2 hours ago
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Surviving your first dressage test: Introduction
Armani and I now safely have 4 dressage tests under our belt. I'd taken dressage lessons for years (...and Hunter before that. I am sure my dressage instructor is sick of saying "Sit up, elbows back!"), and had been active in 4-H in my teen years, but Armani is my first horse I've owned as an adult. And in so many ways, I feel more responsible for his health and happiness than previous horses. My mother would readily suggest it's my mothering instincts and that I better "Get to it before it's too late for grandbabies. Tick tock."
Finally all the college exams and early years drudging in the work force have paid off. I knew there was a reason I ate late-night ramen noodles, hadn't bought new clothes since circa 1995, wore my aunt's old suit-pants to the office, and got home from the barn around 9pm each night to my adoring new husband. (Now if I could just convince by husband it was all so worthwhile!)
When I was a teenager I easily relaxed and enjoyed 4-H shows on my bouncy off-the-track Thoroughbred. However, when my instructor invited Armani and I to our first show, I did feel unfamiliar nervousness. I knew it wasn't pressure to perform, because frankly I just wanted us to pull-together and have a good time. No, it was more nervousness about the unknown. Would we have fun? Would we be relaxed? Would he enter at A with his whole brain, half his brain, or a few neurons and a whole lot of nerves? Would he spook at the judges booth, jump out of the ring, leave a "load" at X, or stop and eat the flowers from the planters?
Ah yes, but now I can look back at the great time we had. And having survived one show, we were more able to relax at the next, and I am eager for us to continue! And so, while it's fresh in my mind, I'm going to write up some survival tips for anyone else out there, who is eagerly, if nervously, anticipating their first dressage show. So yes, these are tips from a recent beginner to another. And before you faint with curiosity, we got a whopping 47% on our first test. But I am reasonably sure we were the happiest (perhaps dementedly so?) 47% anyone had ever seen! But fear not, it only got better from there. You have to stand on solid ground before you can take off!
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