Something you may not know about me is that I have a secret, deeply buried passion for dressage.
Okay, in the long run, stadium jumping is my favorite of the phases of eventing. It’s like cross country and dressage had a really awesome baby that inherited all the best qualities of each– adrenaline, finesse, communication, speed. But there is something absolutely mesmerizing about dressage (specifically the upper levels, but also lower levels, when done well).
So, on occasion, I’ll give myself the guilty pleasure of closing my eyes and imagining, just for a moment, that I am Charlotte Dujardin doing one-tempis on Valegro.
Needless to say, dressage test practice on noodly baby horse went… averagely by Dujardin standards. After approximating the dimensions of your typical dressage court, me and two other barn ladies prepared to practice our dressage tests for the show this Sunday.
As per my usual pre-show demeanor, I’m minorly panicky about the whole impending ordeal and I’m convinced that nervousness is playing over into my riding. Where’s the Ace? Can humans take it?
We kicked things off with a little warmup outside before moving to our little makeshift dressage court. After revising the test once or twice, we gave it a shot.
And the second C and I trotted into the court, I drew a blank. One hundred percent mind wipe, gone, zip, nada, zilch. Oops. So we restarted: trot in, working walk between X and M, trot at M, 20m circle at A, trot across the diagonal K to M, 20m circle at C, walk at C, free walk across the diagonal H to F, then medium walk up the center line and halt at X. Even repeating this over and over in my head, I still missed the circle to the left at C. Ooooops.
When I finally got the test right, C was looky and forward and completely different from the horse I had in warmup– which I should’ve expected. Between peeking at the numbers and shoving his shoulders wherever he pleased, I was focusing most of my energy on containing his, and not on my own position. In reviewing the video of the test, I didn’t look all too bad, except that I somehow managed to post the wrong diagonal for an entire circle. If I do that during the show, please, sedate me so the embarrassment doesn’t kill me.
After a few practice tests, I was getting a little frustrated. C was good for some portions of the test, but down the long side between M and F, would stick his inside shoulder in and fight against the outside rein. This resulted in an awkward inside wiggle that, when I tried to correct it with inside leg pressure, only sent him even more forward. Right now C interprets left leg correctly, but right leg as a ‘go’ button regardless of how I ask.
Essentially, we were wiggly-jetting down one side in a very, very non-Dujardin fashion.
It took one of the other riders’ mentioning to remind me of the low expectations I should be having. Honestly, if a little noodly-ness and forwardness is the only outstanding problem that C presented me with, I should be ecstatic. I should not be expecting potential-Valegro from my 3-year-old OTTB. This is common sense.
I need to adjust my expectations and realize that while C is not perfection, he’s pretty damn good for a baby greenie. He listened when I asked for transitions and sought contact on the circle at A. He was looky but he didn’t spook; he was noodly but he didn’t leap out of our makeshift dressage ring.
By Valegro standards, C was mediocre. But by baby horse standards, he was Valegro to me.