The Stanford Dressage Team had our first show of the year last weekend down at Cal Poly in beautiful (and I really mean beautiful!!) San Luis Obispo. Despite being just 5 members strong (as opposed to Cal Poly and Davis who both have over 20 people), with 3 of us performing our first IDA (or dressage at all!) tests ever, we had a great showing and came out team champions the first day and reserve the second. Wahoo! Go Stanford Dressage!
(Our haul on Day 1)
I kicked off the competition on Saturday with the first ride of the whole show, doing First Level Test 1 on a bay mare named Olivia. I was a bit apprehensive to ride her because she looked very sensitive, but I ended up LOVING her. Our fearless coach, Rachel, gave me some great guidance in our 10 minute warmup so that I had her as soft and through as I possibly could when we went in the ring.
I was also really happy with my mental preparation. I had actually taken time before I got on to remove myself from the group, zen out, and get in the zone (which is something I always want to do but never seem to give myself time for), and it really paid off: I felt like I rode one of the most accurate and correct tests I've ever done on any horse, ever. We did have one bobble in the medium walk that was totally my fault, but other than that I thought I made crisp transitions, both within the gait and from one gait to the next, and presented a really flowing, steady, nice picture. I had been so nervous because I really wanted to start the year off on the right foot, and so was almost overwhelmed with relief as I turned up the final centerline and made a nice halt and salute. Phew! The season had started in style!
It was a double delight after such a good feeling ride to be rewarded for it in the judging! I won my class with a 69% and got some really nice comments on my test. I also got two 8s and a 7 in the three rider categories in the collective marks which might be a first for me. Very exciting!
(Rachel coaching Marilu)
The rest of the team also did amazingly on Saturday. In Upper Training, Christy battled it out against a ton of other really qualified well-prepared riders for 4th place and a career high score. In Lower Training, Michelle did a great job with a horse she found challenging and ended in 3rd. Finally, as one of the last riders of the day, our Intro rider Marilu showed off her wonderful poise and tactful riding in her first competition EVER to finish in 2nd place. Yay!! I was so blown away by and proud of how everyone on our team rode. It was a huge icing on the cake to win the team competition against some very good teams.
(Marilu on Honey)
Sunday dawned very early and once again I started the team off in First level (though mercifully this time I was spared the joy of starting the whole competition off). I drew Dancer, who was the horse I rode to victory in my very first IDA show ever two years ago. Unfortunately, I think I took this as an excuse to not quite be as mentally prepared as I had been on Saturday, with the result that I rode the entire warmup and test with a bit less flair and precision than I should have. It still felt very good in places, but I definitely didn't walk away from it feeling as elated as I had after my ride on Olivia. I also made one very large mistake where I allowed Dancer to swap out his lead literally the stride before I was planning to come back to trot (d'oh!! So close!!) which I knew was going to hurt my score.
I ended up second by .5%, which I knew I deserved but was still a little bummed about because I could point to such concrete things that I knew I could have prevented that would have given me the win. Such is dressage! I still got some very nice comments and got another round of two 8s and a 7 in my rider collectives (and we had different judges each day, making it doubly rewarding), so I was very very pleased.
It's also exciting how good the First Level division is in IDA this year. There are a lot of good riders and the scores are really close, so little details of showmanship really count. I really think that riding in IDA this year is going to help my riding as a whole, so I'm seriously looking forward to the rest of the season.
(Big smiles for a job well done!)
Again, everyone else on the team was really inspiring. Christy rode a good test on a horse we all wanted to take home to come 5th in Upper Training, while Michelle rode her horse beautifully for 3rd place in Lower. Our individual Olivia rode a superb test in Lower Training (in her first pure dressage test ever!) to come 2nd.
Marilu had to deal with the most drama of anyone on out team when the horse she had drawn had to be substituted at the last minute for another one with a completely different way of going. She did a great job rolling with the punches and, despite some moments of tension in the ring, came out with 4th place. In the end we were tied with another team for 2nd place and won the tiebreaker with our collective rider marks, which was a great end to a fabulous weekend!
(Marilu making her last-minute Intro horse look wicked fancy)
As the show ended, I felt really overwhelmed with how well everything had gone. Cal Poly ran a great show, the horses were turned out beautifully (every single horse was braided!!) and were a pleasure to ride, everyone we talked to was so nice and friendly, there was so much good riding and horsemanship going on, our coach Rachel was fabulous as always, and of course everyone on our team really rose to the occasion and put in great performances. It was a weekend that really got me excited for the next IDA adventure!
(This was how I celebrated a weekend well ridden - grilled cheese (already inhaled by the time this photo was taken), salad (for aesthetic purposes only), and onion rings. It's a good life)