It has been said on more than one occasion that I can be stubborn at times. Case and point, my need to go to a dressage competition after having been virtually confined to the couch with a mystery virus for the previous two days.
I had a fantastic ride Friday afternoon and decided that I would be well enough to compete the following day, but that I would have to forgo braiding Nonie. On Saturday morning, driving out to the paddock to load Nonie and travel up to Cannon Valley, I began to wonder out loud if I still had a temperature much to my partner’s horror, I remained determined to compete. Adding fuel to the fire was the arrival of the summer heat, the type which feels hot, thick and suffocatingly still. Needless to say, they weren’t our finest tests of the year. I made it through the novice and elementary, but felt like I was going to pass out by the end, but we still managed to produce some nice moments.
Nonie warmed up in her new white fleece lined brush boots from Wilson Equestrian. I wore my Wilson Equestrian long sleeve show shirt https://wilsonequestrian.com.au/product/cold-but-bold-long-sleeved-show-shirt/ which was perfect for the informal t-shirt competition.
The following weekend, the local show society was putting on a competition that offered everything from miniature horse to dressage to western to hacking. Being able to travel to a competition in under an hour is a huge novelty for me, so I once again readied myself to compete. There is something about plaiting up a horse that I find almost meditative, so long as I am not short of time. On this occasion my late start time (3.30pm!!!) meant that I was able to luxuriate in the process of turning Nonie out, to the point that she even had quarter markers! I wore my favourite Wilson Equestrian super stick breeches https://wilsonequestrian.com.au/product/wilson-equestrian-breeches-white-super-stick/ and the Wilson Equestrian 2016 show jacket https://wilsonequestrian.com.au/product/wilson-equestrian-show-jacket-black-2016/ for a polished look. I absolutely love this jacket as I find it creates beautiful lines without restricting my position.
Some competitions are great because you are surrounded by friends or you and your horse remained calm, others because you feel that you nailed it in the ring. But for me this last competition was great because a huge lesson was learnt. I have often heard the saying that competition is important and even necessary as it is the ultimate litmus test of your training. While this is a lesson I have been gradually recognising, it was only at this most recent competition that I fully realised the truth of it. Perhaps this is because sometimes you learn the most when a ride doesn’t go quite the way you want it to. Having had some great rides over the past few weeks, where I have felt that Nonie was developing moments of cadence and was swinging nicely across the back, I lost it at the competition. There were certainly some great moments in both tests, with a final score of 73% in the novice and a couple of 8s in the elementary, however I knew that there was some work to be done. A friend whose opinion I greatly value was pencilling at this competition. She told me that Nonie needed more cadence in the trot work and that she appeared to be anticipating something in the canter work. I was initially disappointed, however upon further reflection, I realised that in my efforts to develop a bigger trot and canter I had sacrificed Nonie’s softness and that she still needed to be much more adjustable through her body. It was a great opportunity to learn this in the ring and I have now been able to adjust our training accordingly.
For something completely different, the next day we entered the relatively unfamiliar world of the show horse ring. I had fun taking the extra time to apply largely unfamiliar products such as hoof black and make up. I even pulled my velvet helmet and velvet browband out of the cupboard for the occasion. I take my hat off to riders who do this on a regular basis, the level of commitment that it takes to turn horses out to that level cannot be underestimated. However, for Nonie and I, our hearts ultimately lie with dressage.