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September 7, 2014: Lessons Learned: “Keep Up the Forward Thinking!”

The above comment was made by Deana Johnson. She wrote it on my Dressage Introductory Level, Test C form. It accompanied her many positive comments. This comment is most appropriate because it affirms that, indeed, Raudi and I are moving forward. Today we demonstrated this in an arena setting, during the process of doing three introductory level dressage tests.

Prior to doing the tests, I walked Raudi in the outdoor arena, both ways, just like I do at Beth’s I then mounted and did the Introductory Level, Test A. Yes, this is an introductory test, the one that most kids start off doing. And it is in the

scope of things, rudimentary – all I’d have to do was walk and trot, following a set pattern. But I didn’t care. My mantra had become, and throughout the day remained, “gotta start somewhere!”

The horse that was being ridden in the first event of the day – a dressage demonstration, was in the arena and being put through his paces. It was sobering watching this fellow and his rider practice. The pair made all that was involved, cross cantering, piaffes, small circles, all look easy. As I well know, such things take years of hard work and discipline.

The kids in the leadline class went first, and then it was time for the introductory classes. I was second. Vickie volunteered to be my reader, and beforehand, she explained to me that she’d give the directive in advance of my having to execute the maneuver. She also went over the test instructions with me – explaining each one, and what would be required of Raudi and me. And she also told me other things that I would not have known otherwise; for instance, that I would have 45 seconds to enter the arena once the bell was rung.

I was, prior to doing the Test A, worried that two things might happen – the first being that Raudi would misbehave, and do something like bolt over to Pete or Vickie, and the second being that I’d inadvertently go off course. I needn’t have worried. Raudi stayed focused and I stayed on course. I did, at one point, hear the bell and thought that this meant that I was being dismissed. As was subsequently explained to me, the bell meant that I’d done something wrong, and needed to correct it. In this instance, the something wrong was that my 20 meter circle was too small. I was, at the conclusion of this test, so relieved to have finished it that I suppressed tears.

I felt a bit more confident about Raudi’s remaining focused when doing Test B. And of course, she did just fine. However, I was less confident about my own abilities because I hadn’t memorized the pattern, which I’d done prior to doing Test A. I didn’t think that Test B went as well as Test A because I did make a wrong turn. However, I recovered fairly quickly, and went on to finish the pattern.

Test C was the toughest yet (at least in my mind) because I had to do two twenty meter circles at the canter. I thought I initially had reason to be concerned because Raudi did hesitate before going into the arena. It was as if she was saying, “Again?” We have to do this again? I don’t want to do this again.” This, I know, is typical Raudi – she isn’t a great one for having to deal with a lot of repetition. I was most worried about Test C because I wasn’t sure if Raudi would pick up the canter when asked. As it turned out, we did our first circle correctly – it was big, and she picked up the correct lead. However, our second circle lacked a lot to do be desired. We rushed it, picked up the wrong lead, and didn’t go big enough. I knew this, but kept going and finished the test. As I saluted the judge, I heard clapping. This mystified me, because I didn’t think we did all that good.

I was pleased that (for us) the competition was over; however, I would gladly have done another test or two. As for Raudi, she most wanted to hang out by the trailer, eat, and watch the goings on. If she were human, she’d be a movie buff.

I spent the afternoon hanging out and watching my friends compete. Originally I was just going to watch them and take notes. I realized, as I watched them, that learning dressage also involves getting out there and doing it. In this respect, it’s most likely like bowling.

I didn’t want to stick around for the awards ceremony because I was convinced that Raudi and I didn’t win anything. I didn’t feel bad about this, but, I didn’t want others to know that I, who profess to be a knowledgeable horse person, again came up empty handed in the ribbons category. But then again, good sportsmanship entails being supportive of your friends.

So I followed the others up to the area outside the arena, and clapped as first, the kids doing the leadline class collected their trophies, ribbons, and goodie bags. And as I listened, the results of the Introductory Level classes were announced. Imagine my surprise when I heard my name, and that I’d gotten first in Class A, and second in Class B and C. I was so surprised that I said to the woman handing out the awards that she must have made some mistake.

I could put qualifiers on why I got the awards that I got, some including the fact that I’d competed in the Introductory Level classes, and that there were not many other competitors in the senior division. For honesty’s sake, I should do this. Well, for honesty’s sake I just alluded to this. However, I’d much rather focus on the fact that these awards are indicative of the fact that today, Raudi and I moved forward in a huge way. We took on a task that was unfamiliar to us both, and did a creditable job.

The question that I was asked after was, would I do this again? My answer was a resounding “hell yes!”

Next: 241. 9/1014: Lessons Learned: Group Lesson Particulars