Tuesday, September 22, 2015

HCWE Recognized Show: Preshow and Dressage Test

Sunday was the first recognized Working Equitation Show in Colorado. It was held at Circle Star Arena with Tarrin Warren (from the clinic in June) as the judge. There were three levels: Intro, Novice and Intermediate. I signed Ashke and I up for Novice as soon as the announcement went out and then have spent several weeks fretting over it. I thought about withdrawing from the competition several times and assessing internally whether or not I am cut out to show. Like at all. I think what held me to going was the fact that I really like the people involved in High Country Working Equitation - I really like the group and the thought of being able to hang out with them was a great motivator.

There were so many reasons for stress. Ashke and I weren't able to practice together as much as I would have liked and our over all riding time has been reduced. I didn't have the correct clothes, which wouldn't have mattered except this was a recognized show and clothes count. My saddle is an Alta Escuela and it would cost me about $600 to buy an outfit to go with it. I understand it would cost more if I were to buy a second saddle, if I could even find one that fit his back, but $600 is out of my reach. (The hundred I spent to get new paddock boots and half-chaps was cost enough). So, I made do with new boots, new chaps (which I needed any way), black breeches and a navy polo shirt. I also took the caged stirrups Saiph sent me (I loves her!!) to trail ride in off my saddle and replaced them with the white, quick release stirrups I first bought three years ago. This was a huge mistake. I should have just ridden in the wide stirrups I was riding in before I got the caged stirrups. Either the stirrups or the boots were super slick and I was not well balanced in my saddle.

After our blow up/smack down on Tuesday, I was feeling less happy about how well we might do and just really wishing I could withdraw. Weds was better, but I still wasn't incredibly confident. Then life got really busy and I had no time to think or worry about the show any more.

Friday night, T had a x-country race. He wasn't feeling good, but wasn't running a fever, so we made him go. He ran and had the best race time he has had up to this point. He beat his old PR by about 30 seconds, but ended up in shock at the end of the race. He was shivering so hard he couldn't stand, with goosebumps all over his body. We got sugar into him and some electrolytes, plus wrapped him in some warm blankets. (The look on the coach's face when I realized how badly he was shivering, turned to J and told her to take off her shirt was priceless. J had on two and I wanted her long sleeve for T.) We stopped for food after the meet, then drove home (over an hour one direction), threw him into a hot bath and then gave him a massage with Rider's Rescue Rub. He was asleep five minutes later. We got up bright and early the next morning to drive another hour for a second meet. At that race, T had another PR. He took a full minute off of his time.

The movement of his arms is called a Jellyfish.

That was Saturday morning. Saturday late afternoon, J and I went to the barn. We cleaned and packed all of the tack in the trailer, got the water ready, and his hay. J did most of that while I bathed the horse. He was gleaming white in the sun when I finished. Although, he is losing his mane. Huge chunks of mane washed out in the bath. I'm not sure why. All I can figure is that he is playing with the horse next to him and they are managing to tear it out. We hung out and talked to the BO while Ashke dried in the sun. She agreed he is at a great weight to go into winter. Then I wrapped him in a turn out blanket, added shavings to his clean stall and left him for the night. (He actually was pretty clean the next morning.)

After talking to J and endless, numerous texts to Saiph (thank you so much my friend) I had one goal going into the show. I wanted to ride connected to my horse, with him calm and willing. I told myself that nothing else would matter. I knew we weren't going to be perfect, but I had hoped to be better. I don't know if it's my inability to show him what I want him to do, his physical limitations that make it hard for him (remember when we first started sidepassing over the pole and his right leg twisted and crumpled under him, especially going to the right?) or a combination of all things. I just know this is incredibly hard for us, we worked on it a lot, and I was hoping it would show.

Ashke trotted onto the trailer, snorting softly. He had no idea what he was in for. We had to take surface streets for a bit, since there was an accident and stalled traffic on the highway, but that was negotiated pretty quickly. We pulled in between 8:15 and 8:30. I pulled Ashke out, got him set up with food while J went to check in. She was volunteering for the day. Ashke tucked into his grain (3 lbs TC Senior and 2 Quarts of Oats) while I hung fresh water and hay for him to snack on. I went to watch some of the dressage tests for Intro, since I have NEVER even been to a dressage show before and I was feeling lost. After the first one, I got so nervous I had to leave the arena and go get my horse. Although, I did get to meet and greet all of the wonderful people who make up this incredible club (and thanks Leslie for being such a great support for the day.)

I changed into my most attractive and obviously not-really-appropriate attire, sweet talked and treated my magnificent horse, saddled him and walked him out to the dressage court to warm up. We walked around the dressage arena, looking at all of the stuff and the other horses. Then we did a little trotting, and I asked him for contact, which I thought he was giving me very nicely. There were several horses warming up in the same area, including a woman who was riding tempi changes on her very well schooled horse. Oh, and walk pirouettes. Not sure why she thought she should be showing Novice, but whatever. (She was told after the show that she would not be allowed to show that horse at Novice again:they should have been showing Intermediate.) After we had trotted for a bit, I asked for a little bit of canter along the straight side of the dressage court. He was wonderful. The canter was soft and slow and balanced. I was very pleased. Then we just wandered around in the field behind the arena while we waited our turn.

In retrospect, I probably should have practiced some bends and turns with him before riding in. I was just more focused on keeping him calm and myself calm that actually doing anything more didn't occur to me. I also should have ditched the stirrups.

The test was in the indoor arena, with the doors opened on both ends, and a table set at the far end for the judge. Behind the table was a horse trailer to help block the view behind the barn (cows possibly - although I didn't see any all day), which provided a nice white background. A lot of horses found the judge's table terrifying, which I agreed with. CS had told me to be sure to walk Ashke past the table a couple of times before my ride (after I was let into the arena) so when the final salute happened with the rider before me, Ashke and I walked into the arena. K, who was volunteering, told me to smile and have fun. (She had been told by J to say that to me - since J was at the far end of the arena behind the judge - and J was told to do that from Saiph!) I smiled as we rode in.

Ashke was immediately up looking at the judge's table. Then behind the table J started doing the jellyfish with her arms and I began to laugh, but Ashke went "WTF????" and thought about exiting the arena. J noticed and stopped, giving me a big grin instead. Ashke and I walked past the table several times in both directions, but he was still pretty unhappy with it being there. I didn't really have enough time to completely ease his apprehension. The bell rang and we started the test.

Next time, I ride in from the outside. Making a right turn down center line requires geometry, which I suck at, and there was no way to have a straight cadenced entry on the center line without having to try and straighten him out. The second thing is to never ride in those boots and stirrups again. I struggled to keep his impulsion in part because the footing was deeper than we were accustomed to and in part due to my boots slipping around in the stirrups. I did not need any more hindrances to my riding performance and the boots/stirrup combination were a huge hindrance. I lost my stirrups several times. I flailed. It was special.

So, without further ado, here is the ride video.

And here is the score sheet:

The only really positive thing was that Tarrin turned to J after the test and told her that whatever I was doing with Ashke was working and that we looked so much better together. I am disappointed that we didn't score better, but overall, I'm just happy that we completed our ride without any problems. Ashke did break on the final serpentine, but that was in direct reaction to the table and not inability on his part.

That's enough for now. Next post will be the Ease of Handling part of the show.


  1. Rated shows are so stressful! Getting out there and doing your best is all that matters at the first one :) Great job.

  2. J told me to say "jellyfish". I know to say "Have fun and smile" all by myself! :-D I think that you accomplished your goal of both of you being calm admirably. Dressage is very difficult, especially for a horse with Ashke's issues. You should commend your efforts and learn from the tack mistakes, if you ever plan to show again. Love you.

  3. I think you and Ashke have made great gains in the past year. He looks so much more relaxed than he used to. If he was afraid of the table it was hard to tell and he certainly wasn't the only horse. Showing is really hard and may have a steeper learning curve than dressage does. It's why a lot of people don't do it. I'm really glad that you came and hope you'll continue to come. It's taken me years to be willing to show and the only reason I'm doing it is that this is such a nonjudgmental group.

  4. Karen ..I also think you guys have made huge strides.. The score is only a score. Its about you and your horse. Nothing else counts. Thats why I don get anxious.. It is about me and my horse doing the best we can do on that day..Tarrin also told me that she thought you and Ashke had improved incredibly..At the clinic she was much easier on all of us ..She was, as she should be, hard on all of us.. It is the difference between a fun show and a recognized show. You guys did great in all three phases..I was proud of you and you should feel the same way.

  5. So many great comments already! ;) I think you did great. You both look so relaxed in the video! Very nice job. I know how tough it can be to deal with show nerves but you did exactly what you set out to do! And that's all that matters.

    I'm glad that you had so many people there to remind you to smile and have fun!!! ;)

  6. You are way harder on yourself than you need to be. You both looked relaxed and he gave you his best that day which is all you can ask for. Since this is your first recognized show, use it as a good baseline for future shows as a comparison.

  7. Y'all look amazing. Extreme kudos for getting out there and doing the damn thing even though it stressed you the heck out. That takes major guts. Congrats, lady.