Well, we went to our first dressage show of 2019 without as much prep as I would like, and all things considered, it went pretty well. The weather has been hideous all spring with SO much rain and since I have a grass dressage court, test riding has been very limited. I think I got in maybe 4-6 test rides in the month before this show. Not ideal when trying to move up a level or for spook training before a show. Since I need 4 scores at 4 different shows and the clock is ticking, I decided to just run with it and get the typically worst/first show of the year out of the way.
Jet was pretty good out of the trailer, not super spooky walking the outside of the court during the lunch break, and was totally reasonable to deal with. We stood around in the shade before heading back to the trailer to tack up. I started a short warm up right before Training 3 and that is when Jet lost his mind. Pawing at the halt, rigid on one side, upset about something, and just generally unhappy. I did some yields, some shoulder-fore, some trying to stretch, and he just got more and more wound. Very unlike him to the point of a rear right before our ride time. It was so uncharacteristic my husband was convinced something was biting Jet or something was physically wrong. I did some TRT “yoga” moves and decided to head in for my ride time with the thought that if J took a lame step or if I felt like I really couldn’t sit him I would ask to be excused. I shortened my reins, concentrated on my breathing, tried to reassure Jet that he would be fine, and off we went.
The walk around the ring and the first half of the test were super tense, like riding a crooked board, with one big spook, but I focused on my breathing and relaxation and about half way through Jet started to relax and the rest of the test was quite nice. We unsaddled him, offered water, fly sprayed, and let him chill in the shade. About an hour later I saddled up, hopped on, and walked straight to the ring for First Test 1 and he was really good. Listening, straight, and fairly through. I let him move a little smaller than a forward working trot/canter just to be on the chill side, but asked for forward on the lengthens and I was super pleased with him.
The judge was one of those judges you dream of, friendly and knowledgeable. Sympathetic after the first Training test, realistic scoring on the beginning part but pointing out the positive last half, and complimentary on the First Level test with definite thoughts about how to improve our score. What more can you ask for? We ended up with a 58.96% for 4th on Training 3 and a 62.06% for 3rd on First 1 behind some nice quality horses. Not bad for our First debut. I’m not sure if Jet had a bug or a pinched something and that caused his behavior or if he just decided to throw his toys out of the pram and not play. I went over him with a fine tooth comb when we got home and could find nothing. He moved great for 3/4’s of the tests and did not seem in any way lame then or running around this morning. I have had him 10 years and he has never done anything like that, so who knows?
The plan going forward is to working on having a bit more energy/forward in our working gaits and to start running through First 2. I’m going to work on improving Jet’s gaits in the full dressage court and skip the next show in the heat of July, show again the beginning of August, and do two First tests. When we do show I will plan on having a bit longer warmup, so that if this was a behavior issue I have a bit longer to work through to relaxation BEFORE we need to go in the show ring. Time will tell, but I’m still super pleased with my black pony going First Level.