Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Qualified X 3 !!!

Just before the 2010 competition season came to a close, Piper and I competed at the two back-to-back Vermont Dressage Days competitions in Burlington VT.   There, we rode in three classes per show:   Training Level Test 4, First Level Test 4, and USDF Freestyle.

The journey up to Burlington is not excessively long at 2 and a half hours, nor very challenging with most of the drive being on one highway.   However, talk about hilly!   At times, my truck labored up the Green Mountains at just under 50 miles per hour.   But, the truck soldiered on and we got there and back home perfectly well.

The Vermont Dressage Days competition is held at the Champlain Valley Exposition Center in Essex Junction.   The dressage arenas, warmup areas, and stables are all towards the back of the large site, on level ground.   Being close to the impressive Lake Champlain, the showgrounds enjoyed strong breezes, keeping the potential summer heat at bay.   The nights were pleasantly cool and Piper seemed comfortable in his temporary accommodations.

Qualifications Complete

One the first day of showing, Piper put in a good effort.   Enough to complete qualifications for First Level and First Level Freestyles.   That allowed day two to be free of any pressures and goals.   We were now fully qualified for the USDF Regional Championships in three categories!

The second day, however, turned out to be challenging in new ways.   The winds were quite strong.   Piper was on his toes while also being a bit tired.   An interesting combination.   He needed some reminding to pay attention and stay focused on the job, but also confidence to keep things together.   However, overall, he was more confident than I'd ever seen him.   Spook-free.   Braver.   More trusting.   It was pleasing progress for the naturally timid boy.

As for our freestyle, in the end, the music was not radically changed leading up to this competition.   A couple of little blips in the mixing were smoothed out, but that's all.   Instead of editing the music, I adjusted the choreography to match the phrasing.   Overall, the judges enjoyed the music, as did the audience.   And scores close to the 70% mark were earned, earning blue ribbons in both classes.

What's Next ?

The season's goal was to get to the USDF Regional Championships.   We have qualified, but we are not there yet.   And with horses (and life in general) you just never know what will be thrown your way.   However, the intentions are clear.   We are now entered in the 2010 Championships.

Until then, we will continue training, with focus on strengthening and balance with an eye towards improving our lengthenings.   While our lengthening scores have improved from 5 to 7 in the past couple months, there is always room for improvement.   And the work needs to progress from mere lengthenings to true medium paces.   And then eventually extended paces.

We will also continue to work on the contact, seeking a quieter more subtle yet more effective communication between horse and rider.   And from that, the ability to finetune the movements within the tests.

Dressage is a long journey.   First Level is not our final destination, but an enjoyable stop along the way.

Who's Next ?

Meanwhile, one of our 4 year old horses is now being prepared for his very first competition in October.   And THAT actually feels more exciting than anything else right now.   Competing at USDF Intro Level A & B, aka "the walk-trot tests", Big Ben and I will be taking those huge first steps together.

Very exciting indeed.

1 comment: