Monday, April 11, 2016

We Did It!

What a weekend! Ben tried for a last ditch effort to get out of going to the show - on Friday afternoon he pulled a shoe. Never fear, our fabulous farriers came out on Saturday morning and got it tacked on - sorry buddy, oldest trick in the book!

Losing the shoe though did mean that Ben had the dreaded 2 days off... which really sucks because he was going to get a training ride on Friday. He also had to stay in for the farriers, so no turn out. And then he was on a trailer for a couple of hours. And then stalled. Ugh, I was dreading having to put the ride on him. And at first, yes, it was rough. The time off coupled with deeper-than-ideal footing, which Ben never does well in, the warm up was icky. But once we got outside and had a lesson it got better.

The next day, the warm up again was rough, but a little better than the day prior. When headed out to go to our first test, the poor boy thought we were done and was quite shocked when we made the turn to head to the arena, LOL. I could feel his enthusiasm drop a little- and then to make matters worse, he caught sight of, gasp, spectators. The funny thing about Ben is that he never gets naughty, nor does he spook when he is scared. Ben gets very, very sticky. And true to form, he ground to a halt to take it in. The entire first test he never really got over it. He lacked confidence and thus was pretty much behind my leg the entire time. No real extensions, no stretching, just a robotic test in tension, with grinding galore. Ick.

So as icky as it was, I knew we could do better, though I wasn't much excited to actually do it. The 2nd test was 2 hours later, so time for some recovery. However, I  thought of scratching. I figured I'd do a real quick warm up and if he was still struggling then I'd not push it. But then my trainer suggested I don't warm up at all in the deeper footing, and rather go take him for a walk outside, and even go in one of the outdoors down below. So we went down there and turns out that was an excellent idea.

Ben warmed up great. He was in really good spirits so I decided to give Test #2 a try, which was 1-1 again. I'm glad I did. He did SO well...with exception of breaking the canter on the first left lead, and then bucking when I put him back into it, haha. Everything else was great. I got actual lengthenings, a stretchy trot, and nice canter work. His 1/2 circles were lovely and through. Everything felt a million times better.

The first test we scored 59% and deserved it, maybe even less to be honest. He came in 4th out of 7. The 2nd test was a 63.5% MUCH better. Ben came in 2nd, out of 6 in the class.

Elated, over the moon. 1st show in 2 years, at a new level for us, too.

No other shows planned for yet. Few other things on my plate in the next couple of months, but if another opportunity comes up, we might just go for it!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Last week I sent in our entry for this schooling show - choosing 1-1, after having run through it a bit with my trainer. We actually did a pretty decent job, so I felt pretty good about it. Total excitement.

Then Saturday came. Ben had 2 days off. That ride, just like the Saturday prior, was not fun. He was sluggish, stuck, chompy and just icky. Any ask was greeted with tension and running. Of course my husband was there and got a few quick videos. I will say that as compared to the videos from back in December, Ben looks loads better, as a pair we definitely look more powerful and put together. But GAH oh my eyes - I can see on the videos all the moments of ick, which is what I was feeling under saddle. There were a few good moments - don't get me wrong. We had a good canter, a good leg yield and a good extended trot. But the majority of it wasn't great at all. I found a spot where I got some relatively passable work and ended it there.

I walked away from it feeling horrible, feeling bad for Ben, and then the dread/ buyers-remorse for having entered us in this show at 1st level. Images of being the laughing stock of the show were swirling in my mind. The embarrassment of having the audacity to bring a Standardbred to a dressage show, and at 1st level no less. The embarrassment for my trainer who said I should do it. And then poor Ben - am I asking for too much? Maybe I'm not looking at things clearly and he really should just not be made to do this work? Quit now, quit now, quit now.

I knew I couldn't actually quit or bail on the show. Sunday turned out to be a lovely sunny day, so I went out to try again. My goal was to be as light and soft as possible. I also had a theory running through my mind, based on this little pattern I'm seeing with my dear gelding. 1 day off= good. 2 days off=icky. Knowing that last week my second ride was loads better, I opted to go for it.

And I'm glad I did. Everything was thousands of times better. He was forward, engaged, happy. We worked on adding some shoulder-in at walk and shoulder-fore at trot. The trot is really hard for him - his legs get jumbled and he gets pacey. However, we did get a few good strides, with lots of praise. Everything else- the canters, the trots, the circles, all were great.

So I left the barn feeling much better than the day prior- a bit redeemed, and dreading this coming weekend a bit less ;) I think we'll still stick out like sore thumbs as compared to all the fancy horses that will be showing with us, but I'm not going to care about that. This is about developing us, and not comparing us to the "competition." And so, a few more rides this week, 1 day to rest, and Sunday here we come!