Recap of First Show

Well, we tackled and beat down the first show of the year. Got those first show nerves out of the way, I think. I hope.

I was glad I decided to trailer in the night before the show so we could ride in the arena before the actual tests. Ava’s normally a laid back lady, but she was jazzed up at that place. It felt a tad bit like a powder keg was beneath me. I didn’t feel out of control, but it did take a wee bit of convincing to stop her from skedaddling out of there at warp speed. I chose to see it as having more forward energy then we’re used to. 😉

The great parts:

Medium canter: I haven’t practiced lengthen/medium canter much.   The judge said the strides weren’t long enough, but I was actually really happy with the fact that she didn’t fall on her forehand or lose her balance too much. And I was super happy that when I half-halted with just my seat she listened and came back, all while keeping her weight more over her hind end.

Travers, Shoulder-In, and Renver: These went so much better than I had hoped.  Ava, for the most part, kept her balance well, she didn’t suck back and didn’t lose momentum (not too much). Our haunches-in to the left is our hardest way, and she powered through it. The haunches-in right should’ve been the easy way, but we lost momentum. I blame it on the scary chairs and flapping things at the end of that rail.

Collected work: Some of the collected work was fantastic. We had moments where you could start to see that beautiful trot she can do.  Her canter was better than I had dared hope it would be. She was balanced and engaged and it was easy to move her around.

TOH: The turn on the haunches at walk went so much better than I had hoped for. Ava was really jazzed up, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to maintain the same rhythm in the walk through the turn. I really had to fling her shoulders around her butt to keep up with her. We got 8’s on two of the four.

The bad parts:

She’s still tense. Especially during counter canter, but you can see it through most of the test.  I think that we’ve come a long way with addressing this though, and I’m hopeful that by the end of the summer we can show some clear improvement in this. I think she’s improved a ton since last fall. In fact, a couple of people commented to me later that she looked less tense than last year. So, Yay! Progress.

Medium Trot: This was horrible. Just horrible. We’re just at the point in training where I can squeeze a really good one out of her when everything is set up correctly, but we’re not anywhere near anything resembling consistent. And she’s not quite strong enough yet to hold a medium trot from corner to corner. We can do a few awesome strides before she loses balance. Definitely something I’m working on this summer. We lost a lot of points on those. I think I might try cavaletti work this coming month and see if I can get her used to the idea of stretching those legs out. She’s not naturally gifted with lengthens, so we’ll have to work a bit harder at them then others do… but we’ll get there eventually.

Rider issues: The rider is tense. I didn’t ride very well. I think partly it was due to nerves. I was having a heck of a time sitting the trot though. Some days it’s easy, some days I can’t sit the trot to save my life. This day was the latter. I was also too strong with my aids in places which contributed to Ava’s tension, and in several spots I was sitting way too far forward. I need to be especially aware of my upper body during the canter. There were spots where I am way up over her withers and definitely pushing her on to her forehand.


The judges comments were descriptive and concise. I agreed with all of her assessments. The weak parts she saw were the areas I knew I was having problems with. It’s always nice to know that your views on your progress line up with what others think.

I had originally signed up for all three tests at Second Level. Test 2 and Test 3 were the first tests of the day, with Test 1 following. I ended up scratching Test 1 because I was tired, Ava was tired, and it seemed so anti-climatic to do the easiest test of the level last. Plus, Ava’s a bear to load when she’s tired, and I had wanted the whole experience to be positive for her.

That didn’t work out so well though.

It took me over an hour to get her to load. It was horrible. I just don’t get what is so scary about the trailer. If I work with her at home she’ll gladly get in and out of the trailer a dozen times without an issue. Before I take her some where she’s happy to walk right on the trailer. After I haul her some where she wants nothing to do with the trailer ever again. I take her home after a disastrous episode, work with her on loading again, and she’ll pop right on after a 5-10 minute discussion and she’ll happily stand in there munching hay with out a care in the world. Once I haul her somewhere and am trying to leave again, she won’t get on without a massive, massive fight. Every. single. time.

It was a poor way to end a really good show.


Anyway.. here are the videos. I couldn’t get them to load earlier, that’s why it took me so long to post about the show.

Second Level Test 2

Second Level Test 3

Rider Tests – I did them! Woo Hoo!

Ah Ha! I have completed my mission and successfully completed both First and Second level Rider Tests. By successful I mean I stayed on the horse, didn’t get eliminated, and we performed all the movements (wasn’t a zero score on any part).

First Level Rider Test

The First Level Rider Test started a bit shaky. I made Ava mad right before we went in the ring. You know those warmups where you just want to do something you’ve done a million times just fine, some small little confidence booster right before you go in, and right then is when you screw it all up. Either you’re tense, or the horse is tense, or whatever, but that one “go to” move you knew you could nail is now the biggest IF statement of the entire test. That was my Turn On The Forehand move. Except, instead of just letting the resistance go and moving on during the warmup, I had to fuss with it. Which irritates Ava to no end. So when we got to the arena for our ride and had to wait for the bell to ring… Ava decided that was just unacceptable and started tossing her head and doing little mini-rears. She so non-scary when she does a little tantrum. I know she’s trying to be intimidating, but she’s so fluffy and squishy that it’s hard to feel like there’s any real danger. That and she’s lazy, so you know at most this will go on for 5 seconds and then she’ll realize it’s way more work then she bargained for.

Anyway, Ava’s throwing a little tantrum, the bell rings, we trot on in. Watch the video.. I was laughing about her head during the first halt.

I put the movements on the video so those of you unfamiliar with the test can follow along. Hopefully it’s not too annoying.

Read (or skip) the purpose statement on the test to better understand what is being judged during this test.

Purpose of Test: To confirm that the rider, in addition to the requirements of training level, shows correct alignment, posture and mechanics in sitting trot, including maintaining a steady, elastic rein contact. In turns on forehand and leg yields the rider remains centered and the responds willingly to the aids. The transitions are ridden in better balance and with more throughness than at training level. In response to the correct application of the rider’s aids, the horse moves actively forward showing a consistent tempo and correct rhythm in each gait, shows bending, lengthens, and shortens the stride in trot and responds willingly to both longitudinal and lateral aids.

Final score: 71.000%
The final comments were:  Great test riding of this demanding test. Good basics too. Hurray!

I have never received a score so high in my entire life, so I was thrilled with the score.  This score was from a USEF r judge.

Second Level Rider Test

I was dreading the Second Level Rider Test. We just started showing Second Level this year.  In fact, our simple changes are non-existent. I have to say, I was sweating bullets about them for the last few weeks. We can occasionally get a really good canter/walk transition if the sun and moon align perfectly, but normally it’s a hard fall through a trot. Watch the Second Level test. You can tell a few of the transitions were just crap, but there were a couple that were just, almost, sort of, getting there.

And I was proud of Ava’s medium across the diagonal into counter canter. If you realized what an immense struggle it has been for the two of us to get a relatively balanced counter canter, then this video would absolutely amaze you. Last year at this time we couldn’t even do the shallow canter loop from wall to X without falling over. Let alone go from full on lengthen canter to counter canter. I was so proud of my little girl! Please ignore the down transition after the counter canter though. Those sucked.

Here’s the video.

The Purpose: To confirm that the rider, having achieved the requirements of First Level, is able to ride the horse reliably on the bit with an uphill tendency. The rider lengthens and shortens the horse’s stride in trot and canter while maintaining correct alignment, posture and mechanics. In lateral movements the rider stays centered and demonstrates an appropriate angle and bending of the horse. As a result of the correct application of the rider’s aids, the horse shows a greater degree of straightness, bending, suppleness, thoroughness, balance and self-carriage than at first level.

Final Score: 63.000%

The final comments were: Have a stable position [rider]. Level “Challenging” for horse so trans often tight and abrupt. Traver now is 4 track.

You know.. they don’t introduce shoulder-in to traver until I1 in the regular tests, so when I say this test was hard… I mean, HARD. But om my goodness it was a BLAST to ride! I’m so tired right now all I can think to write is “it was like bam, bam, bam”. hahaha

Anyway… watch the video’s, and then everyone needs to go try these Rider Tests. They are challenging (they’re the hardest test of every level), but I really enjoy how these tests are put together. I had so much fun riding them today.

Rider Tests – I’m doing them

I’m competing this Saturday at a schooling show, and I signed up for the First and Second Level Rider Tests. I really like how the tests flow. I like the difficulty levels. I like that its not about my horse’s gaits, but about how well I ride and how responsive my mare is. I like those aspects… but dang those tests are hard! As a rider, you have to stay balanced and proactive at all times. There are only a few spots where you have time to set the horse up a little. On the other hand, my mare didn’t have time to get bored, and she was forced to pay extra attention.

In my quest to learn more about the tests, I researched videos of Rider Tests. I can only find two (2) videos anywhere (for 1st and 2nd). Either no one rides those tests, or no one is willing to post their videos after they ride them.

Both tests have changed somewhat since these two videos were taken.

Here are the videos I found:

First Level Rider Test

Second Level Rider Test

Links to the Rider Tests:

Training Level:

First Level:

Second Level:

I am determined to post any video I may get of my Rider Tests, regardless of how piss poor they may be. This void of Rider Test videos needs to be rectified!!

If you know of any First or Second level Rider Test videos, post the link in the comments section.

Fall Dressage Show

I finished my very first Second level test yesterday! Seriously, I’m so excited to have simply not made an utter fool of myself, my trainer, or my horse. And to top it off we got a respectable score of 59.85% (I lost 2 points for halting at I instead of G). The highest score in the class was a 60.57%.


The Second Level test was the first test I rode, and then First 2 and 3. It was a little anticlimactic.

The weather was cold. It was a brisk 40 degree’s with drizzling rain. My mare hates rain. I cannot express to you how much she detests rain.

During our First Level Test 2 test, we were doing a15m canter circle into the rain when Ava flattens her ears, flings her head around, and (I swear) stomped her little feet. It was so funny looking I burst out laughing.


Our final test didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I was shivering, it was still raining, my horse bonked her head and now had a bruise where the bridle sat. Horse wasn’t happy. She was still mad about the rain smacking her in the face, and now she was ornery because her head hurt. Ava was fine, but I know whacking your head doesn’t feel good. However, she did try very hard to do as I asked, and there were some great parts to the last test. It just wasn’t a very smooth test.

Overall, not a bad last show. I got three Third places. Much better than I had expected to do.

We had some crazy good warm-ups though. I mean, awesome warm-ups. Best canter I’ve ever felt! It wasn’t just floaty, it was powerful, controlled, flowing, energy. Then we got in the arena, and I had barely there, kept falling apart canter. Anyway, now I know what it should feel like, and she can do it, so we’ve got all winter to develop that.

A few pics: