Early Days

Derby Recap Part II: Dressage with video

Our last post covered the jumping portion, and now on to dressage which actually took place earlier in the day.

I’ll be frank: dressage was a mess.

We warmed up pretty well (no crazy antics, thank goodness!) and I thought we were on track to have a solid performance. Alas, no.

First of all, there was a stallion in a nearby paddock who was screaming at the top of his lungs, clearly in a panic. Being herd animals, understandably Hemie got a little tense from this as we circled the arena, but I put him to work and he was a good boy by trying to focus on his job and not his freaked out neighbor. Just something that comes with the territory at horse shows.

Secondly, we went off course. Way off……for over 30 seconds.

The judge did not ring the bell to indicate we went off course – they just let us go around while I was left thinking “Gee, wait a second, am I off course? No, must be okay since bell wasn’t rung. Oh wait a second I think I am off course. No, no, must be fine, just keep going. No – I’m sure of it – we are in the wrong place going the wrong way.”  At which point I halted and looked at the judge for guidance. Blank faces stared back at me.

We were off course starting at 3:17 in the video (below), until 3:55 when I finally reversed and picked up my test from where I thought I had left off. Turns out I missed a movement somewhere in there but oh well.

Thirdly, we were both tense and Hemie got stuck several times. Trying to push him forward resulted in breaking gaits, and even though I was trying to relax, I wasn’t very effective. The canter was a hind-swapping, pogo-stick-like movement, and our free walk was more of a cringe walk. I really tried to kick him forward and even touched with the whip but didn’t get much done. It got a tad better as the test went on, and we had a few good moments in there. Here’s the video:

To be honest, coming out of the arena I was very dissapointed and did NOT think it was better than the last one. But with a little bit of time, and from watching the video and listening to others’ comments, I have realized that we did make some improvement and had a some good moments. The trick is to put more and more of what we practice into the show arena (bit by tiny bit), and we need to keep that going.

So, what happened with the judging/scoring situation, you ask? Well, after the test it turns out the kid after me also went off course – waaaaay off, as in riding entire test backwards without being signaled by the judge. Her trainer approached the show organizer about it and I just happened to be near by – the organizer said they’d have the girl re-take her test. Aha! I shall try to re-take mine as well!  Nope. They decided just to fill in scores as best they could. Therefore, no wonder there are no remarks on my scoresheet after we went off course, and the numbers are just the same as the first half (even though I do think we settled down and improved a little bit by the end. I guess maybe not enough to increase our marks though).

I checked the rule book and while it does instruct the judge to ring the bell when a rider goes off course, it also has a caveat that the judge may use discretion and not ring the bell if it they think it will interrupt the flow of the rider. So I didn’t bother to lodge a complaint.

Ah well, we got through it. The question remains: how do you go about getting the quality of work you have at home into the show ring?  Both myself and Hemie seem to lose our cool, even though I know we are both trying not to. Does it just take time and lots of shows? Or is there some other methodology I just haven’t figured out yet?

12 comments on “Derby Recap Part II: Dressage with video

  1. I never really knew just how tough dressage was until I started talking to eventers, it looks so easy from a distance :) Sounds like you are learning, and the nerves I think just get better with practice. I get nervous just thinking about showing, your doing great!


  2. I think it's just experience that helps with getting your 'home' level quality into the ring… I hope so anyway coz that's my plan for the winter haha.
    I recently read Jane Savoie's 'That winning feeling' and 'It's not just about the ribbons' which were an excellent introduction to sports psychology. Those helped me with my recent comp where I was pretty on edge – I did some visualisation in the week leading up to it, and then again at the showgrounds, and I didn't have a meltdown or forget my test so that was good :)


  3. I hate BN B as a test. It seems like it doesn't flow half as well as A. I can't believe the judge let you go off course for so long. I would have been seriously pissed, but I guess good for you for making up your own mind since she didn't feel like participating in judging that day.


  4. One of the big take aways I got from listening to Sally O'Connor's commentary during last week Rolex dressage discussed nerves/tension/etc. She was talking about Mary King and how one of the things she REALLY focuses on is accuracy. Whether the horse is showing up to work or not, she uses every piece of the arena and really pushes to get the most accuracy from each transition and movement. So if the horse breaks into a jig at the free walk, she lets it go and nails the next transition. I think this mind sight is particularly helpful with young, green horses. Knowing what your horses strengths and weaknesses are and pushing for the most out of the work that settles him.

    FWIW, I'd be annoyed by that judge too. It must be awful to lose track of the test and get lost and not have anyone letting you know! Then again, I'd be happy just to stay in the ring.

    Hemie seems certainly tense, but also behind your leg (not your fault — especially given the screaming stallion nearby), which makes him go upward instead of forward, ultimately letting him get more and more wound up. If you can figure out a way to channel that energy into the contact he's going to be super competitive!


  5. More shows. Keep going until it is no big deal for either you or him. I lose it too sometimes, and it has taken a LOT of showing to get me to relax a bit. I saw some nice moments in the video, keep at it!


  6. Rats … he was quite tense, wasn't he? Niamh is right – Hemie's energy was upwards rather than forwards. Speedy had done enough endurance races by the time I started showing him that he saw dressage shows as fun and interesting so I never really dealt with that particular form of resistance. Sydney on the other hand wants to behave as Hemie did.

    My trainer's suggestion is to get as much sideways movement going as possible. With the OTTBs, she explained that they need to feel as though they are moving and since we can't let them run forward, they feel bottled up. If we can get them yielding sideways, it soothes their brains by letting their feet move. I've worked on this at home until we've nearly perfected it. When Sydney gets tense at home, which is now virtually never, I simply increase the bend and push him out, out, out. It helped us a LOT at his last (2nd) show. In the warm up, that is pretty much all I did. Of course I wasn't thrilled with our ride, but it was improved over the one we did in the fall.

    You might consider adding that exercise (lots of bend while yielding out) to your daily warm up. It relaxed Sydney more than anything else, and we started to use that exercise as our “go to” when things started to fall apart.

    In the end, all we can do is “try again” and TRY to at least have fun while we're trying again. :0)


  7. I also used to think dressage was so easy – Ha! Yeah, it really is nerves for both Hemie and I, and we just gotta keep getting out there since we don't have nerves at home.


  8. Visualization is a very useful tool that I also use, especially the night before a show, and as I'm walking a jump course. I haven't read those Jane Savoie books but I've heard of them; I did a Daniel Stewart sports psych clinic and read his book and there's some useful tricks in there as well. Before the next show I need to dust it off and re-read it and be more mindful about using those tools to help myself and Hemie control nerves.


  9. Hahahah, the show organizer blamed the test for the situation, saying it was overly confusing (trying to remove blame from the judge, who is a close personal friend of hers!). The judge is almost 90 and several people said she's not as with it as she used to be. Plus I want to know where the scribe was! I was upset with the situation, but more upset at myself for getting into it in the first place. This test and my last one were the first times I've ever gone off course in dressage.


  10. Accuracy is a great way to focus in a test, and I always try to use my corners and prepare for transitions to improve scores, though to be honest I haven't thought of it as a way to settle a nervous/green horse. Interesting. Hemie's upward instead of forward has been our issue from day 1, and while we have it very much dealt with at home, it roared its ugly head on show day! Just gotta keep remembering the tools we've used in the past to deal with it (driving seat, strong legs, tap with whip, relax outside rein).


  11. Thanks. My gut agrees. More shows.


  12. Isn't it interesting how our off the track horses have issues moving forward? Not what I'd have expected, for sure. The exercise is very useful, though I normally do not use it for dealing with him getting stuck, rather we focus on forward. He gets his feet tangled if we move him sideways while he is stuck! However we do use that exercise to increase connection with outside rein, and I agree it does help them to relax because its very straightforward for them to understand.


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