We set off to Fairfields with three bays and one dragon. The dragon was plaited, which was a good thing because we were very late. I had enough time to warm up a dressage horse; I did not have enough time to tame a dragon, and thus resigned myself to riding Elementary 1 and 2 on a feral dragon.
However, when we unloaded Arwen, she took a little look around and then went to sleep. I was able to toss on her tack, hop on and warm up a sane and well-behaved animal that actually felt like it had been ridden before.
We had fun. Our warmup was just perfect, complete with four good simple changes in a row, and I was walking her around on the buckle when the steward called us.
In the tests themselves, she felt good but not quite like she is at home; not tense, just a bit scattered and distracted. I think it’s a result of just not competing as much as we always used to. She has never been the quietest and most at ease at shows – always trustworthy, and always does her job, but there is often a bit of dragonishness lurking.
This time, it manifested in a couple of silly mistakes. Our first change was an unmitigated disaster – she trotted down, trotted hollowly up into a disunited canter, flailed around a bit, trotted a step to fix it, and then plopped forth, earning a well-deserved 4. Her second change was very solid for a 6 and the rest of the test was smoother and more consistent. We even got the halt immobility for 5 seconds without any trouble. Mostly sixes and a few 6.5s earned us 62%, our second time breaking 60% at graded elementary.
The second test was judged by a lady who is always very, very strict, so I was not expecting any miracles. But our shoulder-ins were 6 to the left and 6.5 to the right, both of which had been under 6 with the same judge, with comment “good position”. And both our simple changes were tense and messy. She jogged through one, then stopped in the other and trotted up, so those were 5.5s. Still, the trot work was good enough for 60%, making it our first time getting over 60 for both tests at a graded show. And 60 from this judge is not to be sniffed at – not for us, anyway.
I’ve long since made peace with the fact that we are never going to be brilliant at Elementary. In fact, Arwen will probably not even be brilliant at Prelim. The basics are mediocre, so nothing can be really good. But I’m also over obsessing about it because to be fair I produced her myself with a total of maybe four dressage lessons together in our entire career. I have no experience at the level and I’m riding based off trial and error, guessing at how to improve things, guessing at how to train the new movements, reading stuff on the Internet and trying to make that make sense. And I think considering that, Arwen tries very hard, and has done more than most horses probably could.
She’s the best dragon and a gift straight from God. ❤
We had like 3 hours to wait before Thunder’s turn, so K, Dad and I put the horses in stables and plaited leisurely. At this point I must confess that Fairfields has become my second favourite venue ever (after Winstead because I love Winstead). There are many reasons why:
- Stables. And they weren’t even expensive.
- The people are SO friendly and helpful.
- It has a good vibe. I feel at ease there, and as a rule, so do the horses. The judges seem to feel it and be friendlier, too.
- It is super super close – 35 minutes’ drive.
- Did I mention everyone is nice?
K and I quickly scrubbed our horses’ socks and then hopped on and headed to the warmup. Regrettably we had ended up with only one horse going between Thunder and Renè, but we figured we could make it; I just had to switch my bridle number onto Renè, give K my whip (shoestring budget = everyone shares everything), and call her test.
Thunder was both better and worse than he’d been at Weltmeyer. He never spooked or bucked or bolted, but he screamed. all. the. time. Separation anxiety is strong with this one. It was annoying, I’ll be honest, but as always he never, ever quit on me. He stayed obedient, he stayed willing, he even stayed on the bit even when he was screaming. I resigned myself to poor scores, but I was grateful for how hard he was trying for me despite it all.
He called through the whole first test, but he did everything I asked almost as nicely as he does at home. Because he was tense he got really tight and short in his neck – the Friesian was showing a bit – but didn’t go against my hand, so the frame was present but not supple. We held it together and the worst he did was move during the halt.
He was much more relaxed when we headed into the second test, albeit wanting to get stiff laterally now and then because a horse in the field nearby decided it was going to shriek back at him (thanks for nothing, horse). He was still calmer, so I expected a better test and came optimistically down centreline. And then I looked up at the other arena, and it all came to bits. K was about to go in – sans number, whip, and caller.
It turns out the horse that was meant to go between us didn’t show up and K didn’t know she was allowed to wait for her ride time. Thank God, a nice random person called her test (what did I say about Fairfields again?) and they were fine but my world came crashing down. I felt terrible letting the poor kid down and my whole test all I could think was I should have given her the whip. Poor Thun basically had to do everything by himself, with me reduced to kick or pull. He managed, though, and we finished the test, and I got off almost in tears and abandoned the poor soul with Dad to sprint over to K. Who was utterly unperturbed because caller and whip or no, Renè had just pulled out the best test of their career so far for 61.9%. Guess I’m not so essential, after all.
Their second test was going so well until Renè broke in the second canter set, then picked up the wrong lead, then broke again. That cost them, but they still got 58% from strict judge lady, so that’s fine.
It was good enough for third place in test 1, their first real placing in dressage, hard-earned and well-deserved.
To my great shock, Thunder was second in both. He had 71% for his first test and 64 point something for the second, getting hammered with a couple of 5s for the final stretchy circle (it didn’t) and the halt (he moved). Those are both just a matter of show nerves, and I’m so happy that he could pull out those placings in good company even when he was tense. Thank you Thunny dude, I owe you one.
We were beaten by coach K’s mom, who also won the Elementary and has several decades more experience. She got like 76% so that was fine by me.
I actually can’t believe how brilliant our floofy homebred beast has turned out to be. He exceeded all my expectations and that’s saying something. This was a school pony for more than a year. I wish I’d given him a chance earlier, but I’m grateful now that he gets his time to shine. ❤
Last of the day was Trooper, three hours later. I’ll be honest, once I got on him, I was kind of tired and over it, but he was amazing. Just like he is at home. He napped toward the gate a couple of times, but otherwise warmed up beautifully.
We doddled down centreline and I was thinking I might stay and get my test after all because he really felt good. All was peachy, we even had bend on our circle, and then suddenly as we headed into the F-A corner, the steering broke. We fetched up just outside the arena at F. He didn’t jump, he didn’t duck, he just sort of kept on going when turning was supposed to happen.
I may have squeaked in horror. The crowd (who loved him) may have laughed. But the bell didn’t ring, so I put him back in the arena and went on. He promptly napped out at K, almost falling onto V, but then got a bit of a hiding and proceeded to finish his test in fine style.
Turns out the border of the arena was less than 25cm high, so even though he put all four feet out, it was a 0 instead of an elimination. The rest of it was good, but by that point I was ready to ride him up the ramp and home without bothering to get off, so I have no idea what he scored.
I’m still happy with him, though, because flopping out of the arena is really not the worst thing a four-year-old with practically no training can do at its first show.
Further Trooper news is that Lisna has been sold to a lovely forever home as a hack, so we have decided to keep him and give him to E. He is much better suited to her than Lisna was and they look amazing together. So I’ll ride him at the next show and then hand him over.
And, as another win, I finally rode all five tests from memory without making any mistakes. Which is always good.
So excited for what God has done, is doing, and will do. Glory to the King.