Monday, June 8, 2015

That Time I Debuted Third Level, and Other Stories (Harmony I)

Saturday at Harmony dawned much too early. My trip to the show grounds had been delayed (have you ever packed for a horse show while living in a house mid-cross country move packed? Wow. Word of advice: Don't.), and we got in much later than I'd hoped. In addition, I'd added to my sleep deficit by staying up much too late visiting with Jen and her husband. Nonetheless, there was a horse show to do and I used my excitement and nerves to propel me into the day.

I started by braiding my trainer's lovely Friesian/Wamblood gelding. I'd promised her free braids all weekend. Then I moved on to braiding my own horse. I have to say, Khan's thicker mane certainly helped make the braids even better. They looked stunning on his periscope of a Friesian neck, too.
I'll miss watching this pair!
My first ride was my Third Level test, of course. I had been hoping the 3rd test would be after the 2nd level test, so that I wouldn't confuse Pig by asking for changes. Of course, my luck, I was going to have to depend on his smarts and my training to get us through. Always a dicey bet.

The moment I picked up my reins in the warm up, I knew I'd made a mistake. I had come out my usual 30 minutes before my ride time, but my horse was perfection. He didn't need a warm up at all. Not wanting to tire him, I simply walked around for long stretches of time, picking up the reins every once in awhile to put him together and keep him limber and working. He seemed to be mentally handling everything fine. Honestly, I'd rather have too much time in the warm up than not enough, I suppose. We worked all the buttons I would need in the test, except for lead changes. I kept my warm up work to counter canter to simple change work, and figured we would either get the changes in the ring or not. It wasn't really a big deal.
Look at that uphill canter! It might have taken a whole year, but we have finally started to conquer the "lift your withers" training block!
My trainer had bid me luck with the inspiring "just have fun with it," and I fully intended to take her advice. In the ring, Pig was probably the most relaxed and responsive he's ever been at a show. That said, our entry was still terrible. I mentally biffed the halt and we missed X and sort of came to a jumble of a halt.

The movements from 1-4 were scored at either a 5.5 or a 5, including our half pass left. The judge felt that Guinness was very tense, and our bend in the half pass and shoulder in were not consistent enough. Those comments are completely fair. On top of our greeneness at the level, I entered the ring a little mentally intimidated and was a little too worried about remembering my test and not screwing up to focus on actually riding my horse.

Luckily, the half pass to the right managed to set us back on track with a 6.5 and a comment of "smooth" from the judge.
Let's face it. Half pass right is basically our best movement ever. I wish there was a test JUST for half pass right. We would wipe the floor with people...
From there we headed into the medium trot, which is coming along so well, but just isn't quite where it needs to be yet. More on that later, we are really hitting breakthrough after breakthrough here. Unfortunately, those breakthroughs are not smoothly put together enough for this test and we ended up with a 5.5 from the judge who commented that Pig was "hollow." Yep. Fair assessment.
Still, his overall reach is so much better than it used to be. I think we're really on to something here...
Directly after the medium trot in this test is the halt and rein back, which we nailed with a 7. I haven't really worked these at all, so I am so pleased we were able to work together and pull out a good score. Still there's always something to improve, and here I need to make sure our rein back is straighter. Pig tends to come off the rail with his haunches, rather than truly rock back and sit into the movement. With a little work, I think we can get rid of that little evasion.

I don't really want to talk about our walk work for this test, as I rider-errored the crap out of it. The turns on the haunches lost bend and were absolutely huge. In addition, Pig lost all forward momentum and actually started to come to a halt in the middle of both turns! I will admit to completely losing my focus here and assuming Pig could just do these without me. I'm not sure why I would ever think that as turns on the haunches are always supremely difficult for us. With the walk work acting as a coefficient score, I immediately knew I had just completely blown my score. It's just too hard to recover from a coefficient of 4.

Still, I tried to put my brain back in and have fun with the rest of the test. We managed to pull a 7 on our medium canter, and 6s on the rest of our canter movements. The change was a 4, as expected as Pig was late behind. Still, he did the change on my aids and did not anticipate. I am happy with that, for now.
Canter work. Perpetually our best section.
We gathered another 7 for our 10 meter circle left, immediately followed by another 4 for our second flying change. In this change, Pig went full porpoise. I'm so sad we don't have it on video, but Jen managed to capture the whole thing on burst mode with her camera, so we have a brilliant break down of where things go hilariously wrong. I'll share that soon.

We redeemed ourselves with a 6 for our last medium trot, with the comment "modest effort" (Gee. Thanks.), and strolled up the centerline to wrap up the test.
Nothing "modest" about the effort here. I can tell you with certainty that I am completely out of breath here...
The verdict? A total score of 55.909%. Is it weird to say I was pleased with this? In fact, I was so happy that I snapped a photo of the test and sent it to about 20 people. Guys. We didn't fail at 3rd level. In fact, we did not even come in last!

Beyond all that, I was so pleased with how adjustable and pleasant Guinness was during the warm up and the test. He was such a solid gentleman, and was so rideable. I couldn't have been more proud of him.
Love him.
Hours later, I tacked back up for my 2nd level test. I hoped that long hours between my rides would "reset" Guinness, and he wouldn’t be expecting a change. What I should have done was hope the hours between the tests wouldn’t bring about a change in Captain Bipolar. I had gotten on with 15 minutes before my ride, figuring I would have the same horse I had ridden in the morning.

Unfortunately, when I picked up the reins in the second warm up, Guinness was a completely different horse. The forward and adjustable horse from earlier was gone. Now he was both behind the leg and the bridle. No amount of pushing forward  could get him to go back into the rein reliably, and using the whip resulted in a tantrum. What I should have done (hindsight being awesome), was really get after him and ride through the tantrum to get to the more cooperative horse in there. Of course, I didn't do that...

The whole test, I was so sure Pig would break that I had my legs clamped on to his side like crazy. I felt that if I took my legs off just a little, we would dawdle right into a stumbling halt and just never get started again. As it turns out, I wasn't wrong. Still, riding a test with your legs clamped on as hard as possible does not make for a smooth ride.

Our first halt scored a 7, probably because all Pig wanted to do was stop. The medium trot that followed was a 4, which I actually thought was a bit low. I thought it at least deserved a 5, though probably not higher.
Sorry for the blurry start!
Though all of our circling and straight work was dinged on our iffy connection, the both of the shoulder in movements pulled a 6. The travers scored slightly better with a 6.5 to the right and a 7 for the left. I'm actually floored we pulled a 7 for the travers left. I didn't feel it was that good at all.
Seriously. How is this a 7?
All of our halt, rein back, and walk work was solid 6s and 6.5s. I was careful to keep Pig moving during the turns on the haunches (not to repeat the same mistakes as earlier!), but I lost control of the size of the turns again. Without Pig in the bridle, those turns were really 100% off the seat, which made them a little difficult to contain.

Let's talk about what I am proud of during this test. See, the 2-3 test calls for a canter serpentine maintaining the same lead, meaning you must hold the counter canter for what turns out to be one very small diameter circle. (I'm currently writing this slightly tipsy in a DC Starbucks. Please forgive me if I cannot remember if this is a 10m circle or a 15. Please. Someone. Remind me. My brain is mush.) If you were smart (which, clearly, I am not), you would never enter a horse in both a test that called for lead changes and 2-3. You're just setting yourself up to fail.

Or you would think you would be.

My horse? He was a stellar kid. We did those serpentines, and they were kind of ugly, but they were all on the same lead. He did not change on me. He did not fight. He just did what he was told.

Doesn't that deserve some kind of special award?

Apparently this judge did not think so, as our 2-3 test scored an utterly unimpressive and slightly embarrassing 58.2%. Ouch.

After finally finishing my test, I was done with the day. I met up with some friends and cracked open a bottle of wine. So did they. Several bottles... that, friends, is how you end up taking a tipsy ride back to Jen's house with Karen in tow and end up passing out from sheer exhaustion and wine inhalation at early o'clock. Epic blogger party? Yes. Do I wish I hadn't been so tired and such a lightweight? Double yes.

Dear Karen and Jen, let's do it again sometime!
So. Much. Fun.



36 comments:

  1. YEAHHHH THIRD LEVEL!! You lived! Way to go!

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  2. 3rd level is intimidating! So go you! Glad you had a fun weekend with Jen and Karen!

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    1. It is kind of intimating, which is silly because the tests actually ride really well...

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  3. That half pass pic!!! Lovely! I can only dream of riding Riva 3rd level someday. You made it and had fun...and there was wine :)

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    1. Oh you guys will totally get there, and you'll look so much better than me when you do!

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  4. You're my hero fitting in ALL THE THINGS with moving, gaining a new home, and then going and tackling this show!

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    1. I'm taking this comment as verification that I should continue to wear this ratty cleaning towel as a superhero cape for the rest of the day!

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    2. Absolutely. Totally acceptable. It will double as a bib for later, too. And in the event you get sloppy drunk, you can clean up the inevitable messes with it.

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    3. You are full of excellent advice!

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  5. third level is awesome!!!! you and Pig are lovely.

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    1. Third is SO MUCH FUN. I'm so glad we did it!

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  6. congratulations! I am impressed with the two of you!

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  7. Dude your rocked that show. The judges were asshats and scoring low all weekend. Your horse rocks and you guys are legit. Also, yes we must do this again!! And also, stealing that selfie. Loves it.

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    1. The scores were SUUUUPER low all weekend. I mean, a 2nd level class of 10 riders shouldn't almost all be in the 50s. Ouch.

      Yay selfie! It turned out so good!!

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  8. Impressive all around. When I feel like my life is hectic I'll think of you. Sheesh. I know nothing of all the fancy dressage things but great outlook and jealous of all the fun shenanigans with Karen and Jen.

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    1. Bahaha! I like to be busy, but this is a little over the top! Thanks!! :)

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  9. Your Third test was better than your second test and that is most definitely something to be proud of (that and running on no sleep) For reals.. superwoman, impressive always.

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  10. That does sound like an epic blogger party! Still lots to be proud of :)

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  11. What an awesome weekend! And those are some good scores - getting closer to that Bronze!

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  12. I don't understand why the judges have to be such hard asses ;) You still did great and definitely earned the wine. Congrats on going for it and still doing a good job on top of everything else you have going on right now! You're a super tough person!

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    1. Aw thanks! Honestly, anyone who rides in front of a judge deserves wine. Amirite?

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  13. yayyyyy!!!!! congratulations!!! you guys look phenomenal - and it sounds like Guinness really knew what was up when he entered that 3rd level ring - what a good boy!

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    1. Totally knew what was up ... that day. :)

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  14. Wooohoooo! Third level, damn girl!

    Also, those fast forward gifs are excellent.

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    1. Love it! Sure, I could make true-time gifs, buuuut ... I'm too lazy.

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  15. You guys are awesome!! Huge congrats on moving up to 3rd and doing it with STYLE! :)

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  16. congrats on your 3rd level debut <3 well done!

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  17. Killin it! I'm freaking out about my training level test haha

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  18. Fun blogger party and some great moments in the tests! Congrats!

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