As a young person and somewhat recent college graduate that is just finding her way, it is really difficult for me to financially make the horse thing happen. Earlier this spring, my friend and trainer USDF Gold Medalist Barbara Strawson offered me the opportunity to put myself and Mo in full training with her for the month of May. She knew we wanted to make the move up to 2nd level and continue to earn our Bronze scores, and that we needed some help. She let me work out a deal with her making it doable for me, and fair for her. I will admit, I was actually a tiny bit worried that full training would be a bit much for us, since we normally do about 3 lessons a month. However, I was so wrong. The month of full training that we did with Barbara was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. It was hard work, but I loved every minute. We were able to ride with Barbara about 5 days a week, it was awesome. Barbara also sat on Mo a few times to educate the both of us, that was also very fun. We also got to hack at Little Bennett Park, which back’s up to Barbara’s place.
We worked a lot on Mo’s lateral suppleness and consistency in the bridle. We also worked on getting him stronger and more adjustable so we are able to get more collection for the more difficult things ahead. At first, he was a little irritated he had been thrust into “dressage boot camp” but we both soon realized that we are capable! Having Barbara sit on him was really helpful because although he looks pleasant and easy to ride…he is a squirmy little sucker. Barbara helped me to ride him more effectively and to not become frustrated when Mo is just in a mood and feeling uncooperative. I think we have both gained confidence and become more solid, taking us to that next level that we need to be at.
Barbara schooling Mo.
We competed at 2 shows in May. One was a schooling show at By Chance Farm, our first go at 2nd level to see where we were at. It wasn’t the prettiest test, and I forgot where I was going once…haha. We placed first in our 1st level 3 with a 67.9, and 3rd in our 2nd 1 with a 64. I honestly think the judge was pretty generous because I was not riding very well; I get pretty nervous. However, it was a good experience and we had our base line.
We also entered Dressage at Heavenly Waters, our first rated show at 2nd level. We are still green at the level so we did not expect to place; I just wanted to survive. The weekend turned out to be so much fun. We arrived Friday, unpacked, moved the horses in, and schooled, had dinner, then checked into our hotel. Saturday I was really nervous before my rides because I never know how the dressage judges will like my little off track horse. We won 1st 3 with a 69.5 and 2nd 1 with a 68.3. I was shocked! We also won reserve high score champion for 1st level and 2nd level on Saturday. Sunday I felt more composed and aimed to improve on my scores from Saturday. Saturday gave my confidence a much needed boost and brought my nerves down so I was able to really start to ride my tests, not allow the tests to ride me. We won our first test of the day, 2nd 1, with a 66%. It wasn’t the score I was hoping for but we did make one mistake in that test so it made sense. We waited around all day (8:30 to 4:00) to ride our last test of the weekend. I tried to ride the crap out of that test because I wanted to break into the 70’s for our last test at 1st level. However, I forgot to have Barbara take off our overreach boots from the warm-up…so you know how it goes…eliminated. That was a bummer, but oh well, at least we didn’t need the score. As we were packing up, Mo and I were announced as the TIP High Score winners for the entire show. That made up for our last test! All in all, I could not have asked for more from Mo, at his 2nd level debut! So happy with him.
Ribbons from Heavenly Waters!
Some canter from one of our tests! Picture by Claudia Weeks.
I gained SO much from my experience in May. I gained a sense of confidence about myself as a rider, that I CAN do this. Both Mo and I have come back stronger and more solid and ready for 2nd level. Now we just need to tackle those pesky changes for 3rd level!
More from Heavenly Waters. Photos by Claudia Weeks.