Thursday, September 8, 2022

twilight dressage fix-a-test

Omg guys!! Now that Charlie's basically healed up from the Tensile Tragedy of Twenty Two, we are back in action yessss!!

just the goodest boy, getting poured on but still cute <3
The horse is feeling good and fresh. The first rains of pre-fall have arrived, finally softening the ground (and dropping the temperatures). And activities are reappearing on the calendar. MUCH excitement!

fun story -- i decided to try practicing my braids. they looked.... obvi janky, but ok enough. except i totally whiffed on the finishing knots and they alllll fell out lol, whoops
In fact --- our first traditional September activity already happened last weekend, the Labor Day Paper Chase at Tranquillity!! I will probably (maybe) write more about that later... but media is limited, and last minute limbo meant we didn't do fun costumes or anything (sad!). But it was fun, Charlie galloped and jumped and basically got his first "fitness" in for the fall. 

even our "more forward" trot is still kinda like a golden retriever in a doggie wheelchair lol
More importantly for today's purposes --- we also finally got to participate in one of our farm's new monthly twilight activities!! I mentioned last month that we recently welcomed a new boarder who has some pretty impressive (and extensive) credentials as a judge, and naturally I wasted no time in exploiting her putting her to use!

So yesterday was the second twilight dressage fix-a-test clinic, and yay Charlie got to play too!!

i'm coming to terms with the reality that my right leg might always curl lol
I decided to ride Novice Test B for reasons that may become more clear later. And... Idk, it's kinda a funny test. It has these weird walk steps plopped down in the middle of your trot... And then you also walk up the center line, then trot, then halt, salute to finish...

But it has some advantages over the Novice Test A -- namely that for whatever reason, there's a section in the A test where Charlie is *positive* I'm going to ask for left lead canter (even tho I'm not), and has a lot of unhappy feelings about it...

i still think it's a cute enough picture tho!
So the fix-a-test format was perfect for figuring out this B test. Esp considering I went off course a bunch of times in our first trip (remember, Emma: trot the short diagonals!). 

Basically, we rode our test in what is essentially our standard style: Charlie was a very good boy, did the things when he was supposed to. Pointed his nose in more or less the correct directions while always floating somewhere just vaguely above the bit... But was soft, obedient, steady... Ya know. The usual. It was a fine test for us, very consistent. 

the bestest bronto that ever was
And this judge really took us to school for it. Like.... Nothing we haven't heard before... It's all the same stuff. Needs to be more forward, esp in canter. He's a big horse, his lack of activity is very obvious. The word "labored" got thrown around. "Disengagement." Etc etc etc. 

All the same things we get on every single test -- needs better connection, more forward energy, more reach, more suppleness over the back. 

loving how his tail still looks majestic AF despite being soaking wet
Longtime readers know it's been a... Long path with Charlie. The pendulum swings back and forth, back and forth, generally for good reason. This horse and I, we have a lot of compromises haha. 

But, eh, given the fix-a-test structure, after the little talking to from the judge, I determined that -- yes, ma'am, I can actually ride the horse more forward --- there is more there for the asking, if I'd bother to actually... ya know... ask for it.

good boy, sir, i think i'll keep you
And so we went back out, did some quick canter and counter canter circles to really get Charlie's hind end engaged, then took another stab at the test. 

Honestly.... It felt a little sloppier in places to me. Like, I basically had my foot on the gas pedal the whole way around, which worked but also meant I wasn't as smooth in some of our preparations. Even so, the feeling was just so much better. There was a lot more horse to work with, but not like, wild or strong or tense. Just... ya know.... Engaged lol.

my diy bootleg score sheets. left side is 65.28%, right side is 67.78%
and yes, obvi i'm well aware that this includes the padded "organizer / teacher's pet coefficient" lol
It's a feeling I need to remember, too. Our work with Molly last year was such a game changer in helping me get my legs OFF the horse, helping me stop nagging etc. Charlie is so much happier for that, and now my legs actually MEAN things to him! 

Which... ya know.... is great haha, and now I have to remember to take advantage by actually.... using more leg when it counts. 

link to dressage video here so you can see for yourself lol
complete with audible judge's scores and commentary

So, overall, actually a pretty productive session. It's funny how... I heard basically all the same things I always hear, all the things I expected to hear... But somehow we still got a few "clicks" in terms of putting the feedback to work. I'll take it! 

c'mon, "silly + cute" is basically what we live for, amirite?
Plus, obvi, satin lol. I mean, sure... I bought the ribbons myself lol (just dinky little flags, not rosettes or anything like that), plus I came up with the scoring system (a variation of dutch scoring: 65%+ = Blue, 59%+ = Red, else Yellow), and even bought some silly stickers for when riders score 8s.... 

Still nice to "win" them too, tho --- oooh, and the High Score Award for that second test! Yessss (:

It was also just nice to watch everyone else's rides too (after moving inside until the rain cleared lol). We had 8 total riders, all of whom had good experiences with really great takeaways. We also had two boarders volunteer to split scribing duties -- a first for each of them, and they both did awesome and seemed to enjoy it. I'd love for these activities to be really inclusive for the whole 'barn family' ya know? We'll see how things evolve over winter!!


  1. Good boy Charlie! I struggle with some of those same big horse problems and mainly focus / balance. Really lovely picture grabs of the two of you though!

    1. the big horse problems are SO REAL omg.... like... you can't hide anything with these gargantuan creatures lol.... we try tho!

  2. Go Charlie! We've been working on balance and using ourselves properly (ie: not going around with our heads up like a giraffe) AND staying forward. It's all hard. Actually, riding is hard... Fixing stuff is hard. Life is hard?

    1. I'm just shocked blogger let me post a comment...

    2. staying forward AND balanced is like... the holy friggin grail, i swear.... so hard. but we love it, for some strange reason lol.... and yay for blogger being cooperative!

  3. Lol yeah about those short diagonals 😂

    You guys look great, I'm so glad he's back in action for the fall!!! Sooo hard to find that forward balance without feeling rushed

    1. so hard, tho, lol.... i've kinda given up on even really working on it for the purposes of dressage tests tho, which... eh, maybe is a *me* problem, not a charlie problem... so maybe i should try asking for just a little more lol... maybe...

  4. So happy to hear that you guys are back in action!

  5. Yay! Sounds like these new events are going great. Glad you got to participate this time and even walked away with improvements! Nice work!

  6. What fun! Neat that you got to participate in this twilight event. Love the idea for stickers when someone gets an 8 score on their test, by the way.


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