I feel like I start all these posts with something incredibly corny and gushy about my horses, but I just can't help it: they were both soooo good today!
I did manage to get the class changes I wanted, meaning that Kiki started the morning bright and early at 8:35 with a redo of First Level Test 1. This is where the multi-day dressage show became super helpful, because I really felt like I had some guidance from the comments from my previous day's test that were still fresh in my mind and try to apply this time around. I focused on having Kiki be steadier and quieter in her tempo, consistent in the contact NO IFS AND OR BUTS, and more accepting of my leg. This meant lots of patient leg yielding in the warmup, but it really paid off. She was MILES better in her test compared to yesterday. And, we were actually rewarded in the judging! She didn't get a hugely better score but she did break into the much-coveted 60% region and the judge wrote really nice comments, so I was thrilled. Good girl!
(Classic Kiki-induced smile/grimace - when you might want to cry, but all you can do is laugh)
(Kiki showing off her suspiciously good medium trot, while I show off my wacky new habit of playing with with my tongue in moments of concentration... Bad Kate!)
(You've come a long way, Baby)
(WHITE TAIL BITCHES)
(Actually square! It only took us six attempts!)
After a few hours, in which time I washed and braided Ringo, Kiki and I came back for her last test of the weekend, First Level Test 2. She was, I thought, even better than before, with our test marred only by a mistake of my doing where I half-halted a little too eagerly in the corner while cantering and Kiki, feeling a bit tired from the weekend's exertions, broke to trot. Whoops! But she broke very nicely and trotted beautifully, so no complaints =) She ended up getting another 58% (a bit undeservedly I thought this time, but it was a different judge who was scoring very harshly so what can you do) but the comments were yet again very helpful. I'm so happy I decided to bring her because I feel like I have a real direction to head with her in our training over the next few weeks.
(Flying! I wish I didn't look so lumpy, but there you go)
(Leg yielding - I've lost the hind end a bit but she's still being remarkably obedient given some of our practice attempts in warmup!!)
(Trying very very hard)
(Looking so relaxed! Shocking)
Finally, it was Ringo's turn to finish out the weekend in First Level Test 3. He felt a little tired in warmup but still put in a great effort, just ending up a little sticky off my leg in some of the leg yields. 1-3 is pretty reminiscent of the eventing Prelim tests, with leg yields off the rail, medium trots and canters, and that damn KXH shallow serpentine loop of canter that I never seemed to be able to figure out. So, it felt like real redemption to go in today and rock it!
Ringo was faultless, and every point we lost was my error (mostly involving getting him a little too tight in his neck at times - a classic problem for us). We got several 8s, including one for our first medium trot (yes!!! SWEET REDEMPTION!! After always feeling like an idiot at Gina's for never being able to get it right!!) and one for me on rider (another serious WAHOO because it's a first!). He finished with a 69.5% which was enough to win a seriously big and competitive class. What a champ!!
(I'm sort of yawing off to the side... unclear)
(Free walk, another one of Ringo's natural strengths)
(Another good picture spoiled by my wacky hands - clearly the judge who gave me an 8 on my position was looking away during this moment!)
(Ringo showing off his mega-powerful medium canter - as close as we're getting to galloping these days...)
In terms of Bronze Medal goals, we're now officially half way there! I have both my first level scores (technically I could choose from Ringo's 67%, his 69%, or Kiki's 60%, which all qualify as they all came from different judges) and am still sitting on a 2nd level score that I got with Dually way back in 2008. Of course, the second half will presumably take a bit more doing, as being competitive at 3rd level is still seeming pretty far away at the moment, but I'm really excited to keep going!
At the moment Ringo's next show isn't until mid-September in California, though I may try to go to Saugerties the third week in August if I can work it schedule/time/money wise. It might be for the best to wait until September (as eager as I am to show him again), as the thing we need to work on most between here and 2nd and 3rd level is strength building to get his frame more consistently elevated and collected, and that's just going to take good old fashioned time. Still, very exciting to contemplate showing with Ringo again!!
Kiki, on the other hand, is in for a big treat next weekend as she and I get to ride in a clinic with GOD (aka: Jim Wofford). I've gotten to ride with him once before, back in 2009 with Dually, and had a great time, so I'm really excited to do it again! We've been in full-on dressage mode for the past week, so I think Kiki will enjoy the chance to put her jumping shoes back on again.
I'm in the process of making excel sheets of all my tests for the weekend (with scores and comments), which I should hopefully have up by tomorrow.