How you can finish dead last in your division and still win.

(as per usual, no media!)

So I've spent the last several months of radio silence in serious work mode. The Red Mare is slowly making the transition from obstinate mule (sorry mules) to team player. Thanks to a new jump saddle (Thornhill Germania) which I am also using for dressage/flatwork, lessons, and wet saddle pads, we are making strides (hahaha) in submission! Which brings me to the title of this post.

This past weekend we headed up to the Canton area for our first CT in....5 years? And really, that last CT was just groundpoles. This time we did a 2'3" Starter course. I had wanted to go Beginner Novice but AC pointed out that this was supposed to be a good experience for DragonMare so we dropped down to Starter. I did have the option of a schooling jumper round at Beg. Nov so I signed up for that too.

AC's mare GrayGoose and DragonMare have never been the best of friends - they tolerate each other. This weekend though, you would have thought they were born from the same womb and NEVER separated before. SO MUCH HOLLERING! It was Dassah DragonMare for the entire time just bugling and hollering and throwing a MAJOR temper tantrum every time she couldn't see GrayGoose.

So our warmup was a crap shoot and we ended up walking in circles and changes of rein and loops and serpentines until she stopped jigging in place. Then it was time to go in for our Intro C dressage test. She held it together really well and while it was ugly (highest score was a 6.5, lowest a 5), it wasn't a disaster. Our centerlines and canter circles were drunken wobbles held together by sheer will power. The free walk was surprisingly solid - comment from the judge was she needed her head lower but had a good march. we got a 5.5 on that. Apparently our halt at x was mobile but I counted at least 4 seconds of non movement, so I don't know about that. Maybe it was the head bobbing or the hollering? :D

Anyway, the dressage test was not about competing but about experience and I'm really proud of DragonMare. We got "needs more forward" several times and that is enough to make me feel like we just finished the Olympics. We also got a lot of "tense" and "needs relaxation" but yeah, that was expected. Our trot circles were geometrically solid but tense.

Then we went back out to warm up and schooled the vertical, cross rail, and oxer and she took me to them but came right back afterwards. Eventually. GrayGoose was in the indoor for her test and DragomMare just.could.not.even.

After AC and GrayGoose were finished with their test, AC held Dassah and I walked my course. I did not do as Denny Emerson says and walk it three times - it was the longest course ever and they had let me go between competitors. Since I wasn't counting strides and she can walk over a 2'3" fence, I was focused more on how much space I had between fences to get her to come back to me. We've been schooling a slow, submissive trot between fences - if she grabs the bit and speeds up, she likes to run out if she doesn't like the fence. If I can get her back and focused on me, she's honest and jumps beautifully.

So then we went in for our round and came out with 45 time penalties. The stadium round had a time limit of 1 minute 29 seconds. At Spring Bay where AC ran Beginner Novice, her time limit was similar but the course was MUCH shorter. Whatever. Fine. It wouldn't have made a difference except that we would have gotten 6th out of 7 instead of 7th.

The big win though was that I rode DragonMare to each fence, over each fence, and after each fence. She came back to me instantly and our round was BEAUTIFUL. We trotted the entire round except for the two stride combination and even then she was listening to me. The fences all had flowers and were beautifully decorated but she ignored all that and took each fence like she was bored out of her skull.

We didn't have to circle once in this round - we just took it nice and slow and relaxed. At the trot. And we won, big time.

I changed my Beg. Nov round down to another Starter round after conferring with AC. We both agreed another relaxed round would be the better experience. AC left GrayGoose at the trailer and wouldn't you know it, I had a different horse. The first round went without any hollering. This round was filled with hollering and hollowness. But we actually had a better round. This time she came back to me even more quickly than the first round! We circled several times just because I really wanted her to listen to me - and she did! I had a willing (albeit distracted) partner. I could have cantered her several times but I didn't feel the need. These schooling shows are about building confidence, patience, and and experience.

So while this experience was sans-satin and I lost to 12 year olds, we won big time.


  1. sounds like a lot of learning happened and thats a win in my book!

  2. yay congratulations on checking off all the things you wanted to do! sounds like an overall positive experience for the horse (despite all that hollering... sheesh mare!). also what on earth starter division does timed jump rounds?!? anyway, glad it felt like such a big win! :D


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