Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Massive Recap

(Fair warning: this post is truly a doozie, though I promise there will be tons of pictures and videos and a minimum of giant impenetrable blocks of text. Either way, buckle up.)

So... it's August 21. And I haven't updated my blog in three weeks. How did that happen? Well...

First, I took a week of vacation and visited my best friend from college and her family at the Lutheran bible camp in Michigan that they visit every summer:


 (Archin' - I came in 2nd in the all-camp women's archery tournament!)

 (My friend Clare being a ninja on the teeter totter)

 (The camp's 'recreation quilt' - I took full advantage of the 'resting' and 'dining' elements)

 (Playing my banjo in the outdoor chapel)

And it was awesome.

By the time I'd gotten back, these had come in the mail:

(My silver medal pin!)

(And my certificate!)

Then before I knew it, it was time to turn right back around and head off to beautiful Saugerties, New York, for the biggest dressage show Ringo and I had ever gone to. Seriously, it was massive: permanent stabling for 1400 (!!) horses (though there were 'only' 400 competing this weekend), at least 15 massive arenas that were each big enough to hold between two and six standard arenas, and trade fair and horse show extras as far as the eye could see. 

(Me and Ray checking out the big grand prix arena, where the CDI classes were held)

(Not a shabby view! Pa and I loved the slate fieldstone walls that went all the way around the big arenas)

It was hard not to get intimidated. There were soooooo many outrageously classy horses, and it felt like out of the 400 competitors, 500 of them were competing at PSG or above. I was really glad to have Kim there for the weekend, as she was able to guide me through my nerves and get me and Ringo feeling as fancy as possible.

(Getting nice and relaxed in warmup)

On Saturday we competed in a big open PSG class (32 horses total split into two sections with the same judging panel). Ringo felt a little crooked in warm up, but with Kim's help (and a lot of leg yields), he was feeling fresh and ready to roll in no time. Since I already have gotten my silver medal, Kim suggested that I use this test as a preparation looking towards NEDA Championships in the fall, and try to add a little more sparkle and power, where up until now I've been happy with being as conservative as possible and just trying to survive.

Here's what we ended up with:

In general, I thought I did a pretty good job of going for more, but there were definitely some elements that still needed improving. While my medium and extended trots were the best we've done in a test yet, our walk work was a little lackluster and our pirouettes were still... pretty bad. I was also annoyed with the tempis, which are something that we definitely have the ability to score well on and that I rode poorly and ended up flubbing in pretty much exactly the same manner as I did at Puckerbrush. Poo.

So overall I thought I did an OK job but not great, and certainly wasn't expecting a ribbon in such a big and competitive class. Imagine my surprise, then, when I ended up 4th with a 63.4%!! Even if the class hadn't been split into sections, I would have come 6th out of over 30 horses. Eeeee!!!! What a good boy Ringo!!

As in previous tests, I had an unusually large split between the two scores of my judging panel--just over 60% from one judge and a 66.7% from the other. I think Ringo is a horse that judges either really like or really don't and am at peace with that at this point, so it wasn't too surprising. The judge I received a 66.7% was an FEI 5* judge (the highest rating of judge there is) and placed me first in the class, so no complaints!!

(My last page from the 5* judge who gave me a 66.7% - pretty awesome to see eight 7.0s out of ten movements!!)

On Sunday, I competed in a 4th Level Adult Amateur Challenge, which meant competing in a Dressage Seat Equitation class in the morning and a 4th Level Test 2 in the afternoon. Prior to this July when a girl at my barn did one at Lendon Gray's Dressage 4 Kids festival, I'd never even heard of Dressage Seat Equitation classes, and definitely didn't really know what I was getting into. It ended up being a lot like a traditional hunter/jumper equitation class on the flat: the judge stood in the center with a scribe, called out commands like walk, trot, etc, and then judged us on our position as we performed them.

Here's a snippet of my class:

In general I thought the class was a lot of fun and a great idea for something to promote better riding among amateurs at the lower levels. However, I had a few qualms with how my particular class was run. Specifically, my class was designated as a "4th Level Dressage Seat Equitation" class, and at the beginning the judge explicitly said that we would be tested on 4th level movements and skills. So, I was expecting perhaps some half passes at trot or canter, maybe some pirouette canter, and for sure at least one flying change.

It was a let down, then, when our test consisted of rising trot (umm... this is not part of 4th level), medium and extended walk, a turn on the haunches at walk, collected and medium (sitting) trot, and collected canter. And that's it. Boo. I definitely feel like my strengths as a rider become more obvious with increased difficulty, so it was frustrating not to get to show off my skills at this level.

In the end I placed 3rd (out of 4) with a score of 72%. The judge's comments, I will say, were pretty much in line with the things Kim drills me on regularly at home: keeping my leg underneath me in trot, keeping my head straight over my shoulders, and keeping my thumbs on top. So it's not as if I thought she was being unfair; I just wish it had been a truer test for the level we are supposedly at.

It was a fairly quick turnaround that afternoon to come back for the 4-2 test. I was a little disheartening to see as I was cantering around the arena that I was riding for the same judge that had done the DSE class (who was also, coincidentally, the judge who had given me my lower score at PSG!). By this point I felt like the judge had a pretty set notion of what Ringo's and my skills were, and that it was going to be an uphill battle to break out of that box.

So in that light, I was pretty disappointed with my test. I thought I did a good job continuing to push the trotwork to the next level as Kim has been urging us to do, but that I was sloppy and inaccurate. Then numerous parts of the canter fell to pieces that we don't normally mess up. I think Ringo was a little more tired than I thought he was from the weekend's exertions, and since I was tense and focused on trying to push push push I wasn't there to support him when he needed it. As I made my final salute I knew I hadn't done enough to convince this judge that we deserved more than we'd shown in our DSE class, and it felt really frustrating.

Here's our test:

We did end up with a 62.9% which was enough to bump us up to a 63% aggregate score and 2nd overall in the AA Challenge. We won a beautiful whip and $75 cash, which I must say definitely went a long way to smoothing over my feelings of disappointment, haha. In general I really liked the format of this challenge and would love to do it again, though I do think there were a few elements of the setup and judging that I'd love to see changed going forward.

Overall though goodness, what a show. I already knew how incredibly special Ringo is, but it was thrilling to get to show that off to such a big crowd and to have it be recognized by others. This was my second to last show with Ringo, so it really felt special. I'm so lucky to have been able to go, and to have had the support of Kim and my dad there, and my mom back at home (who graciously took over my chores while I was away). I'm excited to head back for the New England Championships a month from now!

(The most beautiful creature)


Jess said...

Congratulations! I'm so impressed by how you've taken the dressage world by storm.

L.Williams said...

Don't be so hard on yourself, I think you guys are awesome, plus omg saugs, superjelly.

Kate said...

Wow, Kate, Saugerties is a big deal!! You have really moved up the ranks and done it with class and style. Way to go!!

Austen Gage said...

What an update! You guys look fantastic, and so composed in that PSG test! I'm so happy to follow your journey with Ringo (and all the others!).

redheadlins said...

Looks like you've had great couple of weeks, way to go at the show!

Katie said...

I can't even imagine competing at a show like that, AND at 4th/PSG, AND as well as you guys did! Way to go!

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