The past two years, Faxx has really underperformed in dressage at this show. As I’ve mentioned before, the arena is totally enclosed, and he cannot see any other horses while he’s in there. Plus, they go from the hot warm-up arena to the ‘air conditioned’ competition arena (probably no cooler than 80, but a good 15 degrees cooler than the warm-up) and then only have about a minute to acclimate before starting the test.
In past years, Faxx immediately ‘braced’ and got stiff and tense when hitting that cold air and isolation! And since you only have about a minute before you have to start your test, I never had time to work him through it.
This year, he was much, much better. He was a total 2×4 on Thursday when I rode him after the in-hand competition. I was quite worried at that point since I could not have ridden a dressage test if my life had depended on it! I couldn’t even get him through enough to sit the trot, despite working on it for more than 30 minutes.
He was much better the next day in my warm up for Sport Horse Under Saddle, so I was hopeful for dressage the following day. However, I also knew that he was not really quite ready to compete at First level. He does not have the ‘adjustability’ in his gaits that Faeryn does, and I was especially worried about the canter/trot/canter transition that you have to do across the diagonal. And I was a little concerned about our always-present issue, taking good contact and keeping it.
Our dressage rides were after lunch on Saturday. Not my favorite scenario. I would much rather ride in the morning. Plus, our rides were just over an hour apart. Very awkward timing. Not enough time to really unsaddle them and let them relax, but way too much time to just stay on and walk around.
I was relieved that he at least was taking an acceptable level of contact when I got on for my warmup. It was not as steady and consistent as I would have liked, but light years better than what I’d had two days before.
He was working pretty well when it was our time to go in. Unfortunately, about the second stride of our first movement – lengthen stride at the trot – he tripped. It took me several strides to get him back together and I couldn’t even get a lengthening. It rattled me and the first few movements after that weren’t great. And, he missed the lead on the canter/trot/canter transition across the diagonal. Oh well, that’s horse showing! Aggravating, but not much you can do but try to do better next time!
I chose to take Faxx back to the stall and leave his saddle on, but loosened. I thought that mentally, having the saddle taken off, then put back on, might make him a bit grumpy. So I unbridled him, but tied him by his hay net and water. It would have been helpful to be able to see my previous test scores and comments before riding the second one, but I knew that would not be possible. The scores might have been posted by then, but no way they would have the entire previous class scored and results posted by my next ride, much less allowing me time to actually pick up my test and see it. So I didn’t even look at the scores before my next ride. I preferred not to know!
No tripping in our second ride, but, again, he missed the lead change through the trot. He keeps falling against my leg and I can’t get him bent quickly enough to the correct new direction. But he is still taking good contact. A little ‘wobbly’ in spots, but quite rideable.
When we’re done, I take my time untacking him, changing clothes and hosing him off before I go check on the scores. This is my LEAST favorite part of showing! I am pleasantly surprised that we got a 64.something on our first ride, the Adult Amateur class. We were tied for second, but lost the tie (determined by collective marks) and ended up third – or Top Five. Bummer, but I am pretty pleased with the score and know that our second ride was better. When I checked back later, they only had about half the scores posted and we were in first with a 66.7! And I was very happy when I checked back later to find that we had WON the class and the second place person had a 64. Finally he had WON a dressage class at Regionals! The ‘curse’ was broken! LOL! Our final ride was the AOTR First level dressage Sunday morning. The pressure was off, since we’d already won four championships, including the long-awaited dressage win. The main thing I wanted to do was nail the durn canter/trot/canter transition! I was pleased with our ride and thought it was better than my second ride on Saturday. We also managed to finally get the correct lead in the canter/trot/canter transition. I was a bit bummed that the score was a 66.1 – just a tad lower than the previous day. When I got the score sheet I discovered we had more 8s than we had gotten the previous day, but had also ‘traded in’ some 7s for 6s. We were reserve champion – just three tenths of a percentage point behind the champion.
I was very pleased with Faxx. He went in and did his job and the mistakes were those of inexperience, and not of being tense or uncooperative. He will only improve with more chances to ride the test, and more training! And, I am happy to report, we won almost $500 in prize money! Not nearly enough to cover all our expenses, but every little bit helps.
I looked at the scores for the Top Ten placings in the First Level amateur classes at Nationals for the past two years and he would be been in the top third of the class both years. Regardless, we’re going to delay our appearance at Nationals to gain more experience.
I didn’t get a photo with ALL our loot on display,but this was taken Saturday afternoon, so it’s most of it!
Recap of Regionals Results:
Champion, Half Arab Sport Horse In Hand, Amateur to Handle
Reserve Champion (by two tenths of a point!) Half Arab Sport Horse In Hand, Open
Champion, Half Arab Sport Horse Under Saddle Open
Champion, Half Arab Sport Horse Under Saddle Amateur to Ride
Top 5 (Actually third place, since he tied for Reserve CH but lost the tie) Dressage First Level AATR
Champion, Dressage First Level Open
Reserve Champion, Dressage First Level AOTR ( three tenths of a point behind Champion!)