We had a really fun weekend at Catalpa Corner Horse Trials – a new venue for our crew!
This was my move-up to Novice, and I was kind of worried about forgetting the Dressage test. We did Novice Test B. I went over it and over it in my mind, and finally decided the worst thing that would happen is that they would ring the bell and I’d get the error and it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
I did not forget where I was going. In fact I am proud that I rode the test pretty accurately. But. Duke has this thing that I call the Magnetic Force where he just kind of drifts toward the barn. I won’t call it barn sour exactly because he will go away from home both alone and in company. He just…is hyper aware of where ‘home’ is and likes to go toward it. This happened in warm up but I felt like it wasn’t too bad. His warm up was actually quite good and I felt confident.
And then we went over to our test, which happened to be closer to the barn than the warm up field. And it was like Duke had taken his brain and chucked it over the fence toward the barn because it sure wasn’t in his head anymore.
His head was in the air, his stride was short and quick, he was tight in his every muscle from tip to tail and I felt like I couldn’t slow his trot down. I felt so sick from nerves as I tried to get things back under control while waiting for the bell to ring – I couldn’t imagine trying to do a dressage test on this distracted, tense, unwilling horse.
But ring it did.
And in we went. I tried my best to just ride well. Shoulders back, hands steady, posting like a metronome, half halt half halt half halt. I remembered to make my circles big enough and so the accuracy of the test was pretty good.
This is how it felt the whole time:
But in reality it actually looked like this sometimes:
Typically I like to think of myself as fairly level headed about shows. Stuff happens. Every ride isn’t perfect. But being fully honest, I cried after the test. Just out of sheer frustration. Trainer B said I rode as well as I could and that, while she doesn’t typically blame the horse for issues (and I don’t either), this time, Duke just didn’t show up to participate.
However. This is a perfect example of never knowing what the judge sees or interprets because I still got a 31.7. Now, the judge was scoring quite low in general, as that put me into 10th.
We also got an 8 on our medium walk, plus 7.5 each for the working trot onto centerline and the halt/salute, along with a few more 7’s and mostly 6.5’s.
So the moral of the story, I guess, is to do your best, ride your test and shake it off when it doesn’t go your way. I did discuss some more tools with Trainer B, so that if this distraction sets in before our next time in the show ring, I can try some more things to bring back the suppleness and relaxation.
How do you handle it when your horse changes drastically in the moments between warm up and show time?