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June 24, 2014

Which Level Should I Show?

Emily Wagner waited to show her WakeUp in Grand Prix until she was sure they could score a 68 percent.

Show season is in full swing! Everything seems beyond hectic, but I love to feel the progress the horses are making.

The big news of Wally Woo Farm is that WakeUp is now a full-fledged Grand Prix horse! I am so happy and continually appreciative that I get to sit on him and have this journey with him. He rocked the other weekend with two 70 percent [scores] in the Grand Prix and a 72 percent in the Developing Grand Prix. The best part is that WakeUp truly enjoys his work and always tries for me. I love him!

Lilo had told me I was not allowed to show the Grand Prix until I felt capable of a 68 percent. I felt ready to try it because of his I2 scores, and I wanted to test the waters. However, it is a question that many people have: Which level should I show? Am I ready to move up?

Often we hear the guidelines that you should show one level below what you are schooling at home or that you should be comfortably within the range of the regional championship qualifying scores, but many factors influence this decision, and it really is a case-by-case basis. Here are some thoughts we had about horses this show season…

Toric is a training horse owned by Maggie Stonecipher. He is schooling all the Prix St. Georges movements, but the tempi changes are not yet confirmed. He does have super trot work and canter pirouettes, so I would guess he would be scoring around a 63 percent in the PSG—a qualifying score for regionals. However, based on the fact that he has never been to a show with his owner or me, we opted to show fourth level. We felt confident and scored in the upper 60s. It gave him a great first experience with us and let us know what to expect from him in the show atmosphere.

Wen is a 4-year-old WakeUp baby who is just a really fun horse. He is very levelheaded, and the work comes easily for him. At his first show he scored 70 percent in first level, test 3, and 77 percent in training level, test 3. He is also for sale. So we were debating putting him into a second level, test 1, just to have it on his record.

We play around with all the movements at home, and his canter work is very easy. However, we decided against it. While he could pull off the movements, he would not have the consistency or strength expected of a second level horse with the collected gaits required at second level. It is also super important to set the younger or more inexperienced horses up for success in the ring. Building confidence is key. Same goes for the riders!

Kate is a lovely 8-year-old half-sister to WakeUp, ridden and owned by Carrie Gordon. She has had this mare since she was 3, and it has been so much fun being a part of their development. This year Carrie wanted to make the jump to third level. The canter work is good, but the trot still needs to develop. Neither Carrie nor Kate have ever shown third level.

However, they have an excellent relationship. Kate is super at shows, and Carrie had the opportunity to try for her bronze medal. I wanted to push them a little out of their comfort zone and challenge them, so I said, “Go for it.” It was a success! They qualified for regionals, and Carrie got her bronze medal with two third level 3 tests.

So there is no black and white answer about when and what to show. It depends on the rider’s expectations, skills, goals and confidence levels. The horse also needs to feel comfortable, confident and set up for success. Finally, evaluate the comments of the judge and consult with your trainer after the show to determine whether it was too much of a challenge, not enough of a challenge, or just right.

Blogger Emily Wagner, 25, shows and trains dressage horses out of her family's farm in LaCygne, Kan. Her WakeUp is one of the rising stars of U.S. dressage, having won the 6-year-old national championship in 2011 and winning the Developing Prix St. Georges national championship in 2013. Read all of Emily's blogs.

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