Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Show Recap

A week ago was a nearby All Breed show, where I competed in dressage on Friday and some general performance classes on Saturday. As shown by my ribbon haul, the show went pretty well! I know we can do better, especially in dressage, and there was a lot to improve on. However, we did do better than last year and I'm choosing to mostly focus on the positive.


On Thursday I was feeling a bit down in the dumps and pessimistic about the show. Writing this post really helped me to put things in perspective and go in with a better frame of mind though. Thursday evening was a busy night, as after work I had to pack up my gear, trailer to the show, help set up the dressage ring, and bathe Kachina. I didn't have time to ride at the show grounds so I just did a short lunge session instead. While lunging, the left lead that has been giving us issues for the last couple weeks miraculously reappeared. I don't know what changed, but I was really happy. I actually started being hopeful again about how we'd do the following day. 

Friday Morning

Friday morning Kachina was relaxed in her stall, I cleaned tack and did my fastest braid job ever (complete with 15 year old brown elastics because I could not for the life of me find my black elastics or yarn) before tacking up for my 9:35am ride time. The show started at 9am, so I made sure to be on by 8:30am so I could warm up in the arenas before the competition started. Since they had added a second competition ring, there was no longer a designated warmup arena, but I had been told by the organizers that we could warm up around the perimeter of the competition area in the morning and at breaks. 

I mounted up and Kachina walked two steps and then seriously balked. Kachina is a super forward horse and the only times she's balked in the past have been when there's seemingly been a tack issue. This is exactly what happened at this show last year and exactly what I had been convinced would not be an issue again since we just got our saddle fit and tack setup professionally checked. I tried to get her to move forward and she humped her back hard. I hopped off, and reset the saddle. I got back on and same thing. I hopped off again and led her around for a bit to see if she just needed to walk more. I then recruited a friend to come over to the mounting block and lead us if needed. All the while I was internally screaming "not again! not again!" I got back on a third time and she felt fine. My friend led us off the asphalt in case, but I had my normal horse back. I've never known Kachina to be a cold-backed horse, but maybe being in a stall makes her that way? I'm not sure why she was being weird but I was glad it was short-lived. 

All of this had only taken around 10 minutes so it was still 20 minutes before the show start, but I was devastated to find the arena closed. Some wires must have gotten crossed somewhere and they never had opened it for warmup. This was actually terrible, because the only place to warmup was on the short end of the chuckwagon track. The ground hadn't been harrowed so it was rock hard, and it was an awkward shape and the track was sloped towards the inside of the track. A long warmup is critical to get Kachina relaxed and focused. Our walk work was okay, but Kachina got upset every time I tried to trot. This is where I think my recent saddle fitting was worth every cent, because I was able to tell myself that the tack was fine and that it was just the sloped hard track or something else that was the issue. This kept my level of nerves down considerably (if I think my saddle is the problem I start visualizing Kachina bucking me off). I found a flatter section to work on, but it was a high traffic area so my warmup was pretty disjointed. I was finally able to do some trot work, but I didn't feel safe or comfortable cantering there. It came time for my test and I was pretty bummed that my first time cantering under saddle since Monday was going to be in my test, especially because I hadn't ridden a successful left canter in a couple weeks. 

My first test was Training Level Test 3 in Ring 1. Since this test has the left lead canter come first, and the left canter tour is the longest amount of cantering in Training Level, it was not an ideal test to do with an unknown left lead! My stress came out as tension in the saddle which Kachina of course picked up on, but we went in, did the test, and got correct leads of true canter in both directions! It wasn't our best test, but given the situation, I was thrilled! We ended up getting 58% for 5th place out of 8. We got dinged pretty hard in spots for our tension (both mine and Kachina's), but the judge in this ring was the same one as for my show in May, and she commented on our improvement since last time (though the score was only 1% higher). 

I had 45 minutes until my next test so we did some more walk/trot work and some standing around before going into Ring 2 for Training Level Test 3. Kachina was a bit jazzed and I felt like my best chance of a good ride was not to micro-manage her too much, this resulted in a few issues like a head tilting and some lack of bend, but Kachina was more relaxed and it was a pretty decent test. We scored a 62%, which was high enough to score 2nd place out of 8 adult riders!

Halts have been a weak point for us previously, but they were
good this show and all scored between 6.0 - 8.0
(All English photos from T2, no photographer in the other ring)

We did have some nice moments

I was super pleased with this diagonal but the judge thought it needed more energy

Proof that we had a left canter! It was above the bit at times though

I brought Kachina back to her stall to untack and let her chill for a while until it was time to put on my western tack for western dressage! 

Friday Afternoon 

I wanted to do more than two dressage tests at this show and I own a western saddle. Those two things pretty much sum up the entirety of my thought process when I decided to enter two western dressage classes. I generally just use my western saddle for trail riding and I've never shown western dressage before. In hindsight I maybe should have thought that decision through a little more. Some thoughts about showing western:
- bringing two sets of tack to a show is heavier and more annoying than just packing english tack. This should be obvious, but clearly I didn't even consider the basics of my choice. 
- jeans and a western shirt are far more comfortable than english dressage show clothes, especially in the heat
- the majority of time I ride in my western saddle I just walk, that was obvious at the show as my seat wasn't as solid in my western saddle and my posting sucked. 
- The twist of my western saddle is wider than my dressage saddle, I'm essentially never sore after riding, but I was for a few days after Friday. 
- I have a very sensitive horse, I know this. I should have realized that putting on a different saddle and a different bridle was going to affect her way of going and I shouldn't have assumed that we could just ride like normal but in different tack. Kachina was tense and I was unable to ride effectively.

Kachina's face does look pretty sans noseband in a western headstall

As well as the tack issues, the morning had unfortunately taught Kachina that in warm-up we walk and trot, and in the show ring we canter. This meant that I got some nicer trot work from Kachina in warm-up, but she was anticipating canter like crazy in the tests themselves. I know that pulling on Kachina's face is the opposite of helpful, but when she kept wanting to canter I couldn't stop myself. She also kept going into her lateral trot and canter which I want to shut down quickly. We ended up doing a decent amount of our tests with me leaning forward and pulling on the reins, and Kachina was gaping her mouth open and had her head in the air. It was not a pretty picture. We also cantered (loped) a couple times when we weren't supposed to. Somehow our test scores weren't that much worse. We got 58% in Western Dressage Basic Test A, and 57% in Western Dressage Basic Test B. That was enough to earn us another 2nd and another 5th place ribbon.

I bought a couple "bad" photos for learning purposes
Here you can see my bad leaning and pulling, I know I shouldn't do this
and I am working really hard on it! This was one of our worst moments though.

Counterbent tense hollow lateral canter
I know this is not the right answer of how to ride this, but can anyone tell me what is??

I'm still holding a bit too much but some of our canter was decent

I thought our free walk was pretty good, but this only earned us a 5.5
I actually have a post in the works on this because it seems like I'm missing something

In general I had mixed feelings about Friday. On the negative side, I know we can do better and I was disappointed that we didn't put in better work. I also knew my own riding was substantially to blame so I was mad at myself. It also sucked that I missed out on qualifying for the Alberta Dressage Awards by 1.5% (needed a 63%). On the other hand, we had issues going into the show and we overcame them to put in a decent performance. Kachina came to play and her left canter felt great. Also, I had a couple people I know come up to me and comment on how far Kachina had come from previous years which was really nice to hear. I think the warmup situation contributed to scores going down across the board so I felt we had earned our ribbons and I was happy with them.

This is the first time I've adequately gotten photos of the beautiful EDA Designs custom bonnet
that EventingSaddlebred sent me from one of her blog contests!
It worked well at this show to keep away the little bugs that were everywhere,
and I love how the light blue piping picks up Kachina's eyes! 


Saturday was English general performance. The morning started with over fences classes so I didn't ride until after lunch, leading to a luxuriously relaxed morning. The competition was also only in one ring on Saturday so I had a much better warmup in an actual arena with actual footing!

My first class was Senior English Pleasure. It was a fairly big class with 12 horses. Kachina was pretty good, but she did break into canter from trot directly in front of the judge, so I was unsurprised that we didn't place. Also, while Kachina's canter felt great, it is a big ground covering canter so we were passing many of the other horses which doesn't scream "pleasure".

Next came Senior English Equitation. This class had the following pattern:

I practiced the pattern three times in the warmup ring and each time Kachina did awesome with it (we changed leads through trot). When the class rolled around, the heat of the day was starting to build so the judge decided that we would do the pattern only with no rail work. When it was our turn we picked up the left lead when we were supposed to be cantering on the right lead, and the pattern was set tightly enough that we didn't have enough time to fully correct it. The rest of the pattern was good enough that we got a 5th out of 6 though (the person who placed behind us missed her left lead).

The day rounded out with Road Hack and Show Hack. Both are rail classes. Road Hack asks for walk, trot, strong trot, canter and hand gallop. Show Hack asks for walk, walk on a loose rein, collected trot, ordinary trot, extended trot, collected canter, ordinary canter, extended canter. The gaits were mixed up in order making for some challenging transitions.

In Road Hack, Kachina cantered a few times in the strong trot (not her fault, we've only just re-introduced lengthens), but her hand gallop was on point. We placed 5th out of 6 again. In the Show Hack, Kachina was awesome! I could feel clear differences between her collected, normal, and extended gaits (talking more about the shortening and lengthening of stride and frame, uphill engagement isn't a requirement of this class, it's not dressage). We definitely rock more at lengthens and collection is our weak point though. I had a pretty big smile on my face while we were doing our extended canter/hand gallop! The show ring is the perfect size that you can ask for some speed and still feel safe about it so I was having fun. Show Hack was a smaller class, but the people in it with me were the riders who had been dominating all day. We ended up with 4th place out of 4, but I am still proud of my ribbon because I felt it was our best class of the day.

Kachina with her ribbons

Sunday was Western general performance day, so after our last class on Saturday we packed up and went home.

I have lots to work on but the show was overall a positive experience. I am proud of Kachina, I had fun talking to and cheering on other friends who were competing or volunteering, the dressage day had a whopping 96 rides which is a massive accomplishment in this area, several people expressed interest in the May 2018 dressage show that I will be putting on, and I can't complain about our ribbon haul! Also the show helped to highlight our current weak points so I know what I should be focusing on in the next couple months. August is a surprisingly quiet month on the equine front but I am happy to just put in work at home and prepare for the show and clinics that are scheduled for September.

More work to do with Miss Moose-head


  1. Great photos! Kachina is such a beautiful horse, even when things aren't going according to plan I think she's pretty

    1. Thanks, she is a striking horse, but I find I'm too used to it now so I see easily through it

  2. You look so fancy all dressed up. :-) Glad you had fun!!

    1. Thanks. Kachina and I definitely make for a very black and white picture at a show

  3. Way to go! You did awesome! So excited for you! Re: that counterbent canter pic...that was Bridget's happy place as well to the left and I got sucked into hanging on the inside rein which only made it worse! We've done tons of spirals, and lots of haunches and shoulder ins on the circle, all helping to get her hind end more under her and getting her to bend and figure out how to use her body correctly. When it happens now our go to is LOTS of inside leg to get her bent in the right direction - even if it means I am pushing her out on a bigger circle and sacrificing geometry. Loose-ish suppling inside rein, and outside rein is just there to support/help stop her shoulders from drifting out - keeping her neck straight and shoulders straight on the path I choose and her hind legs pushing and following. Oftentimes, if we're schooling, and she's using it as an evasion I might intentially ride her properly counterbent around the circle, too...it's actually quite hard for her to do correctly and she almost always offers up the correct inside bend after that. That's only what works for us though, your results may vary. Again, congrats on a great show - I so wish I lived nearer, I suspect we're in a pretty similar place in our riding and training, not to mention dressage interest!:)

    1. Thanks T!

      I really appreciate the feedback. A few times when I've used my inside leg strongly she has gone straight in the air like she was about to do a flying change and then came back and kept doing her stupid lateral canter. Her lateral gait is what screws me up the most because it just feels so wrong. I think you are right that I need to do a lot more bending and haunches in work though.

      I do have a cousin in Vancouver so maybe I need to head out your way for a visit sometime!

  4. some of those photos are reeeally lovely! sounds like lots of good moments to be super proud of!

    1. Thanks, that means a lot to me as I want to believe some of the photos are decent but I'm starting to nitpick them for everything that is wrong

  5. Sounds like a pretty good show except for the western dressage thing. But even that sounds fun to me as I like trying new things.

    1. I'm always so impressed at how you just go out and try all the classes with your mustang/mule herd! I was trying to channel some of that this show with doing Western Dressage and the pleasure/hack classes. It's good exposure for sure but doing new things is hard for us!

  6. One thing I was told about the pulling thing was to shorten my reins until I wanted to give forward. So when Stinker gets short and tense, I shorten up and maintain asking him to reach and stretch. I am still not great on the timing but it is getting much better and he is getting much quicker to come back to me.

    1. Thanks for the idea, I'll have to think about that. One issue I definitely have is that I'm not good at changing rein length quickly enough. I think that's part of why I end up pulling because when Kachina's neck retracts I end up moving my hands back to take up the slack instead of shortening the reins. I need to practice that.

  7. You guys did a great job together. Well done

    1. I don't think we're at "great" yet, but we're working to get there :-)

  8. Hey i just found your blog. You and your horse are awesome! I feel that it takes a lot of courage to get out there to be judged. Way to go!

    1. Welcome and thank you! I love your horse's name :)