Sunday, July 20, 2008

King Oak Dressage Days

I was very lucky to have the chance this weekend to 'kick the rust off' and get some much need ring time at the King Oak Dressage Days in Southampton, MA. King Oak is a lovely farm that I've been to many times for their spring and fall horse trial, so it was a bit odd to drive into the parking lot and see the front xc field full of tent stabling and not jumps! The weather was very hot and humid, so it was also a good test of fitness (especially mine, given how thick my blood has been feeling of late!) over the long day. Everyone I met and spoke to was so nice and supportive, so it was a great atmosphere. Plus Dually and I actually did well!

Our first test was 2nd Level Test 3, the higher of the two we were doing for the day. Dually came out feeling very rideable and it was a pleasure to warm him up. I did my warmup without stirrups, which I found very helpful in getting me down in my seat and not pinching over the saddle and scrubbing him with my seat bones. I've been working on staying tall and requiring him to rock back to me, especially in the canter, and it was pretty magical to actually feel him coiling up like a spring on his hindquarters (like I've seen in so many illustrations in books!) and pushing forward. It was very uplifting, too, to carry this work forward into the test (I was very happy especially with how I dealt with him around the ring, staying calm and doing lots transitions and shoulder in, haunches in, etc, to keep him supple -- when the bell rang he automatically stiffened and I immediately made him halt, rein back, go forward, rein back, until he quit it, and it actually worked!), so I felt that the test as a whole had good flow and tempo and nice relaxation. His transitions, too, were spot on, because he was being so cooperative, but our medium gaits were nonexistent and he showed some serious resistance coming back from the medium canter. All three of my halts, too, were crooked, so we've definitely got some homework! We scored a 58.1% for 5th place.

After a 4 hour wait in the boiling heat, we had our second test (2nd Level Test 2). It was interesting to feel the difference in the warmup the second time: Dually was definitely more tired, finding it much more difficult to rock back than he had before. I guess that shows how much more strengthening we have left to do. He was a good sport, though, and still tried his heart out. When we got in the ring the bugs really began to bother him in earnest and he became distinctly more on edge; that combined with his and my fatigue and my nerves at discovering that I was riding for Brian Ross (a notoriously stiff judge who also judged my 'test that could have been' this spring at Poplar) definitely left us on a bit of a lower ground than we had started the first test with. I thought I did an ok job with my relaxation but could have done more and could have sat better as Dually began to stiffen. I was proud of several decisions, like really cracking him down into our simple change after he totally ignored me and lay on his side during our first canter -- our second canter after that was much nicer. In all it felt a little bit stiffer and more inaccurate, but it must not have been that bad because it garnered a 62.2% for 4th place in a larger field! His comments in the test were that it had good energy, straightness, and accuracy (I didn't feel the accuracy but perhaps I should recognize that), though we did lose points in the places I suspected. The icing on the cake: a 7 on rider! Brian also commented that Dually was a talented horse and gave him a 7 on gaits (I think a first!!) and gave some good advice on how I can improve as a rider. All in all a fabulous end to the day!

Here are some photos (courtesy of Papa):

(Dually showing off, as usual =D)

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