|Yes, I am reusing photos from yesterday|
Entering on centerline for my first test
The morning started off very early as a thunderstorm had derailed my plans to bathe the night before. I bathed, let Kachina dry in her stall while I packed up, and then hauled to the show grounds. At both of the last two shows in this location Kachina seriously balked as soon as I mounted up and took a while to get moving forward. Kachina has a good fitting saddle and shows no soreness in her back on palpation, but she seems like she does need some time to let the saddle settle and her back to warm up before I jump on. This is maybe exacerbated by higher stress environments. I lunged her for a couple minutes to cover my bases and was thrilled when Kachina calmly and normally walked off from the mounting block.
|First 3 photos from Training 2 (unbraided)|
The other problem at this show last year was the lack of a warm-up area. Thankfully the show committee elected to just have one competition ring this year so the other arena was kept clear for warm-up. The sand footing in that arena is deeper than ideal, and pocked with gopher holes along the edge, but it was still useable at least. I warmed up walk/trot/canter and was thrilled with how calm and rideable Kachina was. I didn't want to tire her out in the deep footing so we kept it fairly brief.
Since this was a local show, my husband and mom both came to watch the first two tests before they had to work. This is the first time my husband (still have to get used to that word lol) has ever seen me compete (he generally works weekends so can't make it to shows), and my mom has only come a handful of times and usually witnesses Kachina being a crazy horse. I was really glad that Kachina was having a good day so I could show them the positive side of showing. It was also a very hot day (33°C/94°F) and actually having a crew to hand me my coat and a drink of water between warm-up and my test was freaking amazing! I've always been very solo at shows but I could definitely get used to help (even non-horse-person help)! It also meant I got videos of my rides!
|I'm so happy with her canter this year!|
My first test got the day off to a good start. The judge took her time finishing comments on the last rider's test so I got several minutes to work around the outside of the ring and ensure that none of the sights or sounds were going to be an issue. I did my test and while I knew it wasn't perfect, I felt it clearly showed the level of work we are capable of right now. My only initial concern was that I was scared we had picked up the wrong lead to the left. I know it sounds ridiculous that I don't know but Kachina's canter feels different than any other horse I've ridden. I'm used to telling the lead by feeling which front leg takes the bigger stride, but Kachina's shoulders feel like they swing the same amount. It's hard to trust the back legs either as she can sometimes go lateral. I'm getting better at feeling her leads at home (and she's been pretty reliable with her leads lately), but at the show there was a niggling part of my brain that was worried about it. I'm glad I trusted my gut and didn't bring Kachina back to trot though as when I watched the video afterwards I could see the that we were in a nice looking correct left lead. Other than that, I was really happy with my ride, especially the relaxation and ridablility.
Training Level Test 2
(Video cuts off first minute of my test)
(And yes, I know all my halts suck in the videos, but I was focused on keeping her straight and having no backwards motion. At home when I've insisted more on immobility she has started swinging her quarters which is way more obvious to the judge so I kind of cheated during the show)
As soon as my test finished, I brought Kachina into the barn to get out of the hot sun. It was just over an hour until my next test so I loosened the girth and took Kachina's bridle off but left the saddle on. While Kachina chilled I braided her mane quickly. My original plan had been to bathe the night before and braid morning of show, but the thunderstorm meant bathing in the morning and doing braiding as well would have cut my warmup short since I rode so early in the day. I was happy with how Kachina was going so I didn't feel the need to do much work before my next test.
|Free walk from Training Level Test 3|
My next training level test also went fairly well in my opinion. I could feel that we lost the bend in some corners and she wasn't bending around my inside leg, but I felt her rhythm and connection were pretty steady and I was happy with it. I also could feel that both canters were correct this time around. I actually thought we might do quite well when it came to scores.
|This is a rodeo photographer but she is getting great at nailing the uphill|
part of the canter stride for dressage shows!
Training Level Test 3
After my second test we had a several hour break before First Level so I untacked Kachina and let her chill in the shaded stall. I picked up my morning tests during lunch. I was initially very disappointed in my low scores. First of all because I had thought they had been better rides, but also because I didn't achieve my 63% and that automatically took me out of the running for ADA year end awards as there aren't enough shows left in the season (I would require 3 scores at 3 different shows). At that time no other scores were posted so I assumed that my 2nd and 3rd placings meant that scores were low across the board. That turned out to only be half true (the scores of the day went the full range from 50%-73%, however there were almost twice as many scores below 60% as there were above 65%). I then watched the videos of my morning rides and I saw that what I had been feeling during the test did not match how it looked. It was true that our rhythm was steadier that it was in the past, but what I had felt as a soft round connection was actually Kachina going around with her nose poked out and me having too loose of reins. She used to go to extremes of curling behind the contact or having her head straight in the air. She is much steadier now and I took that to mean good things but she is actually steadily a bit above the bit (and not actually as steady as I first thought). I constantly have to re-evaluate my feel on this horse. Re-evaluating my feel can only be done through the help of video or an instructor on the ground and I haven't had nearly enough of either lately. While part of why I show is that I want to do well (and get ribbons!), a bigger reason for showing is to get an objective check on how we are doing. We got that at this show and that's how I'm going to improve.
|Stretchy trot from second test (T3)|
I know the judge wants to see more but this IS a stretch for Kachina
(photographer left for the day before my First Level test so all photos from Training Level)
At this point, I knew our score at First Level was likely going to be low, but I still wanted to go out and get the feedback.
We did a fairly short warm-up for the First Level test, in large part to the unrelenting sun and the fact that it was the hottest part of the day. I did practice a few trot lengthens and was disappointed when Kachina broke into canter during the first attempts.
We went in for our final test of the day and it had a combination of bad and good. On the negative side, our lengthens were conservative (because I was worried about breaking), and Kachina spooked hard during our first canter transition which resulted in a wrong lead and two botched movements (the spook seemed out of nowhere to me but later the gate person told me it had happened right as some workers stood up on the edge of the grandstand roof which was in Kachina's field of view). Our canter work was a bit tense in general after that, and it's hard for me to sit the canter well when her back is tight. However, on the bright side, I was proud of myself for riding through the issues, our leg yields were the best we've done, and I could feel Kachina stretching for a good portion of the stretchy circle.
First Level Test 2
After exiting at A, I did one brief left lead canter to leave Kachina with the memory of that transition rather than the spook one, but as soon as I was out of the arena I hopped off to let her be done and give her lots of pets and treats.
By the time I had packed up the trailer and was ready to roll out, they still didn't have the First Level results in so I had to come grab my test on Sunday after I got back from seeing Charlotte in Calgary. The Charlotte clinic gave me a fresh perspective on my scores; I'll expound on that more in the next post. However, in general, despite the low scores I was happy with Kachina's performance. She was relaxed and obedient and it finally feels like we have a solid base on which to grow. I mean, there is a lot to work on for sure, but we've been dealing with tension and filling in training holes (both mine and hers) for so long that it feels awesome to think about moving forward even if it's at a glacial pace.
|My ribbon haul when all was said and done|