Friday 30 June 2017

2017 Q2 Review and Q3 Goals

Q1 Review and Q2 Goals

First off, how is 2017 already half over already??? Craziness!

2017 Q2 Goal Review

1. Ride in at least two clinics/lessons
Success! - I had a total of 8 hunter/jumper lessons in April and May, a clinic with Sandra May 13-14, and a simulator lesson June 2nd, so I'd say this goal was a resounding success.  

2. Organize a dressage show
Success! - It was a lot of work, but it happened and it was even successful :-) 

3. Get up to the "good training test patterns" step of the progression plan (with all previous steps completed)
Semi-success - We did get "good training test patterns" checked off, but still working on a couple of previous steps. Full summary in my Progression Plan - June Update post. 

4. Compete at training level in a show or test day and feel like we are worthy of the level
Success! - We competed at training level at the Chinook Country Bronze Dressage Show, scored up to 64%, had scores solidly in the middle of the combined field of Open/AA/JR riders, and came away with AA Reserve Champion at the level!

5. Do regular test riding
Success! - We practiced test components and full tests much more than I've ever done before, and I think it really paid off at our show. 

6. Get saddle fitting done
Success! - I had a saddle fitting done and my current set up doesn't require any changes! 

7. Spend time on ground work
Success! - I made some breakthroughs in ground work with my Boss Mare Swagger. I still need to figure out how to be more effective in certain situations, but we have spent time on it and improved. 

8. Relax and enjoy my horse
Success! - I've had some fun trail rides this quarter, but also even our focused dressage rides are becoming more enjoyable now that the pieces are coming together. 

I am seriously blown away by how well this quarter has gone! The slow work on basics over the winter is really paying off and things are coming together. Now I need to find the right balance between shooting for new goals but not pushing too hard or fast. With that in mind, I am making the following goals, but I'm going to continually re-assess and slow down if anything starts to go south. 

2017 Q3 Goals

1. Ride in at least three clinics/lessons
I'm already signed up to ride in clinics with Robin Hahn and Elaine in July, I need to find something else for August or September

2. Earn an ADA Horse & Rider Recognition Award
This award requires scores of 63% or more at training level at three different Wildrose or Bronze shows. I got my first score at the Chinook Country Bronze Show so now I need two more. This is a bit of a stretch goal because there are a very limited number of eligible shows and sometimes life happens, but it's a good goal nonetheless. This goal essentially encompasses multiple sub-goals: compete in at least two more shows, do good training level tests in front of a judge, score above 63%. 

3. Confirm canter transitions
They are currently the best they have ever been, but I need to keep working on them and solidify them instead of losing the progress I have made. 

4. Do regular test riding
This helps us so I need to keep doing it.

5. Start working on First Level movements
Not willing to touch the canter loop yet, but we should be able to work on leg yields, lengthenings, and smaller circles. 

6. Ride in the Cypress Hills
This is a beautiful provincial park that is equestrian friendly (and less intense than the mountains). I've been meaning to go riding there for quite a while now so I want to make it happen this summer.

Thursday 29 June 2017

Progression Plan - June Update

I made a progression plan in December to try and keep up the forward progress we were making. I'm finding that this is a great tool to keep my rides focused so I'm going to give regular updates on where we're falling on the list from month to month:

Grey - achieved previously
Green - achieved last month
Yellow - working on currently

Good = relaxed + rounded topline + even rhythm + slow tempo (not overly slow, but not running) + correct bend in neck and body + acceptance of bit (eventually this definition will expand to include more, but this is what it means right now)
Consistently = means the movement is confirmed enough that we can achieve it every ride, even when it's a "bad" day, it doesn't have to happen on the first attempt though 

  • Good walk work - achieved in 2015
  • One good 10-15m trot circle - achieved in late 2015
  • One good 20m trot circle - achieved in spring/summer 2016
  • Consistently (every ride) able to get one good 10-15m trot circle - achieved in December 2016
  • Consistently able to get one good 20m trot circle - achieved in December 2016
  • Multiple good 20m trot circles - achieved December 2016
  • Consistently able to get multiple good 10-15m trot circles - achieved December 2016
  • Good trot circles with good walk-trot and trot-walk transitions - achieved December 2016
  • Consistently able to get multiple good 20m trot circles - achieved January 2017
  • Consistently able to get good trot circles with good walk-trot/trot-walk transitions - achieved January 2017
  • Good Walk/Trot test patterns (circles, large arena, diagonals, transitions, direction changes, etc) - achieved February 2017
  • Consistently good Walk/Trot test patterns - achieved March 2017
  • Good stretchy trot circle - achieved January 2017
  • Consistently good stretchy trot circle with transitions in/out - working on it, this item is annoying me because we had what I thought was a consistently good stretchy trot circle and were working to improve transitions, but now thanks to media I've realized that what I thought was a stretch isn't good enough
  • Good trot circle with a few strides of lengthen/added impulsion - achieved January 2017
  • Consistently good transitions within trot - I've been focused on doing more training test pattern riding, so I haven't worked on lengthened trot recently
  • Good canter circle - achieved February 2017
  • Consistently good canter circle - achieved June 2017
  • Good trot-canter/canter-trot transitions - achieved June 2017 (The Best Ride)
  • Consistently good trot-canter/canter-trot transitions - working on it, we've had clearly reproducible good transitions in several rides now, but it hasn't stood the test of a "bad" ride yet
  • Good Training test patterns - achieved June 2017
  • Consistently good Training test patterns - working on it, we had multiple good tests at the show, but I can't say it's consistent until we accomplish it several times at home too
  • Add more strides of lengthened trot - achieved February 2017
  • Consistently good lengthened trot diagonals
  • Good trot leg yields - achieved February 2017
  • Consistently good trot leg yields
  • Good canter circle with a few strides of lengthen/added impulsion
  • Consistently good transitions within canter
  • Good long side of lengthened canter
  • Consistently good long side of lengthened canter
  • Good First 1 & 2 test patterns
  • Consistently good  First 1 & 2 test patterns.

If you've been keeping track you may have noticed that I didn't do one of these in May. May was busy with organizing the show, but it was also a month of breaking things down and building them back up. All of the green items from June have been multiple months (or years) in the making. 

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Last Minute Learning

In a perfect world, I think horse showing should involve demonstrating the movements and skills in front of a judge that you've already polished at home. There might be some work involved in getting your horse to perform their best in a new environment, but the basic blocks should ideally all be there already. That's never how showing works for me and Kachina though. We always seem to be figuring things out right until we go into the ring.

No new media, so just going to pepper this post with progression shots of our
canter from over the last year
This one is from June 2016

In the case of the Chinook show, there were three pretty major things that I learned only the week before the show!

February 2017
(Canter was good this day, but not at reproducible stage yet)

1. Good Canter Transitions
We've been working on these forever, but it was only a week before the show that I was able to put together the feel from my HJ lessons and simulator lesson to ask for canter with only my leg and get a round balanced transition on demand. I talked about it in The Best Ride and it was a super major breakthrough

February 2017

February 2017 - Air time

2. Determining the Correct Lead
I've been riding for twenty years, so it sounds ridiculous to say I couldn't tell when my horse was on the correct lead. The reality is though that I couldn't. I can tell what lead most horses are on, but something about Kachina's canter stumps me. I think it's a combination of the fact that she's got a pretty even canter (not big uphill or downhill movements), that she can be equally balanced/unbalanced on the correct lead vs wrong lead, that she has big air time, that her outside foreleg reaches quite far forward, and that she sometimes switches in and out of a lateral canter or a canter that has legs going in some other strange not-canter sequence. Whatever the reason, Kachina sometimes picks up the wrong lead and I couldn't reliably notice and correct it soon enough. This really killed me in a few shows last year. I did a bunch of online reading and found one article that suggested feeling for which of my legs was hanging farther forward (on the left lead, your hips will be twisted such that your left leg is further forward). I've never heard of this technique before but I tried it out two days before the show and it worked like a dream. I've been using it ever since and now I'm much more confident about which lead we are on. We ended up getting 100% of our correct leads at the show and I loved not second guessing myself in the show ring.

March 2017 - Even (especially?) at liberty Kachina subscribes to the concept that
leads are optional constructs that don't need to be followed

April 2017

April 2017

3. Staying on the Rail
Kachina will sometimes be interested in something outside the arena and will counter-bend and fall in. This is generally exacerbated at shows where there is more to look at, and we're riding more straight lines than we do at home. In my last ride before the show, there were some spooky branches hitting off the arena wall and we had the same kind of issue, so I took the opportunity to practice solving it. In the past, my technique has been to really focus on re-establishing inside bend and then using inside leg to push her out. This frequently requires me to circle to get the message through which is obviously not ideal in a test. I started experimenting with other options, playing around with both my position and hers. It turns out that I can effectively keep Kachina out on the rail by just slightly stepping on my outside stirrup. In fact, I can leg yield Kachina all the way from the 1/4 line to the rail by changing nothing else and just stepping on my outside stirrup. I was shocked at how immediately responsive Kachina was to this small change. I think that in the past I've inadvertently slightly weighted my inside stirrup while trying to get inside bend and that's why I've struggled to get her to push out. It was an eye-opening discovery for sure and one that I have been using in all sorts of situations ever since. Having a sensitive horse can be both a blessing and a curse.

April 2017

I'm still proud of how well we did at the show, but it was partly just by fluke that we were able to figure out these things at the right time and make use of them when it counted.

June 2017

In theory I like the idea of schooling one level above where you are showing, but I also think showing is valuable experience and there's not always a level below Training Level so for now we are showing at the top of what we are capable of.

June 2017

Are you always confirmed at a level before you show, or does anyone else fly by the seat of their breeches and figure it out last minute?

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Adventures in HJ Land - Month Two

This is a very overdue post, oops!

In April, I took 4 weeks of Hunter/Jumper lessons with Kt on Donny (Part I, II & III, IV). Then, in May, I took 4 weeks of Hunter/Jumper lessons with N on Sunrise. If I had done the recaps of May in a more timely manner, I probably would have had more to say, in a more organized manner. As it is you'll have to settle for some rambling thoughts on what I remember.

N is a friend, rider, and a local instructor. I've known her for a few years. She is a very thinking kind of rider and trainer. She is a hunter rider through and through but she appreciates dressage for how it integrates with hunters. She's a big believer in flat work and she has encouraged some of her students to participate in dressage clinics. She's a super sweet person but she also won't put up with any nonsense. I told her to just treat me like another one of her hunter/jumper students for the month.


Sunrise was my mount. She is a small quarter horse lesson pony (she probably is around the 14.2hh mark), she's got a bit of an attitude, pinning her ears while grooming etc., but she's well trained, super willing, and is pretty much point and shoot over fences. She required much less leg than Donny and I really enjoyed riding her. She also made me appreciate what saints lesson horses are, as there were a couple weeks where she was ridden in another lesson before mine.

Such a good pony

In each lesson we did a combination of flat work and over fences work. For the first lesson, the "over fences" consisted of trot poles, but by the end of the month I was jumping 2'-2'3" and stringing together a few jumps including a related distance. A huge amount of credit for that goes to Sunrise, as she was foot perfect and I could focus on my own position over fences without micro-managing my horse. Still, 2'3" is pretty good for me considering how little I've jumped in the last decade and a half!

All media from middle of the month
My hands felt ridiculously high here, but they really aren't

N was fairly impressed with my riding position and strength. She said she was comfortable asking me for more each lesson because I could hold things together pretty well. I really value N's opinion so it meant a lot to me to hear that. It didn't stop N from giving me a constant string of things to improve though.

Jumping ahead, but jumping!

Some things I learned during the month: (some directly from N, some from me trying out different ways of doing things and making my own conclusions, so YMMV)

  • Heel down, heel down, heel down
  • Let the horse jump up to me
  • Closing hip angle is just as much about your butt going back and down as it is your upper body going forwards
  • Keep upper body open, especially when landing from a jump
  • Focus on heels down when in the air
  • How to count canter strides before and in between jumps. I know this is pretty basic, but I don't think I've ever actually done it before. 
  • Don't tilt forwards OR back in canter transition (I would try and overcorrect myself and end up going the other way)
  • Don't lift OR drop my hands in canter transition
  • Keep my weight centered just behind the withers
  • Think of picking horse up off the forehand during turns
  • Hold my hands higher, higher, nope even higher. When I picked them up my upper body automatically opened. And when I felt like my hands were way in the air, they really weren't.
  • Difference between two-point and standing position of posting
  • Let ankles move to absorb energy

Did so much cantering, which was really good for me to do

I had a fun month with N and Sunrise. Overall I enjoyed my two month foray into HJ land. It was cool to do something different, and I picked up a few tips and the feel of a couple different horses that I've been able to bring back and apply to my dressage work with Kachina. I'll go back to long flaps and flat work for now, but it's good to know that I can do this again if I need a change of pace in the future. Playing around with some small jumps might be in Kachina's future as well!

Gung ho!

Monday 26 June 2017


It's a re-occurring theme over here at Autonomous Dressage, that autonomous part. The fact that I don't have regular access to a trainer (this has gotten a lot better since I started the blog, but a clinic every 3 months still isn't exactly frequent) or other professionals affects my dressage journey in multiple ways.

I absolutely believe that I would be a better rider if I could take weekly or bi-weekly lessons. My position would be stronger with more frequent feedback on my equitation. I wouldn't lose so much time struggling to decide what I should be working on. A bit of pressure would be good motivation to work harder and progress more. If I could take regular lessons I absolutely would.

There's always a flip side though. Being autonomous isn't all bad. Not being able to rely on a trainer to help me make decisions has made me do research and become able to make informed choices on my own. Specifically today I am talking about choosing a horse, and choosing a tack setup.

Both when I was horse shopping in summer 2014, and when saddle shopping in summer 2016, I wished I had someone to consult on the process and options. A trainer or saddle fitter would have been ideal, but even a knowledgeable friend or family member would have been great. I didn't have any of those people though so I pressed on and figured it out myself (with the help of numerous test rides and extensive reading). While I've been reasonably happy with my decisions overall, there have definitely been times that I have second guessed myself.

In the past couple weeks I have received some validation on my choices.


At the Chinook Country show I had arranged to get a saddle fit assessment done by a qualified saddle fitter. I've chronicled my saddle search, half pad questions and girth saga on this blog extensively. The saddle fitter D looked at all my tack options and concluded that the saddle was a great fit, the Prolite girth worked perfectly with it (she firmly believes that the girth area sensitivity is probably left over from the TSF stretch girth), and the fleece half pad I already have is the perfect thing to use with the saddle right now in her current stage of development (when she fills out a bit more, the saddle will still be a good fit, just without the half pad). The other people who got saddle fit assessments done at the show were all recommended to get flocking changes and/or tree adjustments so I think the fact that D didn't have any suggested modifications for me really indicates how well I chose my tack.

This saddle, this half pad, this girth


I knew when I bought Kachina that on paper she wasn't the best looking dressage prospect: a 12 year old green broke horse of unknown parentage with no dressage training or even training in basics like accepting contact with the bit. However, I saw potential in her mind, her sensitivity, her conformation, and her movement. While I used the best of my knowledge in assessing her traits, I've never considered myself an expert in assessing the potential of any horse. I've had a lot of fun working with Kachina so I knew that she was a good choice for me in some ways, but I've had some doubts about whether she can do as well at dressage as I initially imagined.
The sensitivity part of Kachina is definitely a double edged sword which simultaneously makes training both easier and tougher. It's the part that results in frequent tension, and also the part that I've been most focused on lately.
I've grown so used to Kachina now that I haven't objectively thought about her other aspects much lately. I frequently get told by people how "pretty" or "fancy" my horse is, but I think that has a lot more to do with her striking markings than her actual movement or conformation, especially when it comes from non-horsey people. At the last couple shows, I had a number of people more objectively eyeing up Kachina and offering feedback which made me look at Kachina with fresh eyes again.

Can we all look back on this photo for a minute and agree that Kachina
wasn't exactly a polished dressage horse when I first saw her

Her mind: Kachina can be a tense, reactive and hot horse, which frequently goes hand in hand with a spooky/flighty mind. Kachina actually has quite a sensible mind though. She is physically sensitive and has a huge amount of "go", but she isn't usually one to get mentally bothered by her environment (unless she's inside the terrifying barn at home). It's kind of a weird combination that I still have to work to get my head around sometimes. The braider and some other riders stabled nearby commented on her good mind when they saw how quickly she settled into her stall, how she stood nicely, ate well, and didn't get upset by any activity.

Her conformation: I had a few people eye up Kachina in her stall and ask me about her breeding. I explained to them all that she was an unknown grade horse, but possibly had a combination of thoroughbred, arab, and paint (thoroughbred and/or quarter horse) bloodlines. Despite that, they all seemed to appreciate how she was put together. The people included both long time dressage riders and old western cowboys. Kachina's build isn't specialist for any one discipline, she just has good basic, balanced conformation. While injuries can happen to any horse, good conformation helps; Kachina's build doesn't make her more predisposed to injuries or unsoundness and that's definitely something to appreciate.

Old photo, the horse has decent conformation but she doesn't
usually stand square for me to photograph it

Her movement/gaits: I've been riding Kachina for more than two years now so her movement just feels normal to me. I know she is capable of huge movement, I see it sometimes at liberty, but I also know that I can't ride that right now, and at our current stage of training her movement is much more restrained. Additionally, a lot of horses can look flashy when they are excitedly dashing around by themselves, it doesn't mean you'll necessarily ever be able to reproduce that under saddle. I've come to think of Kachina as having just average gaits, that have the capacity for clear rhythm, but that can have lateral tendencies when tense. That last part is true, but recent evidence suggests that when I ride properly, her gaits can be more than just average.

Not what we look like under saddle

Evidence 1: Not everyone who tells me my horse is "fancy" is talking about her colour. I need to give people more credit.
Evidence 2: When other riders think the test looked better than I thought it felt.
Evidence 3: The embarrassing case when I was cantering in warm-up at the local show and it felt weird to me, so I asked a nearby trainer what Kachina was doing with her legs (wondering if she was cross-firing etc), the reply: "She's good, just super elevated!" Well okay then
Evidence 4: Blog comments, I do cherry pick good images some of the time for the blog, but not all of you are just being polite when you compliment her movement.
Evidence 5: Video. I really need to figure out how to post video, but there is one short clip that KateRose captured of Kachina cantering at the show. I have re-watched that clip dozens of times because in it I see a big, rhythmic, ground-eating canter that still looks effortless. It's the kind of canter I've admired on other nice horses and I still can't quite believe that it's me and my mare producing it. That's our "normal" canter right now so I get excited for what it will be once I start working on it more.
Evidence 6: 7.5 Collective Score for Gaits! I've done a fair bit of scribing at this point so I know judges don't hand those out to just any horse. Yes, it is just what one judge saw on one day, but it means something. So does the fact that two of my recent tests had general comments start with "Nice horse".

7.5 for gaits! And we can certainly do more to bring those other collectives up

I don't want to be a reverse snob here, and I know I might be flirting that line. I can be happy for riders who bought a "made horse" (those can still be seriously tough to ride), can afford a custom saddle, or have access to the best trainers (you do you, and if you've got access to those things then I applaud you for using them). Different things work for different people, both in theory and related to budget. However, I am proud of the fact that I was able to find a "diamond in the rough" that turned out to be a really nice horse. There's many many things I still need to improve on, but I worked hard to be able to identify a good horse and a good saddle fit. It's really nice to get some validation of both.

How about you? I think a lot of us bloggers can be our own worst critics, but is there a time when you've gotten some external validation of decisions that you've made, or your strengths as a rider or horseperson that made you feel proud?

Friday 23 June 2017

2017 Chinook Country Dressage Show Recap II

I was quite pleased with how Saturday went, Kachina was chill in her stall, and I felt ready for the next day so I was able to have a nice relaxing evening and night on Saturday. I woke up refreshed Sunday morning ready to tackle Day 2 of the show.


I had 3 rides scheduled for Sunday as well. T2 @ 10:48am, Dr. Eq. T1 @ 1:20pm, and TOC-T2 @ 2:46pm.

All riding photos courtesy of KateRose
and all are from my Training Test 2

I learned my lesson with the too early warm-up Saturday afternoon, so I brought Kachina for a bit of a hand walk and graze before tacking up. I ended up getting on about 30 minutes before my test. This was shorter than the day before, but still more time than I needed. Kachina immediately was ready to work and gave me some excellent work in all three gaits. I did a run through of my entire test and despite some bobbles where I had to steer around other people, it was pretty solid. She gave me great canter transitions in the practice test so I didn't want to drill the canter anymore. One reoccuring comment from the judge on Day 1 was our need for better upright balance, so I worked on some trot figures focusing on keeping her balanced with proper bend and position. I made sure to keep her moving right up until our test, but I could feel that she was starting to get a bit tense and anticipating.

I was really happy with this trot diagonal

We went in for Training Test 2. I felt like I was doing a good job of actively riding through the test and it gave us some nice movements. However we had a few issues: First, she wouldn't stand immobile for our first halt. Just before I asked for my canter transition to the left, a door slammed shut in the building and Kachina threw her head up in the air, I didn't have time to get her back before the transition so her canter started quite hollow and above the bit. Then, in the walk work we felt like we were yoyoing between almost trotting and almost stopping. Finally, she ended up cantering for about 1/4 of our final trot 20m circle. I figured these mistakes would cost a lot of marks so I wasn't optimistic about our score.

On right is the moment when the door slammed, right before C

KateRose from Peace & Carrots came to watch and had arrived just in time for my test. I didn't see her before my ride but she came and found me in the barn afterwards, her two friendly dogs in tow. We chatted about the test and she showed me some video clips she had taken of it. I was interested to see and hear that the test didn't look as bad as it felt. The judge must have agreed.

I know it's blurry, but I absolutely love this screenshot,
her canter has come so far! 

Training Test 2
AA: 2nd/4

I was really happy to have received another 63+% score. I think the judge was particularly kind to give me a 5.0 and a comment of "lost trot rhythm" for our circle that was 1/4 cantering. When I turned the test over I was pleasantly surprised to find that Kachina had earned a 7.5 for gaits!

I have to admit, her gaits aren't too shabby

KateRose stuck around for a bit to chat until she had to go meet a friend for lunch. I was glad to see her again, meet her dogs, and for her to meet Kachina. I should have taken photos but I totally spaced. I need to meet her horses next time!

After lunch it was time for me to tack up again for my next test. This test was for the Dressage Equitation division, it's still just the standard Training Level Test 1, just scored for a different division. I shortened my warm-up time yet again to just 20 minutes. This time I chose to not canter to avoid anticipation and just do lots of walk and trot.

Free walk on left
The first stride of our canter transition on right
(still hollowing, but much better than it used to be)

In the test itself I really focused on controlling Kachina's position and balance. Unfortunately the more frequent corrections came at the expense of some rhythm and relaxation. I aimed to make a change though and I succeeded at making a change. Our canter transitions were passable, but Kachina's sensitivity was winning again and so I wasn't able to really aid for the canter, more just think about it and let it happen. This is going to be a fine balance that I think we'll struggle with for quite some time. I was proud of Kachina again for the test. I'm nitpicking little things but really Kachina was super rideable all weekend and I was happy with her every minute.

Dressage Equitation Training TOC (Test 1)
AA: 1st/1

When the tests were scored, they combined the marks from both days and determined the Dressage Equitation Division champions. I was the only AA rider in the division so my ribbon was basically by default, but it's a super pretty ribbon, and I did earn it with scores above 60% so I'll take it!

Kachina wasn't sure about the ribbon

Between my last two tests I had an appointment with a saddle fitter. I've been trying to schedule an assessment with her for quite a while, but my location makes things tricky. It worked out really well to schedule her to look at my horse during the show because she was able to book a few other appointments at the same time and it greatly saved on travel costs. I had my old and current saddles, two half pads, and my entire stack of girths on hand, hoping that something would be deemed acceptable. I thought my saddle was good but I had prepared myself to hear otherwise. Turns out that my saddle is a great fit, that doesn't need any flocking adjustments at all, and the girth and half pad I had already been using work perfectly with it. The peace of mind I get from an expert opinion was well worth the money for the assessment and I'm super stoked that I don't need to spend any more money of changing or replacing things. Yay!

Since I was happy with my first two tests of the day, I had been debating scratching from my last class, just because I didn't think Kachina or I had anything left to prove. The saddle fit appointment ended up ending pretty soon before my test, and I hadn't had a chance to go to the office to tell them I was scratching. I finally decided that it would almost be quicker and easier to just go ride instead of scratching. I did a whole 5 minutes of warm-up for my last test. That's all I had time for, but it was also all Kachina needed, which was amazing to me.

In the test I just had a few simple goals, like to get two good halts, and to push her out into a slightly longer rein. I felt like I succeeded at these goals and it felt like a good test to me. I was actually a bit disappointed when I got the results back as I thought it was one of my best tests. Really though, 61% isn't a bad mark. We did get 7.0s on both halts, and it was the lower coefficient marks that brought us down a bit.

Training TOC (Test 2)
AA: 2nd/4

Overall, our scores were good enough to snag AA Training Level Reserve Champion, we had met our stretch goal! The blue ribbon (2nd place in Canada), means more to me than the red one because that one wasn't a shoe-in! We finally felt at home at the level and our scores were 5% higher on average compared to this show in 2016. I was also really proud of the fact that I scored 6.5s across the board for rider position at this show. The ribbons and scores were the icing on the cake, but even without them I was so proud of how well Kachina went for me and how much we have both improved from last year.


Post-show 'fro

Wednesday 21 June 2017

2017 Chinook Country Dressage Show Recap I

First, I invite you to review how this same show went last year (here and here), all weekend I was blown away by how much progress Kachina and I had made since last year and how much more smoothly everything went this time around.

My cats apparently didn't want me to leave


I didn't work on Friday so I was able to spend the morning getting all my stuff together and making food for the weekend, as well as doing a couple errands. I got to the barn around 1pm, hooked up the trailer, packed hay and tack, bathed Kachina, and loaded up. I was so happy to be able to give Kachina a good shampooing. This was her first bath of the year and so it was really nice to be able to get all the winter crud off. Kachina was less impressed. I imagine the ice cold water doesn't feel amazing, but at least it was a reasonably warm day and there was a strong wind so she dried off in record time. There were a few shows last year where I didn't have time to bathe so that made me appreciate my soft and shiny horse this time around so much more.

The dirt monster is white! 

The haul to the show grounds was thankfully uneventful. I pulled into the show grounds at around 6:45pm. I had been hoping to go for a ride in the ring where the competition would be held, but unfortunately when I checked in I learned that they had closed the ring at 6:30pm (little annoyed that that information hadn't been posted beforehand). It ended up kind of working out though because the braider that I had hired showed up early. I thought Kachina might want to kill me after being bathed, stuck in a trailer for 3.5 hours, and then having to go almost straight into standing still yet again for braiding. Kachina was surprisingly chill though, the braider commented multiple times on what a good girl she was being throughout the process. I showed up with Kachina's mane clean but otherwise pretty wild, and the braider trimmed it up for me first before making really neat braids that stayed in excellently all weekend. It was nice for me that I didn't have to worry about doing any mane prep or braiding myself.  I don't know if I will use a professional braider in the future but I had zero regrets about going that route this time. I didn't end up riding Friday, but I did lead her around and lunge her in the warm-up a little bit.


I was stabled with a friendly group of people from the Chinook Country club. It makes a show so much nicer when you have people to chat with and cheer each other on. I was especially inspired by the lady I was sharing a tack stall with. She is 70 years old, her horse is 22, and they put in two really solid Prix St. George tests!


On Saturday I had three rides, T1 @ 9:12am, Dressage Equitation @ 9:47am (stayed on between these two), and T3 @ 1:57pm.

I planned for a nice long warm-up before my first test so I could work on the relaxation, do some canter work, and then have time to get her re-relaxed if needed. This worked well, because the first time I asked for canter she flew sideways to the outside of the arena. She did the same thing the second time as well. This is a new issue so I was concerned. Thankfully the fix was pretty easy, I think she was feeling a bit too blocked, so I closed the outside rein but left the inside door a bit open for her during the transition, this did the trick and I got a few excellent canter transitions in the warm-up ring.

A costume Kur entry, so many gold sparkles!!

We went into the indoor arena for our first test Training Level Test 1. I usually find the first test at a show is a bit of a throwaway for Kachina and I, it always takes us a little to find our groove. However this time, we went right in and put in a good test. It wasn't perfect, it was wiggly in spots, but it was generally good. We also got correct leads both directions and had our best ever canter transitions in front of a judge (which doesn't mean they were great, but not the usual llama impression). In fact one of our biggest mistakes was breaking from canter to trot for a few strides before picking it up again. The fact that Kachina was calm enough to break, and then do another good canter transition to get back into it was a success in my books so I wasn't upset about it.

This ad was hanging up in the arena. I've never seen a casket ad before and to have
one in a rodeo arena where people could legitimately die seemed to me like it was
logical, pragmatic, morbid and bizarre all at the same time

Since Kachina was doing so well, I didn't drill anything more before my next class, we mostly just walked around and stood to watch a couple other tests.

Next came the Dressage Equitation Flat Class. The flat class has everyone ride together, going around the arena rail and following the commands of the judge. Then the score from the flat class gets added to your test score on Sunday for the overall results. The flat class just included myself and two juniors. As well as walk, trot, and canter around the outside, we also had demonstrate sitting trot, free walk across the diagonal, and a halt with immobility. Kachina put in some really good work during the flat class, but she also spooked hard at the end of free walk, went back to llama mode for both canter transitions (partly because I couldn't set her up nicely in a corner or circle), and got a little fast in the later trot work. Still, doing rail work with other horses isn't common for us and Kachina kept things together so I was happy with how it went. I came out of the class, got her to give me two nice relaxed trot circles in warm-up and then dismounted and brought her back to the barn.

Who's the best girl?!

I went to pick up my tests and found that I got the following results:

Training Test 1
AA: 2nd/4

Dressage Equitation Flat Class
(Placings determined with Sunday's test)

I was thrilled with my score for T1! I had accomplished all of my goals for the show in just the first test (getting good canter transitions and putting in a test that made me feel like we belonged at the level). The placing was also a nice surprise. For some reason I thought that this show had JR/AA/Open riders all lumped together (which would have put me 6th/11), but they actually were split out. I decided then that I would be happy with the show no matter what but I would make myself a new stretch goal of getting Reserve Champion at Training Level.

After a nice long break I tacked up to warm up again for my afternoon test. The warm-up went great, I was able to get relaxation quickly and I even did a full run through of the test in the warm-up area which went really well. Unfortunately, I had given myself too much time to warm-up, so I ended up just standing around on Kachina for longer than ideal. This time when we went into our test it was a lot more tense and racing. We still did all the right things in the right places at least though.

Training Test 3
AA: 4th/5

I wasn't too disappointed when I saw my score because it felt like a high 50s kind of test (I had actually told myself 57-58% when I did my last salute). I'm okay with low marks when I know that we can do better, and I was really happy with the work she put in during warm-up.

Pawing at her slow feed net to get the good stuff out

Sunday's summary tomorrow.