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September 8, 2014: In Retrospect

Today Vickie sat down with me at a local café, and we went over both our dressage scores. She competed in the Level 1 classes – these follow the Training Level, which follow the Introductory Level classes. And so, in a manner of speaking, Vickie and Hunar are up there. They are doing more complicated patterns and maneuvers. They are doing well because they have been practicing and competing in dressage shows now for four years.

This was so very cool because previously, after shows, I’d press Vickie for details about how it went. Her answers were vague because 1) I hadn’t

been there. And 2) I didn’t have a grasp as to what she was doing entailed. And so her having her three sheets before her, and interpreting the judge’s comments was both insightful and helpful. And Vickie’s later providing me with comments was also both insightful and helpful because I then better understood what the judge was looking for and what the evaluative criteria entailed.

Dressage is a very precise athletic endeavor. You have to respond to the given dictate, in the correct fashion, otherwise you lose points. And beforehand, you have to practice, practice, practice – it of course helps if you have a dressage coach giving you feedback. A lot of the training is piecemeal – you work with your horse on figuring out how to do certain things, and then, at some point, you and your horse do what’s been learned in sequence.

The rider must also, in training, determine when enough is enough because the horse can either get bored with all the repetition, or anticipate the pattern and in this respect do poorly. I’ve been reading a lot lately about how envisioning the entire setting in which the test takes place, and as well envisioning riding the test counts down on the total amount of training time. And I think my doing this lead to Raudi and my successful completion of the introductory level patterns.

Going over the tests was also good. Our strengths -- medium walk. Horse must be willing and balanced, have a clear walk rhythm. No problem here. And free walk. Horse must have complete freedom to stretch neck forward and downward; clear walk rhythm, straightness on the diagonal. Ground cover. This entails that the horse must lower its head, stretch its neck and take the bit.

Our weaknesses: Twenty meter circles. Had to do this at the trot in the first two tests, and at the canter in the third test. Circle left. Horse must have roundness and size of circle, clear canter rhythm and bend. Okay, we did a marginal job here. Circle left 20 meters developing working canter in first quarter of the circle, left lead. Oh oh. Flubbed this one up big time. Started the canter too late, was on the wrong lead, and circle too small. Ouch.

The weaknesses – as I have determined (and I think Vickie would agree), my weaknesses will easily be rectified with practice. Learning the more advanced things, that will take training.

So where do we go from here? The answer is that I (again) see dressage as a means to an end. I would like every so often to enter a show and get feedback on a specific and single performance. I would also like to enter a show now and then because my getting feedback on a specific and single performance will enable Raudi and me to do even better on the trail.

And so, I am now thinking that I would like to take dressage lessons with Deana Johnson, the woman who judged yesterday’s dressage classes. She was so upbeat and positive, it would be a nice complement to Beth. Because of the weather, this may not happen until spring. Then again, if the weather holds, it may happen sooner. I feel like I’m on a roll and would like to continue it.