We did it, we survived our first ever British Dressage Winter Regional Championships!!!!
In the weeks leading up to the Champs things were not going in our favour, the cold weather meant that our arena was frozen in the morning so I couldn’t ride before work at 6am and then frozen again at around 6pm when I returned from work so a few weeks passed with D only getting worked at the weekend when I could box over to my instructor’s. If you know D you will know that this is not ideal because he is a raving maniac workaholic and as such the less work he gets the more loopy he becomes (esp at this time of year!)
Thankfully the weather improved and I managed to ride him 6/7 days the week proceeding the Champs. All week I also worked on introducing him to soft mints in addition to his usual gumbits to stop him grinding so that he was extra soft and sloppy in his mouth. We trekked off to Addington ‘Mummy Groom’ and I and my instructor Amanda Brewer met us there to help us with our pre-test warm up.
We arrived with lots of time to spare because we only had the one test to ride the plan was to get him out and do a little warming up, then untack and put him back on the lorry, before warming up properly for his test. This way hopefully he would get a taste of the atmosphere and not be as lively when it came to his actual test. We went in to warm up initially and the warm up was chokka! This was extremely exciting for D and he sort of alternated between wild beast and obedient pony for 10 seconds at a time. When he has settled a little I took him back to the box to chill for a bit.
Amanda arrived and we talked through the test, what to prepare for and how to ride certain elements that would prove tricky. The main movement I was concerned about was:
Change the rein in free walk on a long rein, at K medium walk, A down the centre line, D working trot.
I know D is good at his free walk and as it is a double mark movement we really needed to get a good score for that, but he is really tricky to pick back up into medium walk. He anticipates when I pick up the reins, can go hollow and resistant to the contact and is liable to break into a jog as he thinks ‘reins up = trot’. With him every hang over and habit learned in racing is amplified when in a competition environment making my job even harder!
We started to get ready to go back and warm up for his test and he flat out refused to eat his pre-bridle mints and gumbits. I shook the tub, rustled the paper, held them to his mouth, even poked some in the side of his mouth, but he spat them all out and remained tight lipped……just perfect!
So….planning to try again once on and warming up we set off to the warm up. Thankfully we found a bigger less busy arena to warm up in and set to work getting him soft, forwards and through. He did some of the best work he’s ever done in that warm up but sadly it was all being marred by the intermittent scrunch scrunch sound of him grinding his teeth. I am fanatical about his dental health because he came to me with shocking gnashers that needed a lot of work and as such he has 6 monthly visits from an excellent EDT. I’ve been using the gumbits for years now and he always gobbles them up but I think the pressure of such a big occasion got to him.
We did our test and I was really pleased with him, my instructor said that if he had been silent that she thought it would have been high 60% but the judges all highlighted ‘acceptance of the bridle’ on my score sheets and as such the collectives were only 6’s with the odd 7.
We scored 65.06% which placed us 22 out of 30. This doesn’t sound like such a great result but there were only 3 in the class on 70% and 14 other riders scored between 65-66% so it was pretty tight stuff!
Despite the unfortunate grinding I am super pleased with D’s dressage progress. We’ve both qualified and competed in our first two Petplan Area Festivals and a Winter Regional Champs together and from last season’s 8 tests we were placed in the top 3 7 times, and scored over 70% twice with a PB of 71.09%. There’s so much to be pleased with and the grinding is something I’m sure I can solve so it’s back to the drawing board on that one for a while!