I just send in an entry to an HDT and am very nervious: I have inconsistent dressage scores at schooling shows, have inconsistent cones scores and rarely get to practice a country run with hazards. I know that all this is experience, experience, experience, but lately I have had both some demoralizing show experiences and health issues. My question relates to this: I think I ought to get out there, at the risk of not doing well and being made fun of, for the purpose of practice; my other self is afraid of being made fun of--I have shown with some nasty folks, I guess, and I am not feeling too tough and strong these days. Can someone comment on these nerves? This is a hobby to which I am quite dedicated for years now in time, money and love--of these I am a bit poor in the first two--and I am finding myself more, not less, intimidated and emotionally injured, as times goes by. I do have a life, and driving is part of it--a big part--but not all of it: am I missing some crucial, competitive aspect? Ought I scratch or...
Been there done that one. I waited a long time to go out and run with the big dogs at CDEs. People were pretty nice, never had anyone get snarky with me. And believe me, I had some horrendous dressage scores. Some so bad we couldn't catch up even when we won hazards and cones.
But I have withdrawn from those competitions for a couple of reasons--mostly money and finally the realization that we were not having fun. I am not going to put me and my horse through dressage. I don;t care to train for it which is a must and he is not happy when we do. His very breeding and confirmation do not make him a great dressage horse. He is completely awesome in hazards, so very nimble and quick from that very same confirmation. He knows how to run a cones course, figured out he needs to be in the center of those cones. BUT--we could never win. I am competitive enough that I want a fighting chance. For a while I just told myself and was happy enough with the reasoning that at least I was out there doing CDEs--something I had wanted to do for over 10 years. The last 3 or 4 we did I came home really not happy.
What I did was some serious soul searching--was I having fun?
If it isn;t fun any more, why do it? So I went back to my roots, the thing that my horse was bred for and what I love to do---be out on trails with horses in the woods.
So look at what you can do, what you want to do and most importantly, are you having fun?
We are lucky here in Central Florida to have many venues and all sort of fun things to do with our driven horses. Find something that fits your time, money and makes you and your horse happy.
If you seriously are committed to the CDE kind of events, go inwith a big bold smile, ask your pony to do what he can and let it go. Give them h-ll in cones and hazards and find the folks who are not snarky, people who are like you--there for a good time. You are not a bad driver in either, I have seen you do cones--you have always given me a run for my money when we competed at STRIDE.
There are a ton of us out there in the CDE world, folks who want to be there and do it, but will never get beyond Prelim or training. But without folks like us, these events don;t fill up.
So give 'em h-ll, girl and do whatever feels good to you in your heart and your head. It may take you a while to sort it out, but in the end, you will know what is right for you.
Try not to be so hard on yourself. Honestly, most people at horse shows are there to compete or to cheer on a specific friend or two, so the spotlight and all eyes aren't on you as much as you think. And there are some amazingly low and amazingly high scores by the end of every single show. Just try to formulate a realistic goal for you and your horse to achieve at each event, and focus on that rather than what others think.
I'm only about three years into CDE (and lovin' it!), but I so clearly remember how unfocused and bad most of the early dressage tests were (and sometimes still are!). It will take time and the learning experience of studying the judge's remarks to understand what they really want to see. For instance, I was surprised at how much more forward of a pace was desired at training level than I expected. Really getting the horse into your hand and achieving the suppleness and softness you want is always going to be a work in progress, so you just try to show where you're at in that process when you're in the ring. Also, there are things you can control in order to put the best possible test. It really improves your scores if the figures in the dressage test are accurate, so walk the dressage test a lot, so you know exactly where you have to be for every step of that circle or serpentine.
For cones, you can build your confidence by practicing a simple exercise at home: set up gates of cones (even the cheap Wal-Mart soccer cones will do) at advanced width on a figure-8 pattern of two 20-meter circles (the cones will be positioned at 12, 3, 6, and 9 on the circle, with one gate in common with the other circle). Then practice, practice, practice, until you can trot and canter the circles, changing rein as you go. Then, when you get to a real cones course set wider than advanced, you'll feel like you're driving through wide open spaces.
Keep your chin up, a smile on your face, and remember that each competition isn't the end-all and be-all....it's part of a process to confirm your training and partnership with your horse.
If you going to the Tampa trials or any shows in florida, please come find Sterling or me. At tampa trials, I am the course designer and will give a free 30 minute course walk where questions are encouraged.
and i am by no means a DQ...i struggle with dressage and am much better at cones and marathon but luckily there are 3 phases so just because I am usually last on the first day it keeps getting better as the show goes along so most times, I end on a happy note. Dressage is just practice and it will get better.
The easiest way to improve your dressage is to follow the training pyramid and make sure you have the solid foundations of rhythm and relaxation and straightness.
Then make sure you are accurate on your figures and transitions. Know when your horse's nose is at the letter and prepare for your transitions. Even if you always school alone, you can put some chalk or lime lines in your schooling area marking your center lines..A-C and E-B. If it takes you 5 strides to go from trot to walk, plan to start asking for the walk 5 strides from your letter.
Practice your walk transitions. Anyone at any level can improve this score. Make sure to make a transition from working walk to lengthened walk. Get your horse to stretch and relax and then practice going back to working walk. With green horses, I practice this 12 times when i first get into the ring and then right before i leave. If i have a nervous one, i might practice this movement every 15 minutes of the work session. This movement seems so easy, i used to never practice this but it is x2 in most every test...i was throwing points away...so if you can show a nice relaxed lengthened walk and not jig you can get a 7 vs no difference in the walk or worse, break of pace which will give you a 4.
Practice your straight Center line, halt and rein back. This again is an easy movement, i used to never practice it because i thought it was easy and used to blow it every time. So be straight on center line, be accurate at your halt and train for the back. I usually train them in hand to back off my voice so i don't have to use lots of rein pressure in the ring. I also train them to back one step for each time i say back so it is not rushed or they don't panic and worry about when the back will end. Most dressage tests ask for a certain number of steps so training them for one back step for each voice command of back has helped me.
Honestly, i have been struggling with dressage for years and thought it just wasn't my phase, until i started taking riding dressage lessons and scribing at ridden dressage shows. The kind DQs who have helped me showed me to fix my basics and showed me what is important from the judges eye view. Someday, i hope i'll conquer the basics and be able to start trying to wow them like Chester Weber but for right now i'm working on rhythm, relaxation, straightness and accuracy and dressage has gotten much more fun and rewarding and less frustrating.
Good luck and don't give up on Combined driving. it is fun and a mental challenge for both you and your horse.
Wendy Ying, DVM,CVA
Wysiwyg Sportcobs & 5 Elements for Animals
I'm currantly in the same position as you - I have VERY inconsistant dressage scores! - I think she's better in the pouring rain (The Laurels '09) then in clear, sunny skys (Katydid '09) - go figure! But she's finally excelling in marathon (getting bolder) & never really has been a problem with cones.
My mare gets really-really nervous (NOT bad) at shows and decides to lock & hang on my hands, I get frustrated/nervous and let her. A new bit was suggested to help me/her with it (Thank Sterling again for me Wendy!), and I plan on spending the winter on riding her to work on dressage that way (My girl is not big or fancy, so I really need to work on her movement expression.). The only way I can help her is to show her, and make her realize that she does not need to be nervous. We'll get there as a team, and the same with you - just keep at it. DON"T GIVE UP!!!!!
As for meeting nasty people at CDEs - I've not really come across that, and I'm sorry that you have. I usually talk to everyone I meet, you never know who can help you, or let you stay at their house for a show (HAHA!). I suggest going to the HDT and enjoying yourself - just breathe & have fun!! It's only a horse show.....right
Wendy......GREAT ADVISE! And you don't need to "wow" them like Chester, just "WOW" them as you already do just being "Wendy Ying"! I wish I lived closer to you & Sterling!!! "Sigh", I need help!
**Don't underestimate the POWER OF PURPLE!**