Friday, March 28, 2008

Baby Boomer Dreams - Dandy's Story - Dressage

Part 1

I had a couple more weeks of lessons on the Arabian horse before the weekend of the dressage schooling show arrived. We didn't work on anything different that we had been. I rode the horse on a circle and asked him to flex to the inside and to the outside at all three gaits. That was about it.

The horse and I were getting better and better each ride. Even when I wasn't taking my weekly lesson, the horse was schooling well. I felt like we were coming along well with this new discipline.

I didn't really think about exactly what I should be preparing for the dressage show. Obviously, Tom didn't either. I assumed if there was something I needed to know that he would make sure that I did.

I had never even seen a dressage test written or ridden. Dressage was just something I heard talked about. I saw a couple of people school their horses in dressage but those people were not good riders and the horses looked really unbroke to me. There was nothing to learn by watching them. I had no real frame of reference. I trusted Tom's judgement.

So I guess you could say I was really unprepared for this "thing" I had said I would do. All I knew for sure was that I was going to be riding my horse alone in the ring. There would be letters posted on the walls and I would need to "do" things at those letters. How would you like to ride your first dressage test under those circumstances?

In case you are wondering, I'm not really a risk taker, not in circumstances like this anyway. I'm known more for doing lots and lots of research and not starting something I can't do and do well! What I was thinking about this dressage schooling show, I can't begin to tell you. I still can't believe I agreed to ride in the darn thing.

If my memory serves me, there were not a lot of horses at this show. I'd like to say maybe forty, but I could be way off base. Small would be a safe description, of that I am sure. It seemed quiet but still intimidating to me. I didn't have any idea what to expect nor what I was doing. Being there didn't make me feel better.

How many rides each horse did, I haven't a clue but I think that good old Tom Morgan signed me up for two. He said that they were appropriate for my skill level. Even the sound of those words made me what to run to the bathroom and puke! I felt so NOT prepared!

I did get a chance to school my horse first in the ring. That made things a hair less intimidating. Dandy really didn't seem to mind the white rails or the letters on the wall. The table where the judge and scribe sits wasn't in place yet at the time we schooled. It was basically the same old arena that we always rode in. At least that part was good.

Then there's the matter of the "test." You know that thing the rider and horse are supposed to do in the ring. Since I had never even seen a dressage test, I didn't have a clue what kind of components there might be. The very idea of that "test" had me terrified.

Tests are things your study for. You practice and prepare. Tests are things you are graded for. Tests are things you should not fail. Tests are something I have always done exceptionally well, at least the tests in school. Somehow being at a show and being expected to complete a test when I didn't even know what a "test" was just didn't seem to make sense. But here I was none the less with my horse saddled and ready to ride. What was I thinking?

All I knew was dressage tests was they are kind of like a trail pattern. They tell you what to do when and where and you do it. Simple.......right? In trail it's important to do it in the order expected or you are disqualified. I figured it was probably the same in dressage. I needed to learn the pattern and then remember it. I was starting to sweat! What if I didn't know how to do things in the pattern? HELP!!!!!

Tom said not to worry, it would be ok. There wouldn't be anything on the test I didn't know how to do. As for remembering, I could have a reader. He would get the tests and he would read them to me. I would be fine. Not to worry.........I'm now sweating profusely!

Is anyone getting the picture here how unprepared I was? OK, I know walk, trot and canter, I can ride a decent circle BUT what in the heck else is there going to be on that dressage test! I wasn't even sure about the placement of those darn letters until I saw them on the wall when I schooled my horse. Yet those letters were an important part of the test somehow. My gut was screaming as me.....This was NOT going to be pretty.

While I sweated, Tom went to find me the copies of the test. He came back smiling telling me not to worry, I was going to be fine. The tests were simple training level stuff. Again, I would be fine.

That's easy for him to say. The man rode on the US Army Equestrian Team until it was disbanded. He has trained at the big schools in Europe. The man gets dressage. I don't even know what training level is! I'm just this dumb Arabian owner (riding amongst all the warmbloods) wanting to learn enough to show my horse hunter pleasure. Riding dressage at a show, even a schooling show was never my intention. It was looking more and more like a very stupid idea. Then Tom starts explaining the test.

To be continued........

The Test

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  1. You are far from dumb.

    What's a warmblood?

  2. haha...I love it! I did the same thing. At least you knew there was a test involved. At my first dressage show my words were "We have to take a test! I didn't even study. What is it on?". Luckily for me I was in college riding on the dressage team so I had a ton of support to learn my test before my ride.

    I must say it made me smile that I was not the only person in the world to make that mistake! I hope your tests turned out better than mine!

  3. You are masterful at stopping at the most compelling moment!

    I seem to have a memory of military riders having to do things like change saddles while still on the horse as part of their training... so maybe from your trainer's perspective this was all "normal" - but wow, what a way to do your first dressage test!

  4. oh my goodness how will it end? will it be ok? will Dandy suddenly learn to read letters and just take MiKael on the ride of her life through a perfect test? will MiKael be able to sit straight while worrying and sweating so much?? oh my goodness how will it end?!

  5. The whole time I read this I kept thinking, "Dandy will take care of you!"

  6. kahless, thanks, but when it came to this I felt really dumb for one of the first times in my life. It was really scary to me.

    There are horses (like Arabians) that are considered to be "hotbloods" and those thought of as "coldbloods" (the big drafts). Those have been crossed to create the "warmbloods." They are considered to be the primo horses in the dressage world.

    onthebit, well, at least it makes me feel better that I was not alone. I think I might have felt better had there been a little "team" in this effort. lol

    billie, thanks, my instinct for writing is better than my instincts for dressage, I can tell you.

    I think you are probably right about what was "normal" for Tom. It sure wasn't "normal" for me. lol

    katee, great comment, it made me giggle. Oh, if only Dandy had learned to read. lol

    molly, just remember, Dandy was just a baby horse here. That's a tall order for such a green horse. lol

    browneyecowgirls, well, I was hoping to convey exactly how I was feeling. Sounds like you're getting it. lol

  7. Wow I cant believe he didnt prepare you better. I have only competed in one dressage test but while I was learning to ride, we often used to memorise and do these tests in our lessons to make us familiar with some of the things that are required and most importantly where all the darned letters are!!! If you dont know where the letter placements are and know that well it can be a nightmare!

    The test that I competed in was a disaster because we trained in a regular sized outdoor dressage arena (cat remember the exact dimensions, but the competition was at the local Lippizaner Stallion arena which was much bigger, it was indoors and the whole of the one wall was mirrors!!!! Needless to say I screwed up royally LOL.

    Cant wait for the rest.

  8. I wanted to add that we aso knew what the test was going to be days ahead of time so that we could work on it, it wasnt something that was just shoved upon us at the last minute. There are many tests, levels of difficulty etc.

  9. I think I would have had to hand my horse to Tom and go be sick to my stomach from nerves MiKael!

    I'd love to learn more about dressage, and maybe one day show. But I tell you-- I am serisouly apprehensive about the test part. My memory is lousy when I am under pressure, and I really would bet that my test would get rather... umm.... "creative" along the way....

    Cant wait to see how you managed to get through this!!! The suspense is killing me here!

  10. lori, certainly this was a steep learning curve for me. I think I trusted the old guy more than I probably should have if I was worried about my darn ego being bruised. I have had experience with mirrors on the wall too. They are kind of a fun challenge all on their own. lol

    mrs mom, I did hand my horse to Tom a couple of times. lol

    As for the test part, hindsight is always 20/20 so for me knowing what I know now, those tests don't need to be that scary. They are set by USEF. There are something like three for each level. They are so unlike trail where you can get hit with something different each time. Just like the reiners with their patterns, the dressage riders now those test just by their numbers. My memory isn't great either but I wouldn't let fear of a test stop me from riding anything, let alone dressage. Go for it!!

  11. I am loving this. I cant wait for the next installment

  12. I definitely wouldnt let it put you off either, I am not sure if I am remembering correctly but I think you can have a caller who will stand on the sidelines and call out the instructions as they are coming up, cant remember if this is for all levels or just the lower levels.

  13. I can see how you would have been nervous not knowing what to expect. I know I would never go to a show without being prepared. When I used to do the equitation classes I would get to the show early, go down to the ring and learn the course of jumps, then get the horse & myself ready and take him down and watch a few riders go before I entered the ring, my memory not being what it used to be,this helped a lot. As for the dressage I think it is so much easier than jumping, especially if you can have a reader and a general knowledge of what is coming. We always practice the tests at home beforehand. I can't imagine going to a show without knowing what is coming. You were pretty brave to do that and with a young horse too.

  14. 20 meter circle, I'm glad someone is loving this. lol It was really tough.

    lori, I do think they use a reader for training level, but I'm not sure after that.

    grey horse matters, I usually don't do things unprepared either. I still don't know how I got myself into this. lol

    For trail I like to walk the course and watch a couple riders if I can, that always helps me a lot. I would imagine had I seen tests ridden before my thoughts would have been different.

    I don't think I gave much thought to it being a problem for the horse. Mostly because that is the arena I was riding him in daily. There was a lot I learned from those early days. Poor Dandy he was my guniea pig.

  15. oh wow, no wonder you were nervous! A whole new discipline including new language and no .real. explanation that it's simply a chain of the things you've been doing at home!

    Good for you MiKael for doing it anyway. You are a way braver woman than I!