Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Bob's No Halters Required Dressage Show

We know from yesterday that Charlie went to his first dressage show this weekend! And that he actually did pretty darn good! Lest there be any misunderstandings on what 'pretty darn good' means to me right now, tho, let's get this post started off with a representative photo:

WOW!
Lol... Yup that's basically what we look like right now. It isn't what you would call "classically pretty" or "elegant" or... idk, choose your own adjectives.

And no, that moment isn't cherry-picked for maximum awkward. It legit demonstrates our current combined level of training. While I hope you'll watch the test video below, I'll still assure you right off the bat: No, Charlie doesn't go on the bit, nor does he soften his topline for more than a step or two (if that). Yes, it's mostly a little awkward and stilted.

please enjoy this pic of Brita & Bella killin it as a balm for the previous eye sore lol
BUT. It's Introductory Level. I read that dressage test sheet top to bottom, front to back, in choosing this test (test B) as Charlie's grand entrance into the dressage court:

Test requirements: Free walk; Medium walk; Working trot rising; 20m circle; Halt through walk

Purpose: To introduce the rider and/or horse to the sport of dressage. To show understanding of riding the horse forward with a steady tempo into an elastic contact with independent, steady hands and a correctly balanced seat. To show proper geometry of figures in the arena with correct bend (corners and circles).

Charlie's got the "regal pose" thing down pat tho haha
So... yea that sounds right where Charlie and I are in our training (read: zero dressage lessons yet haha).

Steadiness, geometry, accuracy... these are things we can do fairly consistently. Correct bend? Actually usually(ish)! Contact needs work (obvi), as does our forward as a function of true impulsion... but that's exactly what this level is all about.

not particularly "forward" in warm up, but steady tempo at least
And, recall from yesterday that my purpose in this outing was less about the dressage test itself and more about all of the pieces that come together to create a successful show:

From hauling over and arriving on the property, hand walking / grazing to familiarize (they also let me hand walk around the dressage court too - bonus!), and tacking up at the trailer, to warming up, riding the tests, and winding back down again at the trailer afterward.

The tests themselves are only minutes out of an hours-long experience. So imo, every other element in the above process is at least as important, if not more so, in making a positive day for the horse.

a little more forward and maybe some actual bend
Plus, as we've all learned the hard way at some point or another with horses... little hiccups and bobbles in those other steps in the process are often contributing factors to a disappointing performance.

So idk. You might be confused about why I'm dwelling so long on the time spent out of the show ring in a show recap post... but for me, with Charlie, it was the most meaningful part of the day.

Personally, I'm at my best when I know what to expect. When I have a clear idea of how an outing will unfold. Down to details like how equipment is packed on the trailer, or where and how I'll actually get on the horse. How long I expect to walk the horse in our warm up. Etc etc.

if you ignore how we look in motion, we might actually be mistaken for a dressage pair!
Which, naturally, is basically impossible with a new horse haha. Because legitimately everything is new right now. I don't know how Charlie is going to react to new things yet bc we just haven't built up a history of shared experiences from which I can make predictions.

However, I *DO* know one very critical quirk about Charlie, from our first session with my local horsemanship guru: Charlie cracks a little under pressure. Specifically, he can get defensive or upset if he doesn't understand or thinks he's in trouble.

Therefore, my #1, primary, most importantest goal of the day: Help Charlie get the answers right, make it easy for him to succeed, and don't dwell on mistakes. No fighting, no getting in trouble.

in motion tho haha..... ahhhhaha. sometimes we trot like this. majestic AF guys. 
So when he got a little agitated while I was watching Brita's tests? Or when he couldn't stand still to be tacked? Nbd. When some loud rattling trucks and trailers filled with kicking horses drove by during our warm up, and Charlie got to thinking he could escape faster without me on his back? Just keep riding and keep guiding him forward to stay with me.

Sure it made me a little nervous and tense haha, but the great thing about this horse is that he honest to god is not super reactive. And if something upsets him, he can basically recover and move on with his life pretty quickly - actually more quickly than I can!

the walk ain't so bad tho. and scenic arenas and pretty sunlight make for an actual reasonable picture!
This philosophy contributes to how I rode him at the show too, and maybe how I ride in general. It maybe makes for a more tentative ride than what's called for. A comment from the judge, echoed by trainer P watching from the sidelines, was that I need to ask for more when Charlie softens and relaxes.

But... eh. It aligns well with my purposes for the day and we can fix the actual training later (hopefully) lol.

now this is a cherry-picked moment. we might actually have been mid-stumble here haha
Anyway... shall we discuss the tests themselves? My biggest concern was halting haha. Because damn, this horse just... like... doesn't, sometimes. Not running away or anything, but like a long slow heavy downward dribbling ever forward pulling me down down out of the saddle but never actually physically stopping. We can legit be going sooooo slow and I'm still using a goddamn pulley rein to actually achieve the halt haha.

So yea it's a struggle. Bend is kinda a struggle too bc, among other reasons, I'm not very good at moving Charlie's shoulders around yet, and he has a strong draw towards the gate. Everything else tho I kinda figured would be ok.

turns out homeboy can halt tho!!
Alas, in the first test there was something massively distracting in the corner by H, and we were both just generally quite tense. Charlie was very obedient (and shockingly accomplished both halts beautifully! yay for practice paying off!!) but our rhythm and circles were hurt by the tension.

Upon completion, the judge reminded me to create that forward channel for the horse to move into, and that any horse but especially an OTTB will just bear down on me if I hang on him.

Luckily tho, I had entered to ride the same test twice and was consequently scheduled with back to back tests. Perfect. We left the court for a little more walking and trotting around the perimeter, then were rung back in to repeat the whole process over again.

gooooood pony!
And Charlie settled right into it like a very good boy. This guy, he's a quick little learner haha. Where the first test was tense, distracted, and unsure, the second test saw Charlie saying, "Oh, this again? Yea ok I know what this is."

2nd test video here, captioned with test directives, scores, and judge's comments
it's probably the shortest dressage test video evar, just 2:30!!


So again, it's not very .... dressage-y, but it felt like a real win for Charlie that he could relax and understand the process so quickly. That he could just go right to work like he does at home (bc yea, I admit that's basically just what we look like right now lol).

picture chosen purely for its merits of dramatic lighting and otherworldly proportions lol
After finishing the second test I hopped off while still actually in the arena and we stuffed the big guy full of carrots. His whole demeanor was easily the most relaxed it had been since we arrived on property (aided undoubtedly by me finally relaxing a bit too).

it's a charlie party at the trailer chuckles-mobile!
Then off to the second half of his grand adventure: chillin at the trailer for a while longer while Brita, Austen and I socialized with a few other friends and family members with sandwiches, snacks, pie and beer. That's the best part of showing, right?

Charlie, for his part, got to eat his lunch at the trailer too (effectively covering the sparkling new fender with slobbery mushy mashy slop) and just generally settle in and relax as the world and barn hubbub continued on around him.

big boy's first ribbons <3
(with slobber spatters visible all over the trailer lol)
Plus, obviously we had to wait around for the division to finish so I could get my tests and RIBBONS!!

Our first test earned us a very well-deserved 58.75% for fourth place (out of six or seven, I can't remember) - with high marks (6.5s) for our halts and trot-walk transition and low marks (5s) for the free walk and submission.

The second test (scored in the same division) undoubtedly benefited in its immediate comparison to the first and earned a maybe-less-well-deserved score of 63.75% for first place!! Yay Charlie!! Scores are noted in the video above, but high marks (7s) were more abundant, again for halts and trot-walk trans, plus a few others. Low mark (5.5) for impulsion.

So. Charlie's first show is in the books. Not earth shattering, but rather just a solid ground on which I'll hopefully build a foundation.

54 comments:

  1. Great way to introduce the show ring to him. And congrats on the placings!

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  2. This is great. I love how it was all about the whole experience not the performance in the ring. And you guys look so good together. It's obvious that he trusts you.

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    1. the trust is coming. he's a naturally trusting kind of guy thankfully! tho it really isn't 100% yet, or even as close as i'd like. we'll keep working on it!

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  3. Go Charlie!!! You guys are doing great together :)

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  4. what a great day. And honestly he looks right what i would expect considering his time with you. IF he was perfect already I A) would hate you with a thousand arrows and B) be sure you had cut corners with faking aids etc :) BUT he is moving forward and learning to carry himself. I did the intro w/t a thousand times before finally (GULP) Feeling okay enough to do the canter tests (and finally moving to the BN tests. And IT STILL WAS NOT PRETTY (for a long time) LOL and my guy is older!! Actually i still have not pretty days and we STILL see things in the corners (ahem last show)!:) But the only way to get them going is to get them into that ring!! SO YAY (and ribbons to boot). Love the trailer! Can't wait to follow your adventures with Charlie he looks like a good 'egg'! Very nice first dressage show!! Congrats!

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    1. haha yea on that first point i'd hate me too if he was already perfect. bc let's be real, i can only do so much with my existing skill set. it's cool tho - we'll keep growing together! and yup - lots of low pressure time spent in the ring is my favorite medicine ;)

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  5. Emma, you and Charlie are doing AWESOME. Going and having positive experiences while he learns his new job is honestly the most important thing right now (which you know). The rest will come with time. I wouldn't worry about making it look good for a long time yet.

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    1. ha yup i'm pretty much focused entirely on the experience - and so far the skills are still developing well!

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  6. Congrats on the great outing and blue ribbon!!

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  7. I love that you made it all about the experience (although obviously the satin is fun too!). WTG Charlie!! I really love how you did the video with the scores/comments. And obv all the Charlie pics are superb, especially the one with super dramatic lighting 😁

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    1. haha that dramatic lighting picture is.... strange yet oddly transfixing. the longer you look at it, the weirder the proportions get haha.

      but anyway, yea i love annotating dressage test videos like that bc it seems to at least help somewhat mitigate the 'watching paint dry' feeling, plus it's a good way to actually see how each movement scores in real time, without having to scroll back and forth from a test sheet to the video

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  8. Best first show ever!! He is just SUCH A GOOD BOY I can't stand it! :D

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  9. hahahah hes sooo cute omg. nice that he'd hang out tied to the trailer. congrats!!

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    1. thanks! and we definitely practiced tying to the trailer at home ahead of time lol - that was my darling Calico's last duty!

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  10. Confidence building is Always a WIN!! Go Charlie, go!

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    1. agreed 100% - and it's as much for me as it is for him!

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  11. So exciting! He really does seem to be a quicker-picker-upper.

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    1. he's so quick - often he's quicker than i am. like, maybe i actually have to force myself to keep up with him lest i draw out some negative feeling unnecessarily after he's already able to move on haha

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  12. It's SO much more important to have him moving forward and swinging under than it is to worry about his head now. Forget on the bit and keep doing what you're doing. The on the bit will come.

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    1. yup that's basically exactly my point above ;) but even before he's moving out nicely, he's gotta... ya know... even just do the thing in the show environment. we're talking babbbbbby steps here haha

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  13. The format for the show sounds excellent for what a young horse needs, multiple immediate exposure. Good job (and the ribbons never hurt right!)

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    1. thanks - it really is the perfect format. i love events at OF for exactly that reason. bc it's a busy barn and there's a lot going on - but it's somehow still a very safe and low key place

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  14. Those early miles are all about the overall experience, so it sounds like a perfect first outing!

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    1. i'm definitely pleased with how he handled it all!! just gotta keep reaffirming his good attitude!!

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  15. Way to go, Charlie!! That sounds like a great first outing- relaxed atmosphere, good feedback, lots of friends!

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    1. it's basically the best of all the worlds here haha - and exactly what i missed so much about not showing for so long!!

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  16. Our new OTTB would love teach Charlie about good halting. It's basically his favorite thing to do. "Halt and stand around in the middle being adored? Count me in forever and ever!" Congrats on a good, solid first outing!

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    1. ha thanks! and see, that's the confusing thing bc charlie's quite happy to just stand around. he just... idk. that downshift from 1st into park just like.... well. let's call it "slow to develop" haha. once he's there tho, he'll stay there. unlike a certain red arab mare i once knew who could halt nicely and easily but sure as shit wouldn't *stay* halted for a nanosecond longer than she absolutely had to!

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  17. Awww, that a great first outing! Sounds like a super positive learning experience!

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    1. i'm really pretty proud of him! one day our goals will be about executing flawless movements and whatnot... but for now i'm pretty happy that he can just go out and basically do the thing despite the hubbub!!

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  18. So proud of you both! What a fantastic first show :)

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    1. thanks i'm pretty pleased with the pony!!

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  19. A few thoughts: 1) YAY!!!!! 2) Awesome attitude about it all 3) Um, he didn't freak out and was a great, sensible boy. You've got a good horse there for sure 4) He looks really good in dressage tack.
    Congrats!!

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    1. ha thanks! can you believe that's all exactly the same dressage tack that isabel wore?!? except the browband, it's unchanged. i'm glad it suits him!! and yea totally happy that he was basically a pretty cool customer for the whole show thing ;)

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  20. How cool that you could do the same test twice, that sounds great for building confidence :) congrats on a successful first show!

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    1. really we could have chosen to ride whatever tests we wanted, but there are only so many w-t tests in the world (two haha) and the other was even more rudimentary than this one. and since i didn't really care about the tests themselves there was no real reason to go for variety. plus like you say it worked out well to go through the same routine twice!

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  21. Sounds like this went as well as a first outing can! Go Chuckles!

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  22. Well done! And what an improvement from the first to the second test!! Good Charlie!

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  23. Go Charles! What a great opportunity. Wish I had things like this in close range because it sounds both fun and like the perfect learning experience.

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  24. Its such peace of mind to know your horse can handle the show environment and hang out in the down time safely. Congrats!

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  25. Congrats on the good show experience! I'm confused about the name of the show though.

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  26. So exciting! Well done to both of you.

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