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Thursday, 8 November 2018

Dressage Competition Report - 07.11.2018

If you've been following us along on social media, you'll know that the back half of October was a bit of downtime for both Louie & I, but heading into November we set ourselves the goal to achieve the remaining points at Prelim Silver that we needed to in order to qualify for the Winter Regionals.

On 1st November, as planned, Louie was fully clipped and started back in work. To be fair, he had only had just under three weeks off, so it wasn't too much to consider when bringing him back into work, and with a big green tick from both the vet and physio, we knew we were good to go! Before I'd even clipped Louie, I entered two long arena tests at Alnwick Ford Equestrian, with the only objective to achieve scores of 66%+ to gain some extra points for that qualification.

Did we do it? Read on to find out...

Getting prepared for a competition on a school night

This was strange - I think I've only ever done this once before when we had a test on a Saturday. By the time 6.30pm ticked over, Louie has sparkling white socks and we were part way through washing his tail, so even with a grey horse to prepare for dressage, it doesn't take too long. I was home and having my dinner by 7.30pm.

OK, so I always learn my tests the night before so that they are fresh in my mind and I don't have loads of time to overwork on things I think are a weakness. It took a few extra minites for me to get these two into my head, perhaps a bit of tiredness after a full day in the office...

Going to bed a little earlier, all I knew I had to do in the morning was to plait Louie and put all my tack and various bits in the horsebox. 

Competition day

Although it was a day off work, the alarm was still on for the usual 6am, but I defintely had more enthusiasm for getting up on time, even making time for breakfast before I left the house. 

But then... Andrew remembered we had no shavings for the horsebox! Louie wees on the box about 90% of the time, so going without isn't really an option. I needed to leave by about 8.30am and with no local horsey shops opening until 9am, it put the pressure on a bit. However, Andrew found a garage store that opened slightly earlier at 8.30am. 

After I plaited Louie, I needed to get the horsebox out and ready for the shavings and Louie to go on. The yard is a working cattle farm, so the farmer wa sbusy sorting his cattle, bringing the forklift into the barn with varous bales. Louie's a bit skittish when it's in there, so it was very kind that I had the farmer on hand to watch Louie while I went to get the box out, and he even kindl moved him into one of the outdoor stables while I was getting ready.

I took the decision to get my competition gear on while waiting, slightly apprehensive that I don't seem to have the ability to keep ANYTHING light coloured clean when I'm at the yard, but as I came out from getting changed, Andrew was there and had the shaving ready. 10-15 minutes later than expeteced and we were on our way.

We actually made good time and passing through a busy couple of intersections in rush hour wasn;t as bad as I had planned for. So we arrived in good time at the venue - Alnwick Ford Equestrian. Although it was showing as 11 degrees, there was a cold biting wind, so Andrew and I wrapped up and didn't get Louie off the shelter of the box until I needed to pop his tack on.

Warming up for our dressage test

It's funny - I really feel the cold, but as soon as I'm onboard, it never seems to bother me. But I was conscious that Louie was fully clipped without an exercise sheet, so after a walk round to stretch, we got straight to it.

Louie was a bit spookier than usual and almost felt a bit hot... There would have been a time this would have really annoyed and frustrated me, but I actually loved having him like this. He felt fantastic - responsive, obedient but with a bit of ping! 

I did 20 minutes outside in the venue'slarge outdoor arena, but heading indoors when the horse before me started their test. As it was a long arena, the warm up arena is only quite small, maybe 30x20m and I find, for me, it prevents keeping a good forward and through movement, so I try not to go in too early, but it is good to get them from outside to indoor for a few minutes before your test.

This venue is fab - there are mirrors in the indoor warm up and down the side of the test arena, so I can get a good view of the overall picture of Louie and make any final few tweaks.

Prelim 17A

Louie felt good in his test, a little inconsistent at points in his contact, but I've tried riding a slightly different way recently - taking a short rein contact and stronger calf contact. I was really pleased with the comments from this test, as although it highlighted these inconsistencies, Louie is no longer sitting with a neck and head carriage coiled up like a jack-in-the-box and seems happier to take the contact from me. Definitely a point to work on over the winter months.

Here's our test.

Even on a day like this, where Louie is a bit spookier, it's good to see (& feel) that he isn't full of tension and can go into the arena relaxed, listening & it feels like he enjoys it too! 

We had an hour in between tests so after a cool down, I took Louie back to the horsebox, untacked and let him enjoy a munch on his haylage for 20 minutes and take a break away from the wind. Andrew enjoyed watching the cricket on Sky while we waited, and I made sure I knew my next test inside out.

Prelim 19

I only really wanted 10-15 minutes to sharpen Louie back up, and again, only wanting a few minutes indoors before our test time. It had POURED with rain in between so the indoor was very appealing, but I knew this wans't for the best and thankfully it stopped just before I got Louie off to get tacked back up. 

He warmed up pretty much the same as the first time - a nice ping but obedient. Usually he can feel a bit tired in the warm up for his second test so it was a positive that he still had some jump. We headed in before our test, with Louie still feeling energetic. However, looking back at my test, I think this energy was being created from the different style of riding, which is great, but his tiredness came through rushing and becoming unbalanced. He's a little speedy whizzing around our test and I completely forgot the art of a good half halt!! 

Here's our test.

We have to canter over X while on a circle from A... I could feel Louie had gone a little short and know that if he has tension in his back, he'll buck to canter, so I tentatively asked for canter but a little too much so and got the buck anyway!! It didn't help that at the PetPlan Area Festival Finals we got a buck in the exact same space because he was tense over his back.

Overall, our comments were around improving the suppleness over the back, so it echos what I was feeling and has probably come from the more forward riding without the balancing to go along side it.

Dressage results

As I said at the start, this outing was all about point, and while I aimed for 2x 66%+ test scores to add to qualifying points, I would have happily settled for just one and aimed for more throughout November. 

However, I was thrilled to discover that we amassed ELEVEN points across the two tests - more than half of the qualification needs and more than what we needed to finish qualifying! Wahoo!!

We gained 70.17% in the Prelim 17A for second place overall, picking up 6 points, a lovely blue ribbon AND some pocket money for Louie!

In Prelim 19 I was surprised by our score - 69.79% - gaining third place overall & 5 points. While the score was high, I always check how the rest of the class sits around me, so to see that the winner was within 1% showed that if I can just correct these small things, we will be onto a great time!

What's next?

I'd set November aside to go through three competitions quite quickly as preparation for achieve enough 66%+ scores for Winter Regional qualification. 

  • Alnwick Ford Equestrian - 7th November
  • Todburn Equestrian - 11th November
  • Holmside Hall - 18th November 

As we've now hit this, I've changed my ambition, and would now like to scoop up three 63%+ scores at Novice Bronze, with at least one being in a qualifying class. I've got four tests to do it in, with two qualifiers. I've had a quick look at our tests for Sunday and I need to head in the school for 20 minutes before to check some of our buttons are just about correct... Walk to canter, change of canter lead through trot, 2x half 10m trot circle, lengthened stride in trot and canter. It's nothing we haven't done at home before, so I just need to keep calm and kick on!

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