Stepping It Up With Baby Bear


A few weeks ago I took Bear to an evening dressage show at Warrenton to do Training 1 and 2 in the dusty ring at the Warrenton Horse Show grounds. It’s been SO dry lately, we are just starving for rain, but despite the dust, the footing was OK for what we were doing.

Our first test was at dusk, and we hadn’t been out in awhile or ridden under the lights, so he was a little distracted in the warm up, but once we got into our work and then went into the ring, he was pretty focused.

His stretchy circle is obviously a work in progress at his age, but overall, the test felt very forward, almost too forward for me, but apparently that was him actually using himself and opening up his stride! I asked the judge at the end of the first test if it was too quick, and she said you can never be too forward, so I took that to heart for the next test.

Our downward transitions from trot to canter are also a work in progress. I just don’t have a feel for riding them correctly all the time, so sometimes he’ll stab the ground with his hind legs a bit, especially if it’s on the longside like in the tests. I find myself wanting to sit up and collect his canter a bit more like I would do with Oh So, but he misinterprets that and usually trots early. I’m trying to find a happy medium between riding them forward enough, but also trying to close my leg and give him the idea of rocking back and slowing his canter a bit.

I need to shorten my reins, it was pretty awful watching myself on video! The halts were pretty good, save for the last one in Test 2 where the tripped a bit, but overall, it was fun to get back out there. I’ve been traveling a lot this summer and then the ground has been so hard, we decided not to compete in August.

We’ve had two people try him so far, but no calls back unfortunately. He was very good for both though, so now I have a better idea of what he thinks of other rides besides me and my dressage trainer, Nicky!

In between people trying him we’ve had some pretty good jump lessons. We bumped the fences up to novice height a couple of weeks ago in a small ring where I had to ride with a bit more pace and he really stepped up to the plate.

Warming up at Warrenton.
Warming up at Warrenton.

On Sunday, we went to Morningside and jumped a bunch of cross-country exercises that had been set up in the ring by Leslie Law, who’d been there earlier in the week for a clinic.

We jumped a small arrowhead bending to a vertical and did a five-stride angled line of a vertical to an oxer.

Then we went on to a faux half coffin of a skinny barrel, bending four strides to a liverpool with a small rail on top, one stride to a vertical. He didn’t even bat an eye!

We finished off with a right corner, five strides to a left corner, a skinny bounce, and the grand finale, a bending line of training level difficulty over two skinny green rolltops that I was freaking out over.

They were pretty big and wide, but he just stepped across them and I felt no difference in his jump. It’s crazy to think about his potential if he barely made an effort over those. I thought for sure he’d peak at them too!

I’m at the point now with him where it’s time to start trusting him. He’s still a baby and might do baby things at times, but 95% of the time, he knows his job and doesn’t care whether I screw something up. We’re entered for our first novice at Marlborough when I get back from my vacation in France, so I’m hoping it’s a soft one!

My dad's artsy interpretation after I failed to up the shutter speed!
My dad’s artsy interpretation after I failed to up the shutter speed!

Oh So has been on and off since I returned from the Pan Ams. His left front is doing well after we injected the digital flexor tendon sheath, but then his right hind all of a sudden had an issue. I got his stifles done and took an X-ray of the right stifle just in case, but there was nothing out of the ordinary. We’re trotting and doing a bit of canter now to let the injections take effect and if he’s still not better, we’ll look at the right hip, which he had injected last year. He’s never been diagnosed with anything back there, but the injection helped last year.

Each day that passes I just lose a little bit more hope that we’ll ever compete again. At this point, I just want him sound for flat work, but I really would like him to be able to jump, for both of our sanity!

I’m off on an adventure to France this coming week, so look for a blog when I get back! Then it’s full steam ahead with Marlborough, possibly taking photos at Plantation Field, AECs in Texas work trip, possibly shooting at Morven, competing at Maryland, a work trip to Fair Hill, moving myself to Leesburg and horses to Purcellville, and if Bear is still with me, finishing off the season at VA Horse Trials! Whew!

CDCTA Warrenton Schooling Show August Recap

I took Oh So to the CDCTA schooling show held at the Warrenton Horse Show grounds on Thursday to go through a couple of second level tests.

This time around I decided to try Second 3, but I started with Second 2. I thought Second 2 was a little rough in spots. He was just missing a little bit more collection and some thoroughness that kept our score lower then I’d hoped. We had a more seasoned judge this time, so to have scored a 62.36% was respectable, but I still want to get higher marks.

We got a 5.5 on our entry because we were a little crooked trotting off. I think I need to sharpen him up a bit from halt to trot because he tends to sneak in a walk step.

I’m still struggling to sit the medium trots, so I don’t always ask as much as I think he can give. If I was posting, it might be different, but I need to try to keep finding time to ride without stirrups so I can be “pulled” a little deeper in the saddle. We scored 6s on those, which is what I expected.

I feel like we have a pretty good handle on the travers, and we got a 7 on the left one, but  a 5.5 on the right one, which I’m not totally sure about. I need to talk with Nicky this week, but he easily moves his haunches in. The judge said that it lacked angle and suppleness.

The turn on the haunches had good steps, but the judge commented that he lost energy. When I really get to concentrating on that movement, I think I forget to kick him forward a bit, so that’s something to work on.

I thought the free walk was better, but it only scored a 6 because she wanted to see more swing and stretch.

He broke to trot too early on the first canter to trot and scored a 4.5 for the simple 10m canter circle left, which was surprising. The judge thought he was hollow, behind the vertical and haunches in. Yikes!

She also commented that his haunches were a little in on both medium canters, so we got a 5.5 on both. That was easily avoidable. He can have a 7 or an 8 medium, and I can’t say I felt it so obviously.

We got our only eight on the final centerline and halt. It was a little disappointing to get a 6.5 on his gaits. He’s consistently at least a 7, if not an 8.

The medium trots brought his impulsion score down to a 6.5 and a few moments where he fell behind the vertical dropped the submission score to a 6.5.

It was the first time I did Second 3, so I was more worried with going through it. His simple changes again weren’t as good, especially since he started to lose patience with them as we went along. We ended up with a 61.90 and a little bit better collective marks.

Back In The Ring

I’m back from my vacation, refreshed and ready to ride again. I’m working on an extensive Ireland blog, which may take me awhile as I go through photos, etc., so until then, I thought I’d write a little about the CDCTA evening dressage show in Warrenton I went to last night.

To be honest, I hadn’t really ridden through the entire tests I’d planned on riding, so in the end, they weren’t as polished as I’d hoped.

We started with second 1, which we’ve done several times before. We’ve been working hard on our simple changes at home, but I still can’t quite get them in the show ring, so those weren’t the best. I also struggle with sitting the medium trot and feel like I don’t have as strong a medium when I sit, so we lost a few points there.

Otherwise, he was fairly attentive and not too tense. He did try to jog before the first half turn on the haunches, which made it not-so-good, and then he pivoted a bit too much on the left turn and then tried to get tense in the free walk to medium walk. We got an 8 on the free walk though, which he’s totally capable of, but never quite earns.

We ended up with a 62.1%. I’d like to get that up to at least a 65%. I know we’re capable.

The second test we did was the second level rider test. It’s fairly complicated, but I wanted to try something different.

The first tough movements are shoulder-in to a travers on the centerline. The right shoulder-in was quite good and the haunches in were a good try, but I had to make sure I kept his shoulders on the centerline.

Next, we did a medium trot on the diagonal and had to show steps of collection over X, which according to my trainer is more like a fourth level movement. Since we don’t have a strong medium, it was tough to show enough of a difference there.

His half turn on the haunches were better in this test, but he bobbled a little in the free walk. When he gets tired or a little tense, he seems to bob his head, but he didn’t jig when I gathered him up (the movement was going left, finally after years of going right).

His simple changes again were just not quite there. He had a couple of decent ones, a couple where he trotted, maybe because I wasn’t collecting him enough or maybe because he was tired.

For whatever reason, the halts weren’t quite square from behind either, but at least he was straight. We scored a 74%.

So overall, it was good to get back in the ring and see myself on video. Now I know for this weekend at the Maryland Horse Trials II that I need to shorten my reins a bit and make sure I keep the impulsion.