Thursday, September 18, 2008

Final Show Day for Piper

The last day of the big show. Sunday. Unlike Saturday, the rain stayed away. The morning was lovely. (Later that afternoon, however, it was Very Hot & Humid. Uncomfortable riding weather.) But for Piper who only had morning tests, the weather was wonderful.

Training Level Test 2 was our first class on Sunday. I like this test a lot. It flows easily, it allows canter transitions to happen within an area instead of at a letter, and it has trot diagonals which show off Piper's paces nicely. In a schooling show, Piper broke the 70% mark with this test.

However, on Sunday, as we started down the centerline, something happened. Suddenly, he was twitching and pinning his left ear, twisting his neck to escape whatever was annoying him. Amazingly, he tried to continue to pay attention to his rider, but it was difficult for him.

An hour and a half later, he had his next and last test of the show. Training Level Test 4. A 2009 Qualifier. For this, he was a star and I could not have been happier. He pulled off a 67.2%, a mere 0.8% from the Open / Professional Rider's Training Level qualifier score. He earned 2nd Place.

And with that, Piper had completed 5 tests at the NEDA Fall Festival of Dressage, with an average score of 64.18%. Very nice. But more importantly, he grew up quite a bit in the four days. And that was great!

Next stop: MRF Dressage in October for one last schooling show in 2008.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Jeddien Does Well, Too!

Meanwhile, by the close of Saturday evening, Jeddien has also completed a few tests. She came 5th in the 3rd Level Sweepstakes, winning $50. She also came 7th in the USDF Region 8 3rd Level Open Championships with a 61%. The class was won by Ann Gribbons with a 67%. And maybe best of all, Jeddien pulled off a 60% score for 4th Level Test 2, a test which pushes her to her current limits.

One cool thing about the NEDA Fall Festival of Dressage show is that they use FoxVillage.COM software and website for their show entries. This means that all of our results are posted online.

It also allows dressage fans to scrutinize scores given by each judge instead of just seeing the final scores... often a source of conversation back in the barn. It is sometimes difficult to understand how 2, 3, or 5 judges watching the same test can give very different scores, but that is part of the nature of subjective sports.

But along with subjectiveness, the dressage competitor also gets 7 minutes of an expert's full attention, their impressions, and their commentary. It is all a good thing.

3 Tests Later

Thursday evening, after the day of competition closed, we were able to school in the competition arenas. We were thrilled to see that judge booths were no longer an issue. And so we just schooled.

Friday morning, Piper and I followed another horse across the bridge and over to the most distant warmup arena were we had a good warmup. We did our walking squares and lots of transitions. Then we headed over to the competition arena were we put in a decent test.

Saturday morning, Piper's eyes were NOT on stalks any longer. He still looked for a lead past the scariest things, but seemed to be looking and taking things in instead of worrying about everything. It felt like a little breakthrough. I was pleased.

The warmup went okay. And the test went well. So, for the first three tests, Piper earned 62, 65, and 68.

3 tests later, sure, we have more work to do. But at this stage, the smile on my face says it all. Piper Warrior has come a long way this weekend and I could not be happier!

Show Time!

And so, here we are in Saugerties, New York at the NEDA Fall Festival of Dressage. Both Piper and Jeddien travelled beautifully and settled into their stalls without problems.

Thursday morning, Piper was up first at 8:24 am for Training Level Test 1. With my own heart pounding louder than usual, we followed Georg across the wooden bridge, past the farrier & vet station, and along the groomed horse path past the vendor tents and sponsor banners to the warmup area. Poor Piper had eyes on stalks as he was bombarded with an overwhelming number of new sights and sounds. But as long as Georg was in front of him, he followed.

In the warmup arena, Piper felt the pressure was off and was able to settle down to do some work. It was promising.

Venturing to the competition arena was easier. 4 of the 6 arenas are clustered together. A gathering place for horses, spectators, and golf carts. Golf carts are not an issue. And people and horses are a comfort to him. So, once near the arenas, he breathed again.

To avoid setting Piper up for failure or stress, we followed Georg past the judge's booth before starting our circuit around the arena. No problem. And the test, with exception to a little spooking near C, went well. Piper earned 62% at his first test at the NEDA Fall Festival of Dressage competition. More importantly, he coped.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Walking Squares with Two Days to Go

Piper's first class at the big New England Dressage Association Fall Dressage of Dressage is on Thursday morning at 8:24. Training Level Test 1. An hour later, I ride Jeddien at Third Level Test 2. The rest of the day is wide open. I'll probably volunteer a few hours of my time to help the NEDA team.

Two days and counting.

Piper was a little star today. He worked well indoors. Today, we did quite a bit of walking squares. These are 12 to 15 metre squares with corners done via the turn on the forehand movement. Snappy reactions to my aids while staying on the bit are what I'm looking for in this work. And I got it.

This work then helps make Piper more responsive to my inside leg, allowing me to quietly push him out more in the canter circles, preventing him from falling in, which he sometimes will do to the left.

Good canter work. Obedient reactions. And so we went for a quick trail ride, the long way around to the outdoor arena.

At the outdoor arena, he spooked a little when riding right up to the judge's tent, which I have to admit is looking pretty tatty after all the wind storms of late, but he was rideable. And that is the only purpose for the tent. It is destined to go in the trash before the first snows.

After a few minutes walking back and forth past the tent, we rode Training Level Test 1. Really well. I was so pleased.

And so, with only two days left to go, I rode Piper back to the barn with a true sense of calm I rarely feel with him. It felt good. I leaned forward, kissed his neck, and told him he's going to be my next dressage star.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

7 Days to Go

Next week this time, we will have completed our first day of competition at the NEDA Fall Festival of Dressage. But that's still 7 days away.

And so we continue training. Transitions, little trail rides, test patterns under the shadow of our scary "judge tent", and night time walks down the driveway.

How Piper will behave on the day is an unknown. But in the leadup, he is getting better and better to ride. Canter work improves. Transitions improve. And playing around with variations in trot tempos have resulted in Piper showing improved submission and response to my aids.

7 days to go. It feels like it is approaching too quickly. And yet it also feels like it is months away.