Summer shows
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Tuesday, July 30, 2013 12:38 PM
So far I took Santo to two dressage shows this season. Both of the them were EC (Equine Canada) Gold Level shows. I like these shows because they invite very experienced judges, often with FEI status. This is a great opportunity to be in front of someone who judges international competitions and have developed skills and eyes to give accurate assessment comparable to the rest of the judging world. In the spring I was thinking of doing a small schooling show. However, with no access to indoor arena, late spring and no convenient dates of those shows I ended up going to a gold show as my first competition this year. My plan was to ride tests 2 and 3 every day for all three days of competition. It worked out really well.
The first show was at the end of May and I had about 4 weeks of arena work done. I didn't know exactly what to expect because I couldn't even practice whole tests due to my outdoor arena being 40x20 and First Level tests are designed for 60x20 ring. Two weeks before the show I bought a truck and a horse trailer, my first ever! Taking horses to the show was my first practice of driving loaded trailer! The trip was 175 km and it was windy. I cannot say it was fun, it was nerve racking! But I did it and brought horses to the showgrounds safe and sound. We came first so I could park the trailer without killing anyone :)
Managing Santo at shows is not a difficult task. However, it is important to keep him happy with good mix of activities such as going for walks or grazing, eating hay, working under saddle, etc. He does not like staying tied for a long period of time so after braiding we go for a walk. After doing both tests I usually rinse him off and take him for a nice long graze.
Also, it important to keep my own nerves at check. Going to shows is one of the ways to learn how to stay calm at the shows :). The more I do it the easier it is to control emotions. When I am nervous I move faster when I do things. Taking deep breaths, making little stops and watching time is really helpful for me to stay relaxed and focused on tasks. Santo requires careful time management when it comes to tacking him up. I cannot prepare him 15 minutes earlier and then let him stand waiting. Developing a good routine is very helpful.
The May show had a very bad weather - rain, cold and wind. During one of our tests it was blowing up to 60 km/h and cold rain into our faces. Santo wanted to buck at warm up :) However, he did a super job in the ring. He tried so hard and listened despite of moving directly into the wind and rain at regular intervals. Our best tests were inside. Santo shows well in indoor arenas, less distraction... We got 67% and 69%. I have 67% test on video. Please click here to watch it.
Santo won every class and ended up a Grand Champion in First Level Open division. We also achieved our personal best of 69%, it was last test on Sunday and it was indoors. I tried to incorporate everything judges have been telling me during the show and it worked pretty well. Overall, I was very pleased with Santo. His behavior and how he was trying hard for me was the biggest satisfaction of all.
The second show was July 19-21. Again, my plan was to ride tests 2 and 3 every day and work with judges comments. The home work from the last show was working on lengthenings in trot and canter. I felt like we did improve, especially, in canter. However, with just a bit more than a month work trot lengthenings were work in progress as Santo does not have an easy natural extension and we need to work on building it.
Friday didn't go very well. Right from the start Santo wasn't in the mood to cooperate. It is very hard to keep him focused and supple when he is looking for an excuse. First test we got 65%. For the second test I made a mistake of making a warm up longer and harder than needed and Santo was completely uncooperative. I felt like he was saying to me:"Go away and leave me alone!" We ended up making a mistake in simple change of lead through trot and got only 61%. After test I was mad, I took him into the warm up ring and worked him very hard for a few minutes asking for forwardness, focus, obedience and engagement. When he agreed I dismounted.
Saturday I had my best ride of the show :) It was the test 3. Santo felt so nice as I never felt him before. He was with me all the time - agreeable, focused and soft. He was so different compare to Friday and such a pleasure to ride. We got 67% and luckily I have this test on video. Please click here to watch.
It rained Saturday night and turned the footing into a soup for Sunday. The indoor arena was offered to us as a warm up ring and it threw Santo off. Plus coming out to a slippery ring for the tests didn't help with his relaxation and suppleness. After the last test I commented to the judge about the slippery footing and she said that "you really must keep your horse together to ride in such conditions." I understood she wasn't really pleased with us :) We got 65% and 64%.
We ended up third overall and we placed in every class. However, the impression of the show was that we could have done better and performed cleaner and more accurate tests. But the experience and judge's comments are invaluable. Plus we got lots of 7s and even a few 7.5s and 8s for different movements in different tests which told me we have the potential. We just need to learn how to put it all together into one test, ha-ha!
Shows for me are huge catalyst for improvement. After each show I see how we need to pay more attention to everything. All of a sudden I realize that I am sloppy and must ride with more engagement, more obedience, better balance, more accuracy, better form, etc. The list is endless :) So far, Santo has responded very positively to extra demands. I feel he has matured and is much more willing to listen and work harder as long as I am fair and very clear on what I need him to do.
Right now I feel that I am done with First Level. It is not really productive to stay there just to get better scores. I am planning to go to a Bronze show at the end of September and I want to try Second Level. I still have 2 months to work on it. Doing Second Level will give me an idea where we stand and a good homework for winter.
Happy riding...
 
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