A Day of Awards: PVDA Day 2

Sunday of PVDA Spring started off better than Saturday, despite worse rain. To begin, I didn't have work, so I could get to the show grounds earlier. Then, my mother (visiting from Indiana to see my show, despite the rain and being deathly allergic to horses... HI MOM!) bought me the most amazing Kerrits' coat from the VTO clearance rack.
Eventing Nation did a write up of this thing, and I echo the writer's sentiments. This thing is amazing. Watch for a full review soon.
I hoped buying the coat would cause the rain to quit for the day, but sadly it only cleared up for a few minutes while Jan rode her last test. (You're welcome Jan!)
This pair was outstanding all weekend. You wouldn't have known it was little Pennsylvania Pete Penn's first time at a recognized show or working in these sorts of conditions. They both went out and did their job admirably.
Following Jan's test, Sonka and I wandered to the office to confirm my test changes for the day. Switching from 3-2 to 2-1 meant we would be able to leave at least an hour earlier. Since both my rides were in the afternoon, I still had plenty of time to prepare (read: memorize 2-1, since I hadn't ridden it in years).
Poor Sonka didn't really want to be a horse show dog in the rain. He's such a good sport.
Hanging out at a horse show all day is one of my favorite things. I love chatting with other competitors, wishing people good luck, and hearing the stories of their rides. There's something wonderful about being a part of that community. Well known trainers and amateurs both come together to share in the atmosphere. I find it's especially true in situations of crazy weather. I was glad to be stabled in a barn with some excellent people and with Jan. They made the weekend very fun.
When the weather looks like this, you have to find something enjoyable about showing.
At one point I was chatting with Nuno Santos, RRTP Star, and his group about thoroughbreds. When I mentioned that Pig is 18, Nuno looked over at him and exclaimed "18?! No way!!" That put a big smile on my face. I love my old horse. I told Nuno that his horse, Ken's Kitten, is one of my favorites, and he told me all about how the horse is working at 4th level with his brother in California. So fun!

As my ride times approached, I took Pig and Sonka out for a jog in the field. Though we all ended up totally drenched, I felt really good about Pig's energy levels. He didn't feel fried, just ready to go.
Sonka asks, "Why. Why are you doing this to me?"
The rain picked up as I went down to warm up. I threw on my coat to try to stay as dry and clean as I could before my test, and got to work. The footing was even more flooded than the day before, and Guinness was even less impressed with it.
I don't think gross is an appropriate adjective any more. Maybe "epic flood stage" is a little more accurate.
I had come out in the snaffle, as my 2nd level test was first. I figured I could switch to the double if I needed for 3rd, but Pig actually felt fantastic in the contact. He did not feel fantastic in his back or in his confidence in the footing; however, especially as we attempted to school counter canter.
"This footing. SAVE ME, FOR I CAN NOT EVEN!" -- Pig
I would like to point out my face in this series. You cannot accuse me of taking this behavior personally. I am SO ZEN. 
Thankfully, Pig's antics faded with some praise from me and a low-pressure warm up. Eventually he was going around beautifully.
Boom. Work that counter canter.
When we headed in the ring for 2-1, I felt absolutely zero stress. Though I knew one more 60% would clinch my Rider Performance Award, I wasn't focused on it. That lack of pressure translated to Pig, who felt more relaxed as we went on.
First entry.
With the pouring rain (seriously, watch the video, it was pouring), the judge had been letting people ride out of order. Unfortunately, this led to her having the wrong test in front of her as I started. Though I told her my number and my test prior to her whistling me in, I think we just had a slight miscommunication. Whoops! Not a big deal, she asked me to exit the ring and start again.
This was probably our nicest halt of the weekend. Note Pig still trying to investigate the road to the left.
A slight leap over the puddle at A made the entry a bit unsteady in the bridle, but I think we stayed relatively straight. Unfortunately post halt, Pig threw me some sass about getting round and stepping up into collection. By the time we reached C we were talking nice again, and I'm not sure the judge noticed or wanted to change the score.
The medium trot needed to be a bit more prompt off the aid. I let the trot get longer before it got bigger. The first couple of steps were pretty decent, but then I let him get on the forehand. That made our transition a bit rougher. Still, a 6.5 for a medium trot is pretty damn good for us. I'll take it.
One of those nice steps just before I had to remind Captain Forehand he has a butt to sit on. Note to self, stop leaning back.
Our shoulder-in work was pretty tense. To the right this was due to an extremely large and deep puddle on the rail, and to the left Pig was just a bit stiff. The stiffness meant his neck was bent, but he wasn't carrying that bend through his ribcage. That's something we've been working on forever, but just couldn't get solved with the time off before this show.
It's hard to shoulder-in with your knees up by your eyeballs. I'm honestly impressed he isn't more inverted here. He felt like he'd completely dropped out from under me.
Our halt followed the same pattern as all the others, distracted and not solid on four legs. Since Pig wasn't paying attention for the halt, you can imagine how much the rein back took him by surprise. Whoops.

Still, the walk work was pretty good in this test. Pig's back didn't feel as free as the day before, but we had some relaxed wobble ears in the free walk. Hooray!
Girl, look at that body...
Unfortunately, the canter depart could have been more prompt, and the canter struggled from the same lack of temp as the day before. Thankfully, I'd chosen properly and picked the test with simple changes in the serpentine. That's an exercise I've been using in schooling, so we were ready to rock it in the ring. The simples were a bit muddy on the downward portion, but I'm really quite happy with how they looked in the upward parts. We had 6.5s on the simple changes, but an overall 7 for the serpentine, which I think is a personal record on that bit of geometry.
Good pony here. Really impressed with how he kept his brain plugged in during the serpentine.
The end of the serpentine and start of the canter work was an exercise in patience, as Pig lost his footing a little and trotted behind a couple of times. This water was really ridiculous. Doubly unfortunately, this made for a really uncomfortable medium canter. I kept pushing to try to hold the tempo and the canter, which garnered us a 7 and a comment of "bold". I'm not sure I agree, but I'll take it!

Then the toughest part of the test hit. We had to do the same geometry as in 3-1, but not have a change. We needed to demonstrate counter canter. The first direction we did not manage this at all. Pig slipped in an auto change, which was very smooth. I couldn't remember the way the test was broken down, so I wasn't sure how to contain the error to one movement. That led to me freezing for a second out there, then bringing him to a walk way too early.

Still flustered, I blew the second canter transition, and we ended up striking off on the wrong lead. My fault, entirely. My reins ended up far too long by this point, and our medium canter was an exercise in creative riding to keep the impulsion AND the lead.
Here you can see my hands saying, "don't you dare swap behind!"
The second direction's counter canter went better, but only because I rode the snot out of the pony to keep him from swapping on me.
The last medium trot felt really good, but the judge was right to call the downward transition the best part of the movement. Finishing strong, our final halt and centerline were fantastic (scored a 7!).
Lovely halt, though horse still trying to daydream to the left.
I was super happy with the test, and felt we had turned in a pretty good performance-- despite the lead errors. I wasn't sure it was going to score super well, but didn't care too much. I was pretty sure it was a 60%.
Checking in with the ring steward, I slotted my 3-1 ride into an earlier scratch. With only 30 minutes between rides, I decided to just stay on the horse and walk around the warm up ring. Pig had gone so well in his snaffle I felt no reason to change to the double. I hoped that extra time in the footing would help him relax about it.

My supporters (Mom, husband, huskies, and Jan's husband) took shelter in a nearby empty steward's booth while I continued to get soaked in the rain. Jan, bless her, hung out by the ring to talk over my test.
Saint status. Right here. Someone ring the cannonization bells and call the Pope.
While walking around, I heard that I took 2nd (out of 3) in the 2-1 class with a 62%. That thrilled me! I may have told everyone that I could fall into the muck in this last test and be happy. I had officially accomplished everything I had hoped for at this show. TWO USDF awards done in one weekend!

Of course I was already wet and on the horse, so I was still going to go through with my final test. My stress levels were absolutely zero, though. I think that made a huge difference. Pig was relaxing beautifully in the warm up. He was in the bridle better than 90% of our rides, and really listening well with zero stress. I schooled some half pass and a few half halts before wandering back up to the ring to put in our last ride.

The first halt was kind of a mess, but the half halt was there. I just didn't hold things together enough to get it square. Pig tried to stare down the judge in the halt, too. Probably trying to intimidate her, which ... may have worked? Either way, rounder and squarer would have been better.
Laziest. Halt. Evar.
Unfortunately, my lazy halt followed into my next movement as I errored by motoring down into a really crappy medium trot.

Um. Guys. 3-1 doesn't start with a medium trot. Ooops. I took the error with a smile and started with a new centerline and turn, per the judge. Shoving my mind back in the game, I headed out to ride one of the best third level tests of my life.

Pig was forward and in the bridle. His topline was relaxed, and he was right with me.

The half passes and shoulder in definitely needed more bend. The first direction was more relaxed than the second, but I'm not complaining too much.
Needs more body bend. But so relaxed!
The first medium trot was described as "needing more thrust and reach" which feels fair. However, our extended trot garnered us a 7, and rode beautifully. Pig took one stumble step, but never offered a jog. Clearly the long walk break helped a lot here.

Our first turn on the haunches also garnered us a 7. I think it looks a little wide, but he does keep stepping, so I won't complain. This is a coefficient movement, so having a 7 helped a ton.
Oh my god. This walk.
Our canter work was okay, but a little bit tighter in the back. Pig was still brilliantly in the bridle, but still not 100% okay with the footing. Of course that led to a hilarious fail of an extended canter gallop.
I seem to have taught my thoroughbred a dressage gallop #whoops #tempofail #funtho

The judge calls my first change "over ridden", but I was happy with how it rode. Pig stayed on my aids, and I did over ride it. With nothing to lose, I was hoping for a clean one! The change was cleaner than our others, but not quite there. Still, Pig gave a huge effort, and I couldn't help but have a huge smile break out on my face. It was so much fun to feel him so responsive!

The second change, while called 'not quite on my aids' which wasn't true, was clean. We got a 6.5 on that change, which feels like a miracle. I giggled outrageously at this change, as I desperately tried to gather us back together for our downward transition.
Gearing up for a clean one!
As I turned down the diagonal for our last medium trot, Pig turned on the afterburners. When I asked, he let loose with the first "real" extended trot he's ever given me. Midway through the diagonal, I realized I had no idea how to ride what he'd given me. I just collapsed into giggles again, letting him go and have all the fun.
Look at this magnificent horse!
Our downward from this felt like a million bucks, and we turned up the centerline to nail the last bit with a 7.
Evolution of a half halt
I ended this test with a smile from ear to ear, having had the most fun ever in the show ring. I knew we'd had another 60% test, but I didn't imagine that we'd walked out with a 62.576%!
Enjoy this brief clip from the test. Sadly, it's all that exists.

I'm so proud of this old horse. I feel like we had 1000 break throughs during this show, and also finished out two milestone awards. I can't imagine having gone on this journey with another animal, and I am so proud to have managed this with him.
This. This feels good.


  1. I love that last picture. Pig sounds like such a fun horse and you guys are awesome together!

    1. Aw, he IS a fun horse. Truly. When he isn't being a huge dick about the details. ;)

  2. Way to go! You two make an amazing pair!

  3. This is just amazing all the way around!!! You two are incredible! :D :D So happy for all you've accomplished!

  4. Hahahahaha, I totally forgot Penn's new name is Pennsylvania Pete! And I loved watching all of your tests- you're so tactful with him and really get the best out of him. You two were SO AWESOME and magnificent! Can't wait to show together again! Maybe it can not rain that weekend?

    1. Aw, thanks for calling me tactful. That's a massive compliment! :)

  5. Woooooo!!!!!!!!!! Congratulations :D

  6. Amazing job! You guys look great even in the horrible rain. Congrats on those scores.

  7. Congratulations!!!!!!!!! You guys really are rockstars.

  8. Awwwww this post makes me so happy. Congrats to you!!

  9. Congratulations!!!! You and Pig are badass for riding in that hideous rain AND doing well!

    1. Gotta say, my Equiline coat won the weekend. That thing was soaked through and still not hot OR cold. It wasn't even uncomfortable!

  10. First off - cannot believe you were talking with Nuno Santos! I love watching that man ride! Saw him last year at Rolex riding in the RRTP demo and was so excited to see him again this year.

    Second - Guinness looks Amazing!!! This makes me happy and encouraged that maybe my Diva girl has a few more good dressage years in her despite the arthritis.

    Way to go Austen!

    1. Nuno is kind of local here, and was totally fun!

      Definitely don't give up on Diva. You guys will find something that works. :)

  11. So so so so awesome. Damn girl!!! Also, I love the "extended canter" (err gallop?) photos. Holy impulsion!

    1. We have zero problems with the "go" button. We just have some problems with shaping all that energy. ;)

  12. Your face in that last extended trot photo just says it all!

  13. I love your smile in so many of these photos <3

  14. That rain, my goodness! Jacket looks great! :D

  15. Yaaaaayyyy!!! <3 You both look so fantastic, I'm so pleased for you!

  16. Woohoo!!!!
    So much awesome in one post - congrats girl! Pity about the weather but great breakthroughs & results ☺☺☺

  17. I LOVE you smiles in that trot pic! Magnificent photo of you two. Loved all the cantering in puddles too, that was great. I can't believe you rode in that arena, mucky and wet is an understatement. I think both by TBs would've had a meltdown

    1. Haha, the meltdown was definitely in there. I think by the second test he'd resigned himself to his wet and mucky fate. Lol

  18. I love that photo of the extended trot and you smiling- just sounds like a great ride! Congrats!


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