Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Some Satin

 Sunday was a lovely little local show at one of my favourite venues in the whole world, Equivest. It's not far from home and has the sweetest, kindest organizer who also does great things for dressage in our area, so I love supporting her shows when I can. The venue is young-horse-friendly too and holds some special memories for me: I rode Thunder's first Novice here - the day that we met Coach J - as well as his first Elementary. It was also where the beloved took me to a show for the first time in 2017. We weren't even dating yet, he was just handy and I needed a driver. The roads were SO wet and slippery that the four-berth and my dad's bakkie (pickup) were skidding all over the place, but he superhumanly got us all there safely and in a calm fashion, and honestly I think that was probably the moment in which I fell in love with him.

this man 💜 and his favourite chicken, Loki

My ride times were 11:38 on Thunder and 12:32 on Lancey, which was very nice. We had time to sleep in a little (well, I slept in - my parents were away so the beloved did morning check and got the farm going at 6am), have a nice breakfast, and play with our chickens for a bit before I got the boys ready.

We've been growing Thunder's mane out because the beloved said that he looked like an unwanted stepchild when I cut his mane (to be fair, I am NOT good at cutting manes) so I used a new technique to make his bobbles. It actually worked out great, and it was super quick - about 15 minutes. I don't think they'd stay in overnight, but considering how quick it was, they don't need to.

I slapped Lancey's into a running plait, which was a bit of a messy by the end because I'm honestly just not very good at them, but it did the trick. This technique won't work on Lancey's mane, I don't think. It's just too long. I'll have to learn good running plaits, methinks.

I had some trepidation about the whole affair as we loaded up the two boys (who hopped right in, barring a half-hearted, flat-handed shove to Thunder's bottom to convince him that we really were going) and set off. The beloved and I were alone with them, and we didn't have stables, so the poor beloved would have do to literally everything except the actual riding. In the end, I needn't have worried. They were both absolutely perfect and my man is a superhero. (I do have zero media, though, because there was no show photographer, so pardon the wall of text).

We arrived a titch late - 11:10 - but I only need a few minutes to warm up Thunder so we slapped on his tack and I rode over to the warmup with optimism. I even remember his bridle number, something I have a history of totally failing at. We had ridden his tests on Saturday afternoon without any trouble, except that he did take a few trot steps down in some of his simple changes. Considering we have only done like 2 sessions on the simple changes in the past 4 months, that's not too bad. I walked him around, did a little stretchy trot to loosen him up, then rode a shoulder-in on each rein, a simple change on each rein, and one medium trot and that was all we needed. He was more than ready.

He did shout for Lancey a little bit when we went in and walked around, staying obedient but wanting to pop his head up, so I did a little bending as we went around. Once the bell rang he still wanted to look around for Lancey so we came in straight and steady but he popped up his head and looked sideways in the halt for 6.0, "inattentive". He stayed a little tense through the medium trot but gave it a brave effort for 6.0, then settled nicely in the shoulder-in and forgot all about Lancey. It was still a 6.5, and he got another 6.0 for the next medium trot, "more from behind". The next shoulder-in felt better but garnered another 6.5, then a staggering 7.0 for the transition to medium walk and the turn on the haunches left (!!). Honestly this TOH felt a bit sticky behind to me, but obviously my uneducated butt couldn't tell a good turn on the haunches if it was busy earning a 7.0 for one (my first ever, I think). I tried to keep him more active in the second TOH for 6.0, "hurried". Totally my bad.

I felt like the extended walk was really good - he was forward, soft, swinging, reaching - but it got a 5.0, "more ground cover". That really puzzles me, so I'll definitely bring it up with Coach J at our next lesson. The canter transition and 10m circle were 6.5, and then a 7.0 for the first simple change on the diagonal. I LOVE that we can get 7s on the simple changes now! The next 10m circle was a 6.0, "more jump", and the change was 6.5, "more impulsion". The medium canter was 6.0, "more from behind" - I did feel like I kinda started to lose him downhill at this point but he put it back together OK for 6.0 on the counter canter, "more fluency". This I totally agree with. I felt like he was falling behind my leg and started vaguely irritating him with my spurs instead of, you know, sitting up and riding like an actual dressage rider, so he was getting a bit annoyed and sucking back further behind my leg. I had the presence of mind to take my leg off and trust him for the next counter-canter and it improved marginally for 6.5, "more impulsion". We redeemed ourselves somewhat in the final halt and salute with 8.0. The collectives were 6.5 for paces, 6.0 for impulsion, 6.0 for submission and 6.5 for rider position and aids. We got 62.6% with comments "Promising horse. Horse needs to engage the hindquarters more".

I felt he was getting a bit bored and unfocused when we headed out, so while the judge was writing we did a bunch of canter-walk-canter-walk-canter around the outside of the arena, and he felt a lot sharper as we headed in for test 6. Things immediately began to improve. The first halt was a 7.0, as were the half 10m circles, and we went to 6.5 for the shoulder-in which honestly felt good to me but the judge didn't comment so I'm not sure why our shoulder-ins were so poor on the day. We got a 7.0 for the rein-back, a small triumph as we'd struggled with it in training, and a 7.0 for the next extended walk in which we broke to trot for 2 steps, go figure. (I felt like the previous test's walk was a lot better). The medium trot was a predictable 6.0 with an equally fair and predictable "more from behind". Our next half circles were 6.0; again, no comment, but we both lost our balance a tiny bit and made the first one too big so I assume that's why. Another 6.5 for the shoulder-in (I really wish the judge had commented on the shoulder-ins as they're usually a 7.0 for us) and then we had a 6.0 with comment "more jump" for the first counter canter. The simple change, however, was a 7.0, which I was chuffed with.

I felt like he lost some balance in the circle with break of contact and I obviously tried to compensate by pulling the inside rein down when I took the contact back (why????), and the judge said 6.5, "more impulsion". The medium canter was a 6.0, "more from behind" as per usual, and then the next counter canter was 6.0, "more jump". The simple change was again 7.0. I buggered up the first turn on the haunches for 5.0; the next one I trusted him a bit more and we got a 6.0, then a 6.5 for what I thought was a rather acceptable halt, but I don't think he was square.

The collectives were the same: 6.5 for paces, 6.0 for impulsion, 6.0 for submission, 6.5 for rider's position and aids for 64.2% with comments "Some quite good moments shown. At times horse needs to engage the hindquarters more".

I was really, really happy with both of us, honestly. I did botch two of the TOH, which clearly need work, and fussed at him a bit in the one counter-canter. Otherwise, I rode pretty well and he was absolutely wonderful. He felt like an old schoolmaster at this level - absolutely push-button and no effort at all. We didn't get dazzling marks but I feel like our marks reflected what Coach said, except for the TOH. In the movements where sheer obedience counted most (halts, rein-backs, simple changes, the TOH that I didn't mess up) he scored well; it was the movements requiring bigger natural movement (mediums) that didn't score so well. I do think we can improve our marks with more engagement and strength but that will come with a few more weeks of work. It was very nice to pilot a seasoned horse around a test he found easy for once, and a real confidence builder for our upcoming summer season.

We hadn't had time to get something cold to drink after I got off, and I was absolutely dying - it was a sweltering day and my cheapie jacket isn't exactly breathable. I did not expect to find the beloved and Lancey waiting with ice-cold, newly-bought drinks. I am not sure how the beloved succeeded in standing in the queue and buying drinks with Lancey in tow, but he did, so they're both my heroes.

There was just enough time to chug a Coke and saddle up Lancey before we were warming up for his tests. He was super good, much less looky than at the last show and nicely in front of my leg. He wanted to fight my right rein at first and we did some quiet bending and suppling until he relaxed, then did a bunch of simple changes through trot and in we went.

He wanted to spook at the judge's box, but I let him have a nice long look and the judge talked to him in a friendly way, so he relaxed completely by the time the bell rang. (The judge was wonderful about letting him take his time to look and snort before we had to go on). We trotted in, he halted beautifully - square, round, relax - and I saluted. When I looked up, we were five metres to the left and facing the other way. Apparently something vicious next to the arena must have tried to eat him. The judge, hilariously, commented "moved away from X" and gave us a 5.0. To Lancey's great credit, he happily carried on with his test and got 6.5 for the half circles. I lost his hindquarters in the leg-yield for 6.0, "more crossing". The lengthening was a 6.5, and we got a 6.5 for the canter right with comment "more connection" because he was fighting my right rein a little bit in the 12m circle. However, the change through trot was a 7.0, which I was delighted with.

We had an OK lengthening but we passed whatever-it-was that he spooked at in the centreline, so we wobbled off the track a bit (he was still SO good and rideable, though) for 5.0, "left the track". The change of rein and transition to trot at L was a 6.0, he lost some balance and wanted to canter but we kept it together. The half circles were 6.5 again, and then he had a really nice leg-yield for 7.0, "better". I slowed him for the stretchy trot and he stretched SUPER well, but I guess he was a bit too slow because we got 6.0, "more impulsion". The medium walk was a respectable 6.5 - he bobbed his head at a fly on his nose - and then our halt was another 6.5. The collectives, however, were good: 6.5 for the walk, 6.5 for the trot, 7.0 for the canter, 6.0 for submission, 6.5 for rider position, and 6.5 for accuracy. I know I sacrificed accuracy for balance in an attempt to avoid his signature "I throw my nose up in the air sometimes singing AAAAYO" move.

Overall it was 63.4%, "Some quite good moments shown. At times horse needs to be more connected." That felt spot on for the way the test went. He was fabulous at times, and he didn't get stuck upside down, just bobbled out of the connection when he lost his balance. He actually felt super nice and rideable, which was great - and very different from our last show.

They were busy grooming each other a la Gio and En Vogue but obviously stopped when I pointed the camera at them

He was still a little unsure of the spooky corner when we came out, so I took some time to walk him up and down next to it and pat him until he was quiet. The judge seemed to give me an extra minute or two to do this, which was very kind of him, and only when I retook the reins did the bell go and we trotted off to A.

We had a nice halt but then he stepped back for a 6.5, "good halt but moved, more impulsion after X". The lengthening was a 6.5 this time, and he got a 6.0 for the 10m circle, "more impulsion" - I felt him wobble there and was diplomatically trying to avoid losing the connection completely. The leg-yield and the next lengthening were 6.5s, and we rode a better 10m circle right even though that's his difficult rein for a 7.0. The leg-yield was another 6.5, "more impulsion", and the medium walk was a 7.0 - he swung into his ground-eating Arab-on-a-mission walk, which felt great. The free walk was less great, 6.5 "more connection".

Next we had the walk-to-canter, which for some reason I sort of panicked about. This entire show for some reason I was panicking a bit that they wouldn't canter when I asked (again... why???) and I sort of rushed and booted him so we got a 6.0, "hollow at A", completely my bad. The 12m circle and canter lengthening were 6.0s, "more impulsion" and "more ground cover", but the simple change through trot was again 7.0. He fussed and sucked back in the 12m canter circle for 6.0 "some resistance, more impulsion", and then got it together for a nice change of rein but felt pretty unbalanced into the trot, yet it was still a 6.5. Our last halt was a 6.0, "more square".

The collectives were a little different: 7.0 for the walk, 6.5 for trot, rider's position and accuracy, and 6.0 for canter and submission. It was still a 64% with comment "Some quite good moments shown. At times horse needs to engage the hindquarter more and be more connected".

I felt like he measured up pretty squarely to what I was expecting, but I was still really pleased by the huge improvement over our last show. I feel like the 7s will come for Lancey with more experience (and apparently more impulsion). While I'm happy with how I rode and got him back together in the times when we lost balance or connection, I know that there is potential for SO MUCH better, especially once we reach Elementary/EM. He actually has three nice gaits and a good brain, I just have to get rid of the dregs of this connection issue we've had since I bought him.

I was dying of heat when we got back to the box. It still feels unfair that judges just don't waive jackets as often as they really can, honestly - it was a tiny local show on a 34C (93F) day, and we all still sweated it out in our jackets. Anyway, I stripped Lancey's tack and babysat the boys and the beloved appeared with ice cream and water for the horses, then helped another lady to load her horse while I got the boys dressed. Once they'd had some water and cooled off, we popped them back in the box with no difficulty whatsoever.

I was happy with our tests but had seen some Big Name Fancy WBs in the warmup, so I wasn't expecting great things. I was pleasantly surprised when I went to get my tests (which were ready and waiting - this place is really great) and she handed me a heap of satin. Turns out that Thunny had won the E5 and came second in the E6 by a smidgen. Lancey had two first place ribbons, and I originally thought he was alone in the class, but turns out there was another horse in the N6 and he still won. So it's his first legit dressage win, ever!

We won two huge bags of carrots, which the boys enjoyed hugely, and a bag of AHFS Natural Horse Treats, which they also enjoyed, and the cutest little bottle of fancy perfume I have ever seen in my life. I am a huge sucker for perfume so that was a nice touch.

It was a nice way to cap off a really happy day with my three favourite dudes. Thunder now has 8 grading points in Elementary with two to go before we can upgrade to Elementary-Medium (and thus compete at Medium), and Lancey has two in Novice and needs eight more. God is good.


  1. Congratulations. On the running braid- the trick to getting it to stay in is to have the strand you bring under really tight but the strand you bring over a little loose.

    1. Ooh, thank you!! I've always pulled both tight, so that must be my mistake. I appreciate the tip!


Some Satin

 Sunday was a lovely little local show at one of my favourite venues in the whole world, Equivest. It's not far from home and has the sw...