Friday, May 29, 2009

Another Competition

Monday was another competition for Ruby and me. This one was a schooling 2-phase (dressage and stadium jumping) that was hosted by my barn. It wasn't at the barn location however, so we still had to trailer over -- although it was in the same town, so there wasn't much traveling involved. It was another early morning (although, not as early as the previous two competitions had been). Luckily, this day from start to finish was gorgeous weather, mid-70s and sunny, with no humidity, so we finally lucked out in that regard.

We got to the show location early enough that I had plenty of time to wait around before I had to tack up. Of course this down time allowed for my nerves to build again, but the show was pretty low-key, so I don't think they ever got quite as bad as they had the week before. Finally it was time to get Ruby ready and tack up. I made my way down to the riding area and saw that they were allowing us to warm-up actually in the dressage ring. So I entered along with two other riders and started walking and trotting and doing figures to get Ruby listening and supple and on the bit. As I worked around the ring, I heard the dressage judge calling out, "turn him, bend him" WTF? After a couple of times around, I finally asked, "are you talking to ME?" LOL. Turns out she was schooling each rider as we came around to her end of the ring. It was a little unexpected, but kind of funny. I came out of the ring to ride around the rest of the area -- around the stadium jumping area, with the idea to work on some cantering as I felt it was too cramped with three riders in the dressage ring to do so. On the far opposite side of the stadium ring Ruby gave a BIG spook in a shady corner, she did not like that area at all. I knew that was going to be a problem later as three of the fences on the course needed to jump into that spooky corner. We came back to the area near the dressage ring and did a few transitions to canter and canter circles in each direction. That seemed to go okay and then Alison said that I could be next, if I wanted to be. I figure I might as well get it over with, so I said "sure".

Well, I felt that this dressage test was SO much better than the one the week before had been. Better also than our schooling had gone that week as well. She was responsive, on the bit and supple. I would lose the frame from time to time, but was able to get it back relatively quickly each time. Our canter transition and circle to the left wasn't too bad, and we made it back down the long side okay and transitioned back to trot in the right place. The canter to the right was rougher (as it always is), but I got the transition, maybe a smidge late, the circle wasn't great and I had a lot of trouble keeping her straight on the long side. BUT I actually got and kept the canter and transitioned back to trot more or less in the right place, so for us, that was a definite improvement. Once the test was done, the judge was very liberal with her comments (as she was with everyone) and told me that apparently I had incorrectly ridden a long diagonal somewhere, instead of a short one (???!!! how on earth I managed that one, I have no idea -- my nerves taking hold again, no doubt). She also said that I need to be more brave (at dressage, who knew?) But she also said that there had been some very good moments. More importantly, I was very happy with the test. We didn't have any of the spooking or hollow back/disobedience issues that I had experienced the week before. For the most part it was 'dressage" and not just riding around a ring willy-nilly. I was very happy with it overall. Alison also commented to me later that she felt that it had been a huge improvement over the week before. Of course, it had been scored more harshly than the test the week before, so the score didn't reflect the improvement. But it was a different judge and I wasn't all that concerned about it, to be honest. Once again I was relieved to be finished with it, but I ended the dressage part much more satisfied than I had last week.

They had decided to run the stadium jumping for each division back to back with the dressage, so I stuck around the ring to wait for my turn to jump (after trading my dressage whip with someone for a jumping bat and shortening my stirrups). The first jump on the course was a jump right into Ruby's spooky corner. As we were approaching it, I could feel Ruby slowing down and trying to evade it -- she did not want to jump towards the scary "monster" corner, no way! But no way was I letting her out of the very first fence! So I put my leg on her and we just trotted in and over it in an awkward way, but at least she went over it! The rest of the course was actually a bit ugly like that. Ruby was either frisky or spooky, we got some awkward spots, I brought her back in between obstacles to gain control, so she didn't get too strong and we just sort of muddled through. She didn't like the fences in her scary corner, but she did them. The rest she was very enthusiastic about, but maybe a little rushy. In the end it wasn't too pretty (I felt our stadium the week before had been much steadier) but we went clear, so it's all good.

Once the results were posted, it turns out that we got second in our division. I can't be too proud of that because the division wasn't really all that competitive. I think we probably should have been in the division above (and we certainly wouldn't have placed as well, had we been), but I had filled out the entry form right after I had gotten Ruby and I think before I had even had had a chance to jump her, so I was being conservative. The nice thing about where I was however, was that I was done relatively early and so could untack my horse and watch the rest of the show, unwind from my nerves and relax some. Of course, since I had trailered over with the barn, it also meant that I had to stick around all day, which made for another incredibly long day, but it was great to be able to watch everyone else compete in the various divisions. And it really was a gorgeous, gorgeous day, so no real hardship to hang out in the beautiful weather.

So another successful outing for Ruby. I figure that the more of this stuff that I can expose her to, the more she'll settle down and develop a "been there, done that" attitude. I had the opportunity to go to yet another competition this weekend (Sunday), Alison suggested it to me earlier in the week (I guess there was still room on the trailer). But I felt that I needed a break from this stuff, they always end up being such long, exhausting days (and there is also the prep work required the day before). Not to mention the toll it seems to take on my nerves! Although the more I go to these things, the more I'll end up with a "been there, done that" attitude myself! Still, I just couldn't face another weekend of it again so soon.

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