Wednesday, November 16, 2022

way back machine: Fix-a-Test Edition

We rode in our second Fix-a-Test clinic with resident Judge E back in early October, so let's finally get around to recapping, yes? 

Recall that we started hosting a monthly Twilight Dressage series back in August with this judge, and Charlie got to participate in the September iteration (post here). That was honestly a useful experience for us bc Judge E really only told me things I already know.... But something about her delivery resonated. 

who needs a proper court when you have strategically placed poles and standards?? 
Y'all already know that I make a lot of choices about how I ride Charlie that have less to do with the "Ideals of the Sport" and more to do with.... The preservation of our partnership. 

In my humble opinion, my horse doesn't really distinguish between activities, phases, schooling exercises, competitions, playtime adventures etc in the same way that I might. Rather, the way I ride him in any given moment can have ramifications in other moments as well. 

As it relates specifically to dressage: If I ride him too backward and behind the leg in my rein contact on the flat, it shouldn't surprise me when he's backward and behind the leg to a jump. With this hypothesis in mind, I've backed wayyyyyy off over the years of generally fucking with Charlie on the flat lol.

c'mon, charles, swing that big body!
Judge E really didn't have much to say on that score.... Except that... Nothing in that mentality precludes me from riding the horse more forward. And in fact, insisting on forward more consistently and universally can only help us in every aspect of our riding. 

Again -- none of this is news.... But y'all know how it is. Sometimes you just sorta have to be in the right time and (head) space to hear a thing and be like, Oh. Yea. Got it. 

cantering L the way we do
So that was our big takeaway from the September Fix-a-Test clinic. And was further reaffirmed when I did a deep dive analysis of how we've scored on the two new 2022 Novice tests so far. Plus, given that we were using this October clinic as preparation for the CT at Tranquillity a few days later, I came in to these tests determined to make a solid effort. 

slightly better at cantering R
There are a couple parts of this test that are a little challenging for us. For instance, we canter to the left first -- our weaker lead. I have a couple strategies at play to make this go better for us (such as cantering immediately before entering the ring for our test) --- but realistically, the canter is only going to improve by practicing improving it. 

In other words... Whenever I'm cantering Charlie, I need a greater and greater proportion of his steps to be impulsive, uphill and with 'jump.' Let's call it a work in progress. 

i still think he's cute
The other challenge with this test is more of just a pilot preparation detail. That second trot serpentine after the free walk always catches me a little under prepared. Like we walk, then trot, then immediately are on our serpentine while I'm still sorta scrambling to pull us together. Just needs shorter reins sooner, basically. 

refer to this recent post for a deeper dive into our scores on these tests so far
Honestly, tho.... I really do believe these clinics are so valuable even just for the repetition. First bc it helps me better understand the test -- esp the parts that tend to come up a little more quickly. 

But also -- secondly, I think it's good for Charlie. He's kinda conditioned me to ride him a certain way in our schooling sessions. He's a good boy who, once he's warmed up, will basically go ahead and do whatever I ask of him as well as he can the first time around. And as a reward, he often gets to be "one and done." He doesn't like to be drilled, ya know? 

(also -- who recognizes Bella back there waiting for her turn???)

Realistically, tho, especially in rides that "count," he doesn't get to make the rules or call the shots in when he gives his best work. Bc what counts is what happens in the show ring. 

Sure, I can do my best to tailor our warm up specifically to his preferences (which I really really try hard to do). But sometimes shows run late, or there are unforeseen delays, or whatever, ya know? So sometimes Charlie has to go on and go back to work under the same set of expectations even when he thinks he already did that. 

And I'm not gonna lie.... Charlie does not generally appreciate that, thanks

"ready to be done, thanks!" -- charlie, for sure
But these clinics are honestly pretty perfect for helping address the mental side of that training hole. Bc.... Ya know. The clinic doesn't really "matter" in the grand scheme of things, but it gives me a chance to push that button, put that pressure on the horse, but in a way that he can easily succeed. 

So there were basically two big wins and takeaways from this clinic: 

1. The canter isn't going to fix itself. I know what I have to do, just need to be more diligent. As always. 

2. Charlie is coming to terms with the reality that... sometimes I *AM* going to need him to give me five more good minutes. And it's nbd.

We are hopeful about scheduling a few more of these clinics through the winter, assuming we can figure out ring-sharing agreements etc. Cross your fingers for me bc I'd really like to use these rides as a way to keep me honest in our schooling sessions LOL... 


  1. I've wondered before if pros can read tests and realize where they're going to have to really get it together vs us normal humans who have to ride it and figure those things out. Somehow where I think transitions/change of rein/next movement will come up quick never is actually where it feels abrupt in the test. Weird stuff.

    1. Oh man I wonder that too…. Like I guess after you’ve ridden enough different tests and levels you can sorta visualize it more clearly? Not gonna lie tho… at least with the portions of the test above, I’m betting the pros just straight up ride better transitions LOL so then they aren’t still scrambling to regain balance while already halfway into the next movement …. Tho I’d also bet pros run thru practice tests more than maybe we think too…

  2. As the servant of a horse who also has strong feelings about things being 'over' I can so relate. I think professionals vary in how often they ride a test because anticipation can also bite them on the butt. I try, when memorizing, to think about where i half-halt or bend or whatever. It helps but not always. I think my bigger issue is that when schooling I can wait until it will be successful and not actually school when I should. So, if Carmen is tense I don't' ask for the canter at H, I wait until I get through the corner and set her up. But in a test I can't do that so she gets pissy. I realize that this is a novel so I clearly needed to share, lol.

    What I really wanted to say is that I have always admired your riding with Charlie and your drive to improve.

    1. ha thanks! and agreed completely -- there's a really difficult dichotomy between "perfect practice" where we want to do the transition or movement or whatever as well as possible, which means being as prepared as possible for it, which means.... sometimes not doing it at exactly the spot we planned... versus the competition environment which wants everything to be more automatic.... maybe purists would say that we shouldn't compete until the schooling is that automatic lol but i've never believed that haha. so ya know... we just keep working on it!

  3. Oh man, Opie just *very* recently mentally matured to the point where when I ask for a liiiittle more when he wants to quit he can cope instead of throwing a biiiiig fit LOL. It's a process, that's for sure!

    1. dude seriously.... like, charlie has a switch that friggin flips, in no uncertain terms lol.... like this is something that i specifically have to practice with him .... how to... ya know... be cool bro, it's just a little more i promise lolol....

  4. As always, I love your approach and mentality... horse's welfare and happiness first. I enjoyed this recap and can see how that second serpentine would sneak up in the test. A lot happens in that corner all at once!

    1. ha thanks -- and fun fact, i don't always study my tests super closely, which means i often kinda ad lib wherever i'm supposed to actually do each transition.... apparently tho that matters in tests like this LOL, who woulda thunk??

  5. My dressage instructor says similar things- sometimes Q is going to be asked to do harder things and it's OK for me to ask him to do those harder things even if at first he doesn't think it will be ok!

  6. Eros has an egg timer too! He's good for about 25 minutes and then he expects stretchy trot to walk. I actually opted out of doing a clinic at my barn this weekend because Eros was the only eligible mount for me and I KNEW he wouldn't last the length of the class.
    I think you're right though. I should probably work on this with him too.


Thanks for leaving a comment! You may need to enable third party cookies in your browser settings if you have trouble using this form.