Indiana Dressage Festival, Day One

Holy crap. It's Thursday and I still haven't written about the show last weekend. What a mess! I've not really been involved in the horse world for the last few days. Pig has had three days completely off, and the most I've done is write long comments on poor Karen's blog (sorry Karen, I hope they weren't too much!). In all fairness, work has been completely nuts (University students are back on campus, cue craziness all around!). Still not much of an excuse, so put on your reading glasses and grab a coffee because this is going to be a doozy of a post.


Being able to take the day off before a horse show weekend is a luxury, and one that I am absolutely grateful for. Instead of rushing around like a crazy person, I was able to finish up my packing for the show (still forgot something, but that amusing story is coming...) and leave for the barn without any real stress. A lovely start! By the time I arrived at the barn, I had my game plan and I had the horse fully packed and loaded in about an hour. He even jumped right on the trailer (no hesitations!). The two and a half hour ride to the horse park was uneventful, and we were unpacked and settled into the barn in no time.

This fell out of my saddle while I was cleaning it. Don't worry, I'm sure that's totally normal, and not a problem at all.
As planned, I hopped on Guinness to do a pre-show schooling session in the warm up area and the ring where we would be competing. From looking at the day sheets, I knew we'd be in the same ring for both of our tests on Saturday and that's where I wanted to really do most of my work. In the warm up ring I focused mostly on forward and getting control of the outside shoulder in both directions. Once I moved over to the show ring, I worked on positioning our movements in the ring. Mainly, I was looking to get a feel for how much leg yield I was going to need to push for (my rings at home are slightly smaller than regulation) and where my canter loops would work best. Overall, I felt really good about this ride. Everything was spot on except for leg yields. Circles were slightly sticky, but I could get a good amount of bend when I remembered to ride off my seat. Everything was pointing towards a positive Saturday.
Here's some video of the end of my schooling ride (Gosh, I'm so lucky to have such a beautiful facility available for showing!):
After the ride, I put away Pig and headed out to spend the evening with the fantastic Jen of Cobjockey. It was at this point that I realized that I had managed to forget one thing. Embarassingly, what I'd forgotten was a pair underwear that wouldn't show through white breeches in a spectacular way. Jen and I got to go on a fun jaunt to Walmart for the epic purchase of wine and underwear. Oops!


Despite the forecast predicting hot, hot weather, Saturday morning was fairly cool and really lovely. With my ride times in the late morning and mid afternoon, I wasn't in a rush to get ready. I'd drawn out schedules for the morning on my tack trunk, and was determined to adhere to them. They ended up working really well, getting me fully prepared and ready to head to the warm up ring right on time without any of the normal panic for time. Check one for successful planning!

I love buttons on a thin necked horse!
My warm up went well. I focused mainly on relaxation and transitions between trot and walk. I should have schooled more canter transitions, as those were a bit buck-and-leap-ish in my test. I also schooled my back and forth leg yield exercise that Nancy had me work on. Doing this at the walk really seems to loosen up Guinness and get him listening to my leg. I've noticed skipping these in the walk results in really tense leg yields at the trot. The leg yields were still not very good. Guinness kept trailing his haunches, and would pop out of the contact and twist if I pushed for more. To try to get these better, I worked on 10 meter circles to supple him. Then I did a few 10 meter circle-25m of leg yield-10 meter circle- 25m of leg yield until he finally would yield somewhat better. By this time it was time to head over for the test.

Circling the ring, I did work on the stretchy trot. I think this was a great addition to our schooling. It kept me active and thinking prior to the test, and kept Guinness relaxed and light in the contact. Overall, the test went well. The first lengthening and canter transition were really rough. The leg yields were sticky, as normal. Luckily in 1st 2, they are slightly easier, as they start from the centerline and head towards the rail.  I didn't want to push for anything, as I was worried about losing relaxation. During the canter transition, however, Pig let loose with a buck and I started really riding. I reminded myself that I had a whip for a reason and started using it to get more action from the inside hind, and I felt I rode very mindfully, in fact it almost felt like schooling at home. Everything else just fell away, and it was just Pig and I.
Here's the view from the judge:

Overall, the comments show that I need more bend/suppleness, acceptance, and more GO. That was sort of a theme for the whole weekend. The score for this test was a 62.432, good enough for 2nd place out of four riders. I was over the moon with this score. I felt the judge was pretty forgiving of some of the trot work, but was really happy with my scores for the first canter lengthening, as I'd really put aside my nervousness and pushed for it. 
After this test, I had enough down time to snack a bit and relax. Then it was back to the ring for 1st 3. My warm up was only 20 minutes this time, and mostly at the walk and canter. I also focused more on the changes of bend at the trot, as the 10m circle figure eight at the test opening is really difficult for me. I should have schooled more trot lengthening, but I was again afraid of losing relaxation (always a delicate balance).

The test didn't go quite as well as the first, but I still felt pretty good about it. We didn't have any huge screw ups, and I thought it was maybe more consistent than my first test. However, the movements are harder and the points more elusive in this test. 
Here's how the judge broke it down: 

Did you see the 7.0's on BOTH canter loops? Holy crap, guys. I'm so excited about that, I can't even tell you. The judge's comments to work more on half halts is certainly being taken very seriously, as I can really tell that getting Pig off his forehand is something I really need to start working on. Our transitions will benefit from it immensely. Right now, I notice Guinness tends to really get in the zone working on a circle or a straight line, and change makes him lose everything. Instead of changing bend so dramatically, I should be preparing him a few strides before the movement with a half halt. Elementary, but I've been missing it.

After giving Pig a bath and settling him back into his stall, my entourage and I headed over to watch the some of the more advanced rides, including a BEAUTIFUL Intermediaire freestyle test, and enjoy the competitors party. Indiana Dressage Society really does a beautiful job putting on these shows. The competitors party was a big hit, and all the volunteers did a lovely job all day. It was a beautiful day at the horse park, for sure. 

Now for the surprise. This was supposed to be a one day show for me. My mother, however, sprung for the extra show fees that I could show on Sunday as well (she had ulterior motives of getting me to spend some quality family time with her and my extended family that night, as they all live near the horse park and I haven't been home in ages). This was super generous of her, and there was a scratch in 1st 3 for Sunday that worked perfectly to put me in. the show management was very gracious to let me enter mid-day on Saturday. You know what this means? Another show post! Sunday write-up tomorrow!


  1. Fantastic job Austen!!! 7's on the canter lengthening and loops - super :) Congrats on the great First Level scores and ribbons!

    Wish I could have been there to cheer on you and Guinness and to watch Anne and her lovely mare compete their Freestyle - heard it was awesome!

    I want to learn to button braid - you should post a tutorial.

    1. Thanks Kelly! Anne's test was so gorgeous. She did a set of changes on a 20 meter circle that were just ... out of this world!

      A tutorial on button braids is a great idea! I find them so much easier than any other type of braid, and the mane upkeep is simpler, too! I'll work on that.

  2. I bet the cashier looked strangely at you, wine and underwear :P

    Yay on the placings, looking forward to Day 2!

    1. I've never been so happy to have a self-checkout open in my life! The guy in the wine aisle was pretty amused, though. :)

  3. Woohoo! Nice job. Those are really solid scores. :0)


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