in a Dressage and combined training show at my barn in 2008. It’s a funny story, and interesting to read knowing now that I’m one hundred percent dedicated to dressage. However, back then I hated dressage with a passion and put no effort whatsoever into learning it. It was too difficult and I felt like we just couldn’t ever get any of it right. Obviously a lot has changed since this show, but nevertheless, I hope you enjoy reading about our first Dressage show encounter.
“On Saturday my barn had their fundraiser Dressage & combined training show. It was actually a lot more eventful than I had imagined.
My ride time was scheduled for 1:45pm, so my mom and I didn’t get there until about 11am. I sat around watching everyone’s dressage rounds for a while. Then, while I was finishing my sandwich, one of the barn dogs came over and sat down in front of me. He’s 16-years-old and they said he just got sick, he started hacking really loudly, so my friend’s mom asked me to take him to the barn office. I coaxed him all the way from the arena to the barn with a piece of ham from my sandwich. When we got there my trainer hooked a lead rope on his collar and said she’d take him the rest of the way. I bent down to give him the piece of ham, but he jumped up and grabbed my fingers instead, he’s old and can’t see so he didn’t mean to bite me. It hurt for a second, but it wasn’t until I got back down to the arena that I realized my middle finger was gushing blood. A lady at the show, whom I didn’t know but later found out she takes lessons at my barn, told me to go wash my hands and meet her in the pony barn. I did as instructed, and met her in the barn, she gave me a sanitary, alcohol wipe thing and a band aid. My mom said its heeling fine, but we weren’t sure if the dog had had his shots recently.
Anyway, by the time the dog bite incident was over, I walked back to the dressage ring and found out they were finishing up with the class before mine. I wasn’t dressed, hadn’t warmed up, and I didn’t even have my pony out of the pasture! I ran to the pony barn, grabbed my halter and lead rope, then started running for the pasture. When I finally reached the gait, I was ready to scream. Morgan was all the way at the end of the pasture, in the woods. This particular pasture is one of the smaller ones, but its about ten miles wide and ten miles long. OK, maybe not that big, but its huge! I jogged down to the wooded area, fought my way through some mean briers, grabbed Morgan and had to walk back. Slowly. We would do awful in a model class, simply because he refuses to trot for me on the lead rope.
We finally made it back to the barn, my mom started brushing Morgan off, while I frantically started changing. When I finished I asked her to go borrow a white saddle pad from my trainer, while I did something, I can’t remember what though. We just made it down to the ring in time. While the girl, in line before me, finished her dramatic salute, I started trotting Morgan around the outside of the ring hoping it would suffice as a warm up. We had only made it around once when I heard the little bell. We went in and did the best we could, which wasn’t too awful, but I’ll come back to that at the end.
When we came out, we were already getting rushed to the jump paddock. We made it over in time to watch one trip before us. It was a complicated course with no lines, no easy ways out, and 12 random jumps to remember. My trainer stood beside me explaining the course. My brain was completely shut down and I wasn’t getting anything she said, and the girl riding the course wasn’t helping as she was constantly going off course and forgetting where to go. Then it was our turn. We picked the canter and headed for the first jump, we made it over and I started looking for the next jump. It was all the way at the other end of the paddock, it was a vertical pole with a row of feed buckets lined up underneath. I knew Morgan was going to look at this jump, we’ve never been over it before. I tried to ride him forward to it, but as we approached, he slammed on the brakes. I got a little unseated, but sat up and circled around for another go at the buckets of death. He went right over it this time, but as we landed I started realizing I had no idea where it was we were going to next. I just jumped the jumps I could remember my trainer saying, in no particular order, and finally came down to a trot and confessed to the crowd the obvious fact that I was lost. My trainer yelled “just go jump some stuff and have fun, you’re already disqualified anyway!”. With that we galloped off, leaving behind the roaring laughter. We didn’t mind though, I was laughing with them, and Morgan seemed to be enjoying himself simply because he was jumping and people were watching.
It was definitely a learning experience, one that I’m not likely to forget anytime soon. Unfortunately, because I did combined training, when I messed up the jumping we were also disqualified from Dressage as well, so I’ll never know how we would have placed, but I do have the sheet from the judge. It basically says the exact same thing my trainer constantly tells me. Right off the bat I over shot the center line and I had a crooked halt. On the first circle I needed to “improve the bend”, but I had a “nice tempo”. On our first change of rein on the diagonal it was “straight and steady”, but “lacking impulsion”. For the free walk on two diagonals, I needed to “lengthen rein not loosen”, it was also “inattentive, had no stretch or change in stride”. Our second circle was too small, and we lost energy. Our next change of rein on the diagonal was straight, but the quality needed improving. And finally I, yet again, over shot that irritating little center line. At the bottom of the sheet the judge made one last comment saying; “Very cute pair! Maintain balance and push him into your hand. Good job”. Our score was 114, but I’m guessing that’s pretty low considering we got six 6’s, two 5’s, and one 4. On our collective marks, we got all sixes, with another note saying “needs impulsion”.
It was a lot of fun, but I’m not in a big hurry to try it again.”
I apologize for any grammatical errors in the story, I did write it almost two years ago though. As an update, the dog that bit me hadn’t had his shots and had to be put down in fear that he may have had rabies. Luckily, he didn’t. I still have the scar on my hand to remind me not to feed dogs I don’t know well though. I feel I can say, with all honesty, that our dressage work, my spelling and grammar skills have all improved greatly over the last two years. I’m very excited about our first real dressage show! Hopefully it will go more smoothly and we’ll be able to enjoy it more, I’m also really excited to see the difference in the judges card from two years to now. But, I’m getting ahead of myself, after all I don’t even have a dressage girth or bridle or anything really except a saddle. One day, we’ll be ready…