Loving Dressage and Hopefully Showing it

AP, in his FLAIR Strip, all to excited to go galloping, a break from his dressage boot camp! AP, in his FLAIR Strip, all to excited to go galloping, a break from his dressage boot camp!

After reading the Grounded Eventer’s post about her love for dressage, I couldn’t help sharing about my upcoming weekend.  AP and I are going to a real dressage show, three days, two tests a day, and not a cross country jump in sight.  I made the decision that we would be doing lots of dressage boot camp and shows as we were having a meltdown circling the arena at Bromont.

This past winter in Florida, I was working extensively with Peter Gray and Jon Holling, both of which helped me improve my flatwork by leaps and bounds.  In one dressage lesson, Jon told me that AP should be scoring high 40s but at worst mid 50s in FEI competition, no excuses.

Peter expressed similar expectations when he told me that my practice test the week prior to Bromont would put me in the top 20%.  Since the movements were relatively new to AP, in particular the changes and half-pass, my focus was getting him the runs he needed for his cross county education with Rolex in mind for next year.  I thought that with more time and confirmation of the movements, the scores would come.

Bromont most definitely told me otherwise.  I had a week of incredible rides leading up to AP’s dressage test, and my warm up before going into the ring felt wonderful.  We walked into the arena and started circling the ring, and everything just fell apart.

I still am not sure how I got us through that test with a qualifying score.  The next hour or so after my test was incredibly nerve-wracking.  Had I just driven 19 hours total to not even get the dressage score I need for a Rolex qualifier?  And if I had, should I even use his legs and finish the competition?

Luckily, and likely due to the compassion and understanding of the judges, that wasn’t the case.  But in that hour, I decided that we were going to do something about this.

I went home to Illinois, and after AP’s five week vacation, we started taking dressage lessons every four to five days with my longtime trainer, Kathryn Barry.  This very much piggy-backed off of my program with Peter and Jon and Florida, and the progress has been significant.

The positioning in our half-passes is becoming more solid all the time and rather than getting two or three clean changes a ride, I maybe have two that aren’t.  With the work at home being up to par, we are now off to a proper dressage show to get a handle on the nerves and exuberance.

I’m hoping that with six tests in three days, we can finally start to address this and produce a good test next weekend for the CIC3* at Richland. My horse is going to be so disappointed when I walk into his stall with my dressage saddle on the second day of competition, but here’s to possibly, and finally, showing everyone the type of dressage horse that AP is capable of being!

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