Operation Bronze Medal: Frustratingly Close

The last week has been a whirlwind of dressage. I took Oh So to the By Chance Farm licensed show in Maryland to do two first level tests that we weren’t able to do back at PVDA in May because of the footing.

The farm was quite lovely and compact with an indoor ring for warm up and two outdoor competition rings. The footing was great in all the rings, and if I only had one complaint it would be that the indoor warm up was a bit tight with lots of FEI horses pirouetting and tempi changing around us. Oh So was a little worried about that, but mostly kept his focus for our simple warm up.

I thought the tests were pretty average for us, with no major mistakes, and we ended up scoring 69 percent on both to win both classes! I was definitely not expecting to be so close to 70 percent, and was really not expecting to win the high score award for the level! We also took home the TIP award and a fancy bridle for the high score.

First level at By Chance Farm. In Focus by Bruce photo.
First level at By Chance Farm. In Focus by Bruce photo.

I had no grand illusions for this weekend at Loch Moy for our third level debut; I just wanted to get two 60 percents. I believe we’re capable of mid-60s because he doesn’t have well-developed extended gaits, mostly due to my inability to sit his trot well, and we don’t really have a right to left change, so I know there’s room for improvement. In talking with my trainer Heidi about it all year, I’ve grown to accept that we’ll probably get a 4 for that change because we just can’t seem to get it clean. He always wants to slip in a trot step.

But there are things we’re good at, like shoulder-in, renvers, turns on the haunches and rein-backs. Unfortunately, putting it all together today proved to be a lot for both of us. I thought we were well-prepared to get our bronze medal scores, but we came away with a 61 percent (after one error) and a 59.23 percent. I wanted to scream! Not only because we were frustratingly close, but because I know we’re capable of much more. We actually ended up winning both of our classes on those scores, although they were small classes. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to stomp on a blue ribbon more!

The second judge gave us a 1 on our right to left change, the first I’ve ever gotten in my riding career. In texting with Heidi on the phone afterwards, she very much disagreed on that, and anything higher could have put us over the edge. I actually thought it was better than the change in the first test, and that got us our first 3!

The other movement we scored quite terribly on was the left half pass in trot, which got a 4. That’s definitely our tougher side, but this judge was a real stickler compared to the first judge. I thought the second test flowed better. But even with several 7s, combined with a couple of small mistakes, and the score was not going to get us 60 percent.

Oh So got slightly tight when he realized I was sitting the whole test, so his trot work could have been a bit better. The main comments were that we need more bend in the lateral work, but not too much angle, and to improve engagement and elasticity. I think I can show more change between the medium and extended canter, but the medium and extended trots are tough.

We did get a 7 on his left to right change on both tests, which was encouraging. In the second test he unfortunately jigged in the extended walk, so that brought the score down probably a point from where it could have been. We also need to work on the canter circle where you bring you hands forward over the centerline and the canter onto centerline then trot. That’s a new movement for us too.

Maybe it was naive of my to think we’d get our scores in one outing at third level. It’s the first time I’ve ever ridden at the level, and I probably should have tried to fit in a schooling show somewhere. It was iffy whether I’d get a chance to ride on the second day since I sent in that as a late entry, and I got a call late tonight saying I could ride at 8:24, but I decided I want to have another couple of weeks to digest what I’ve learned and keep trudging away with Heidi. I’m hoping to do another show in a couple of weeks and get that final score I need.

But right now I’m going to go scream into my pillow…

Here’s happier times! Our first level test 2 from last weekend.


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