Our First Dressage Test Together

Sunday, September 14, 2008

No not Graycie and I, although I’m sure it’s going to be quite a story. Birdie has dressage anxiety issues. He gets uptight at the sight of a dressage arena. I don’t know why, but that’s the horse I have. We entered in the BN Short Course at Loch Moy. What a gorgeous place that is. The people are fantastic too.

Dressage was first thing in the morning and my faithful friend Cherie was there at my side even though she was there to compete the fabulous Katchi. We had to walk down a long hill to the warm up arena. I told Cherie it seemed the more I drill the Bird the more uptight he gets. My strategy would be to try to ride him on as loose a rein as possible during warm up. To my amazement, he was going for it. I even did a little on the bit work and he was quite pleasing.

Now it was time to walk up a small hill to an area with three dressage arenas side by side. Now let me inject that it’s been over 20 years since I rode a dressage test. When Birdie saw the dressage arenas, he became extremely uptight. There was no bending to try to relax him, any movement is prohibited until he tones down a notch. Now I know, from riding racehorses, when a horse is this tight, and I mean tight, you just sit there. Any movement at all and they pop off. What is pop off? Well it manifests itself in many different forms, but it’s never good and around a dressage arena it will probably be embarrassing too.

The guy before me is saluting and it’s time. Here I go around the arena on my very uptight horse who is now even more uptight. My only goal is to make certain that this wonderful horse does not have a bad experience. He needs me to do this right. I look down in the judges box and what do I see? It’s my neighbor. I start to laugh which is great. What are the odds I don’t ride a dressage test for 20 years and my neighbor is the judge?

I’m going to get my third arm out now and give myself a pat on the back for the following reasons. Me and the Bird rode a very accurate test. His straight lines were pretty straight, his circles were round, he did his transitions where he was supposed to. It was not a competitive test because he was so uptight, but it was an accurate test. It is very hard to accurately ride a test on a horse that uptight, believe me. The best part of it was, although he never really relaxed, he did become more relaxed as the test went on. I am excited to ride the next one because I think we’re on the right road, albeit a long road.

We did not do the cross country course in competition, it was very hot and in two days I was to ride with Jimmy. We did school it later in the day and the most special thing happened. Birdie never has fun, he just does his job. I can never get him to take a treat and when I ride him I know he loves me, but he doesn’t seem to know how to just enjoy. This day though we had a breakthrough. It was so hot and Cherie decided we should stand in the water jump a bit. Katchi was splashing up a storm and Birdie just stood there wondering what the hell we were doing. Waiting for me to decide the next task. Then it happened, after about ten minutes of standing there, Birdie put a hoof forward and splash! “Hey, I like this!” Splash, splash splash! Cherie and I were laughing and telling that Bird what a good horse he is. Katchi joined in and said, “Hey when I do this you tell me to cut it out.”
It was a good day. Cherie and Katchi did what they do best, they won their class.

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