Death By Comparison

Ike Culpeper June 2017

Last weekend was our second licensed show of the year.  I was feeling fairly confident with where we were going into the weekend, since we’d pulled off earning our Bronze Medal in our first two tests and we’d some decent scores at a subsequent schooling show.  Even our half pass work at home had been steadily improving…though after watching the video of Laura on Diddy, I might have to retract that comment and say that we have no clue how to ride a proper half pass.

In any case, we arrived at the HITS facility in Culpeper on Friday in plenty of time to get a schooling session in with Ms. C before the afternoon storms were to arrive.  This facility has always been challenging for Ike.  It is a busy venue with a lot for a horse to take in:  trains, traffic, tractor noises from the other side of the woods, static filled speakers, flags, and a light pole that gave me more concern than it did Ike…

Culpeper light poleIn case you are wondering, it appeared to be tethered to the adjacent tree…safety first, right?

We schooled in our double bridle on Friday.  It becomes our enemy when Ike is tense; he gets even more behind the bit due to his grabby-handed rider.  But we persevered and we both finally relaxed enough to do some decent work.  Note to self:  When you trainer notes that the half pass work of the horse schooling with you would earn a score of a 9, you should correctly guess that your half pass work would not earn a 9.

Saturday dawned a warm and sunny day.  Ms. C was able to help school us for both our Saturday rides.  Due to our ride on Friday, I opted to work in our snaffle for fear that the double would just cause issues.  Warm up was busy and for some reason, Ike did not like any of the horses in the warm up ring.  He would ball up every time we would ride by anyone.  Superb.  After the less than ideal warm up, Ike settled in our test – Third Level Test 2.  Just as we were getting ready to ask for the change from left to right, there was a loud “CRACK,” and Ike bolted.  I lost both stirrups and almost had an unplanned dismount.  I managed to stop and noticed that the horse in the adjacent ring was no longer in their ring and had broken one of the rails in two pieces.  Superb.

We finished the test and shall we just say that the 53% we received was not what I expected.  It was clear that the judge did not like us from Enter At A.  You can’t please everyone.  I called my husband to share the news, and his response..”It is nice that you can laugh it off.  Good luck on the next one.”  And yes, the next one was the one I wanted to get the magical 60% – Third Level Test 3.  Not for qualification purposes, but to prove to myself that we do have what it takes to succeed.

Warm up was better than the morning.  We could at least canter without fear of unintended consequences.  I have to say that Test 3 is a pretty intimidating test for a newbie Third Level rider.  It is all about control of your horse’s pieces and parts, and if you have followed our journey, you know that we are not always skilled at controlling all pieces all the time.  But at some point, you just have to go for it.  Of course, having to have your debut come following a 4* event rider on her dressage horse, and 2 Grand Prix professional dressage riders is a bit intimidating.  As my friend’s husband noted, “It is death by comparison.”  Our best will pale next to their every day work.  But we went in and gave it our all.

And while we fell just short of our goal, I am pleased with our 59.1% for our first attempt.  We had plenty of 6’s, and even a few 7’s sprinkled in the mix.  The 5’s on our half pass work killed us as did the 4 when Ike cross cantered for the simple change.  Ike is capable of better half pass scores, but his rider must learn the correct alignment.  In trying to get the correct bend, I end up restricting the movement.  First I have got to stop pulling back with my outside rein.  Second, I must remember the Kung Fu master reminding the young man, “Patience Grasshopper, patience.”  Not always a word that one associates with me, but it is my life long goal.  Be patient and good things will come.  Be patient, it is okay to make mistakes as you are learning…says the person who wants to master it in the first attempt.

So we will now regroup and stay home for a few months.  Ike will continue to strengthen in his collected work.  I will work on providing the correct aids to set Ike up for success.  One step at a time, one day at a time, we will keep our eyes looking ahead and keep reaching for success.

alison