Dressage Divas

It has been a while but here is a post all about my riding progress. My stables are now on holiday for two weeks, the Royal Highland Show and the local shows are on and my instructor is competing at both I believe. A few different things to update you all on just now.

Riding & Road Safety Course

I have been doing the British Horse Society’s Riding and Road Safety course now for a few weeks. I have been learning all about the correct way to ride on the road and how to keep your horse, yourself and those around you safe. It is fascinating. However, I am finding certain aspects challenging, looking behind me enough and far enough behind me as I am not particularly flexible but I need to push myself around more to really be able to see any cars or bikes coming up behind me. I also have a tendency to do ‘jazz hands’ rather than the closed handed signal I need to when showing the direction I plan to turn. I also need to ensure the horse is walking forward smartly as sometimes I have a tendency to allow the horse to dawdle as I am thinking about other aspects. I have so far ridden Am and HB for the riding and road safety which has also been interesting as I have never ridden HB before. He immediately became bolshie with me, which I wasn’t expecting but I managed to get him back to listening to me. Once I worked out he is similar to Tx, hungry and inclined to laziness but with the added ‘I don’t want to do that’ element we got on okay and I had him walking smartly for me. I have another couple of course dates and a mock exam before the real one so I have a few more chances to get it all ingrained in my memory. I have also been practising in my normal lessons and very sadly on my bike when cycling about town. I am confident the car drivers thought I was mad with the grand turning gestures I was giving but at least it stopped me doing jazz hands 🙂

Regular Sunday Lesson

As I mentioned in a previous post I have injured my ankle, currently it is improving but I am limited in what I can do and it is causing me a bit of an issue at the riding. Sunday’s lesson for example I had to accept that my ankle was sore and I couldn’t do as much trot work as the others in my lesson. It was a shame as I had Ct and I think we could have done quite well. I got to spend some time in the walk bending him, leg yielding him left then right, putting in lots of bends and it felt great – I actually felt him soften in my hands and drop his head to me. It was also interesting to note that when he did get distracted and threw his head up I was able to get him back quickly and easily. So far so good…or so I thought. Next up came a canter exercise – canter at the corner, canter large, change the rein across the long diagonal, pull back to trot through X, then when you feel ready canter on again, then change the rein again on the next long diagonal, trot through X again then canter on to the corner and trot. Whew! Well I had to call off on that one, I wouldn’t be able to stay off Ct’s back in canter with my ankle – I was gutted it sounded great. All I was asked to do while my two friends worked away on this exercise was to place myself in the corner (with Ct) and stand. Simple you say?? Oh not if you are Ct & I. I just could not get him to halt. He was wandering all over the place and I started to get a bit panicked, what if he got in B’s way? B would not stop cantering for Ct even if it meant a crash. Me being the fool that I am started my refrain of ‘Errr I am a little worried..’, my instructor shouted back ‘Oh for god’s sake Steph he is just walking about, it’s not like he is cantering around or even trotting. Get a grip, halt him if you want him to halt’. To be fair she was entirely right and it wasn’t nice of me to but in while she was teaching someone else, I felt suitably pathetic. Thus chastised when she called Ct and I over to do some individual work I asked to work on my halt transitions and trotting with him, I thought I really need to understand what I am doing to cause various things to occur. For example my instructor explained that Ct thought I wanted him to walk on from the corner as I kept tipping my weight forward while trying to sort out my stirrups, so entirely my own fault. I also asked to do a final canter on Ct as I really wanted to and thought my ankle would hold up, it was great – more of the giraffe sensation again but this time I got him to canter around the corner beautifully and my instructor explained that is because I had him bending really well. So a mixed lesson in a way but good in the end, let’s see how much I have forgotten after 3 weeks!

Dressage Test

Now for a little more details about the dressage test. I did introductory test b as did most of the participants although a few did so well last month they graduated to the preliminary test which involves canter. The whole night was really good fun. I was more nervous than I had expected as we had been working on the test during the previous lesson and Am & I had done pretty well.

I had originally wanted to do the test with Tx but due to my ankle injury was advised to take Am as perhaps I wouldn’t need to push her on so much 🙂 Tx is a lazy wee guy but if you get him paying attention he is brilliant.

First thing to do was to get some correct width stirrups then I could get on and get Am warmed up. While I was away getting some stirrups from the tack room I heard what I thought was farm machinery being started up, it was so loud it gave me and my mate a real jolt and as we went outside I could see Am getting a little worried. All of a sudden there was a flurry of activity and we realised someone must have fallen off in the warm up area. That’s when we were told that it was a plane flying so low that one of the horses galloped off and threw his rider – no wonder, it was far too low and we reckon he thought it was going to land on his head. In fact some of the other riders were saying they thought the plane was making an emergency landing in the fields at the back! The stables did complain about this as it really is dangerous, they are meant to receive notice and it is only through sheer luck that the other horses didn’t all react as well.

With that drama out the way it was time for me to get on and get into the warm up area myself. That was odd, not having someone even giving you ideas of what to do and of course telling you if you had done it correctly. I started by moving her about in walk, honestly it was as though she had never been in that field before – everything got a good staring with the ears pricked forwards and some kids in the field well that deserved a stationary stare. After a couple of minutes I was feeling happier and started working on the bends with her. Doing circles, changes of rein and leg yielding her. I was also practising halting her and getting her to stand square – that horse loves to wander. It felt like ages that I was warming up for but I think that was because I really wanted to get in and started, finally the call came for me and Am to enter the school.

It started badly in the sense that the lass calling the test for me had gone to put her horse out and was in the furthest away fields with no idea that I needed her. Cue lots of people rushing to try and find her. I tried to amuse Am and keep her warmed up by working on trotting but I was getting quite nervous and was forgetting to do anything other than trot around and around. My caller appeared running into the school and begining to call the test on her way to the corner, she is so sweet and so funny honestly it just made me giggle. So ‘ding ding’ time to start!

Well our move up the centre line to enter was a bit wiggly and I didn’t make it to C, I turned far too soon. My 20m circles were really pretty good and my transitions to walk then back to trot were okay as well although I was in walk for too long on one rein. Throughout the first half of the test I had a great quality trot from Am and a decent walk initially for the walking section but then we lost compulsion. I can see on the video (oh yes we videoed everyone, if this blog allowed videos you could be laughing at some interesting dressage right now!) that I started to shove with my butt during the walking section and I think that’s what lost me the energy we had. I think I would have been better to use the whip once to get her attention and then I would have stopped the kicking. I did ask my instructor if I often shoved like this in walk but she said no and believes it is something to do with my ankle.

Before I knew it we were coming up the centre line in trot, back to walk at X (that was a nice transition) and halting at G. Unfortunately she didn’t stand square but given that Am hates standing still the fact she stood while I saluted was impressive enough for me. Back into the warm up area for a cool down and I was relieved it was over and quite happy with how I had done, I knew I had lost energy and I had thought some of my circles might have been squint but at least I had remember my left from my right! Once I dismounted I did the most important thing and grab a picture with the beautiful horse I was on then went to watch my friends.

Don't we look smart? All smiles afterwards!
Don’t we look smart? All smiles afterwards!

They all did brilliantly, they were on much tough horses to bend and keep moving than Am. In fact one of my mates was riding the horse that spooked earlier in the evening, however she rides that horse so well that the test looked effortless.

There was a wee prize giving later on so we hung around for that and to watch everyone else. Unfortunately I didn’t get placed – I was only a point away but still I was a little disappointed as Am is such a brilliant horse and frankly if I had put her in the school by herself she could have done that test 🙂

I did get a rosette, a Special rosette for taking part! Honestly it counts against me that I was really chuffed with it. But more excitingly two of my friends got placed – 2nd & 3rd!!! They totally deserved it. I on the other-hand now have bits of paper to help me work on getting placed next month. The only way is up!

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