Full disclaimer: I am 3 weeks out from the show and mildly freaking out. A few weeks ago it was easy to say “We have things to work on! This will be hard but maybe we are ready!”
…Now that the reality of riding second level in front of a real judge at a recognized show is sinking in? Yup, I’m kind of sick.
…Especially after watching a few videos online of what judges look for with various movements. I just watched canter circles and all I can think is “holy shit we will be LUCKY to get a 6 on anything WHAT AM I DOING WHAT IF I DO ALL THE THINGS AND STILL DON’T SCORE ABOVE 60?!” Because scoring below 60 due to not actually doing something or breaking or what have you? Understandable. But what if we’re so bad that we do everything but still can’t break 60?! WHAT THEN.
The obvious answer is you suck it up, go home, and work on things some more and try again. It is really not that big of a deal. There are always more opportunities in training horses.
But my brain doesn’t accept obvious answers and while I would say that to someone else very sincerely and mean it and want them to take it to heart I am too busy freaking out.
After this, my mind drifts to thoughts of
why am I doing this to myself if it stresses me out this much? Isn’t this supposed to be fun?
It is fun! I love showing!
Because apparently I love torturing myself?
No I really do think it’s fun!
And I do. I think.
You know how normal people do several shows a year and ride the same tests over and over in competitions, sometimes for years?
I don’t do that.
I love showing, but I do not have the funds to show over and over again. At most, I do 2 recognized shows per year. 1-2 tests per day. The end.
Therefore, the pressure is on. I feel like I have to make those tests count because we only have a few tries. While one of my goals is to (eventually) acquire my bronze medal, my main goal is always to ride a solid test. A test where you don’t feel like you’re hanging by a thread and praying to gods you don’t believe in to keep it all together.
You want it to flow. And look easy. And not feel like you’re going to fall apart at any point. A test you can ride and influence.
I’ve had a couple of those. There was one point where not only was it sometimes questionable that we would pick up the canter at all, but the correct lead could be an issue. I was riding Training level, maybe T3. I had between A and K to pick up my canter. I came around, gave a half halt, and it was like everything slowed down for a few moments. I said, “we have time” and I set her up and balanced her and then asked. We got the correct lead and it was a really lovely transition.
Later, my trainer said, “I started to worry a little, since you were taking your sweet time picking up the canter.” This was a huge moment for me, because up until that point the idea of a canter transition was stressful. I would try to rush to give myself maximum time to get it and it would be messy.
I sometimes struggle with the idea of showing. Some people show all of the time. They become professional dressage test riders. I think tests are a great way to check where you’re at, but when someone becomes really good at riding one particular test, what is the point? Ribbons? Winning? When earned, ribbons are nice. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited when I get them. But at the end of the day, I care about MY score and how it compares to my PAST scores. I don’t watch anyone else’s ride in my classes. I have nothing to compare myself to other than the numbers posted, and I don’t care. I start to think the whole song and dance is ridiculous. I have never ridden for qualifying scores because I do not care about regionals, nor am I going to spend the money to get there.
It’s unconventional that after the scores I’ve had at first level I’m jumping into second. If I were doing this “correctly” I would be riding first level this year, until I was consistently scoring mid-60s…not just one score.
Honey badger don’t care.
The “issues” we had at first level pertained to the canter. They are the same issues we could have at second level. But, I could ride a more interesting, fun test with lateral work and collection and deal with those issues, or I could keep hammering out first level.
After a few years of training level I was bored out of my goddamn mind. “HOW DO PEOPLE DO THIS FOR YEARS AND YEAR?! WHYYYY?!” (Ribbons? Winning?) I pushed myself to start riding first level, and the first year was not pretty. But the next year it’s always easier. And last year? We had a great test. The other 3, sadly, were dealing with soupy, mucky arenas, and when Cho is not comfortable in the footing the canter work goes to hell. I can’t blame her for this. It is a reality and I will not fault her or push her beyond her limits. If she is slipping and sliding around, I back off a considerable amount.
By our last test she was toast. I pushed with everything I had and she was just like “lady, I got nothing.” –Do I really need to repeat that level? I know we can do it, and we’ve done it enough that it’s kind of boring. If we’d had solid footing that she was comfortable with, I don’t doubt we would have pulled off decent tests. If we’re ready for the next level in our training at home, what’s the point of “proving ourselves” at shows at the level we’ve been showing?
Obviously my answer is: there is no point. Therefore, onto 2nd level.