Tell me your early dressage horror stories...when you ride a bad test!! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 06-26-2011, 06:10 PM Thread Starter
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Tell me your early dressage horror stories...when you ride a bad test!!

OMG I don't even know where to begin besides saying I am a mature adult and KNOW that some days you just have BAD days, but I am having trouble getting over a very sick feeling after today's horrible schooling show. I am hoping others have experienced this and can elighten me and cheer me up!

I did my first ever schooling show in March, in an indoor we had schooled in before. I was ULTRA nervous but pulled out an honorable 66.75, 4th place out of 7. I felt the test went nearly perfect. My horse was nice and forward, obedient and willing (many nice comments about that). He is in his 20's and was a H/J lesson horse before I got him 4 years ago.

This time we tried Intro A and B. The day started off just "off". I like to be VERY prepared. Horsey was fed later, had to pull him from his breakfast, arrived 20 mins. later to the show than would have liked. We have NEVER been there and never until today, rode in an OPEN dressage arena OUTSIDE. This farm was very out in the open - flat, open fields all around. We had also NEVER ridden in the large arena. I do practice in my own large arena but it's not as long...and just with little cones that I set up (no low white dressage rails) and my arena is 3/4 fenced. I originally only had the small arena cones (AKEHCMBF) and realized I had better practice with the large arena letters RSVP as the circle "markers" I had in my head would be different. I did a few run-through's the week before the test. (My test in March was done in the smaller arena.) I also did my tests today in my friend's dressage saddle. I did March's test in my close contact, and judge commented I tipped forward and would do better in a dressage saddle. I have been practicing in this dressage saddle for over a month, and while the seat is super comfy, my legs move ALOT in it and we had some issues with using longer stirrups and horsey not seeming to "feel" my aids as well.

To boot, I LOCKED MY KEYS IN THE CAR when I went to check in at the show!! Thank GOD I have Onstar, and borrowed another competitor's phone to call them. My phone, clothes, bridle and pad were all in my truck!I was slightly traumatized by that whole fiasco.

Now to the test. I was trotting around before entering the ring, said hello to the judges, and RIGHT as I pass "A" they ring the "enter" bell. My trainer was there and said, "Oh just turn around, exit the ring a bit and enter "A" straight on." IMO, horsey thought we were exiting ring and he can be a crab if he thinks we are done and we're not - ...but I did it, and he felt VERY strong trotting to X. (TEST A). We proceed, but I can tell you his ears were up and stiff, he was NOT relaxed and as soon as we attempted circle at "A", he took off cantering. I could not stop him. He blew off my half halts and my best description is he just wanted to RUN and let out some energy. I could not turn him right - he braced against me, grabbed the bit and kept cantering...I finally turned him left, tried to go back to "A" and judge rings bell. Told me to go to K and start my change of rein across diagonal. Did that and finished test DECENTLY. But here-in lies problem number 2. When I tried to exit the ring and turn right, he bolted left as if to say "F" U - and....are you ready? He JUMPED over the dressage rail to the right of "A" BACK into the ring. (It was a beautiful jump by the way, LOL!). I got him back out of the ring and he was fighting me in the grass - kept lurching left when I tried to simply turn him right - and the steward asked me to move away (how embarassing) as he was now a danger to the person entering the ring. UGH.

Trainer and I were SO mad at his naughtiness. It took everything I had not to scratch B - we warmed up again and did lots of circles and turning right and I finally felt I had enough confidence to try "B"....but I have to tell you I was scared! We did "B" but at the advice of my trainer, I rode VERY, VERY conservatively and definitely held him back. I got a 66 on test "A", and a 58 on "B" for lack of forwardness. It was OBVIOUS I was riding him half halting almost the entire test just so I could get through it without him cantering off. UGH. I also forgot my pattern in "B" and didn't complete the first circle. At that point I really didn't know where my head was at, but just concentrating on riding EVERY step deliberately and cautiously.

On a good note, our centerlines ROCK. This horse is can ride a centerline straight as an arrow, and we got 8's on that.

What the hell happened to my horse??? I have always thought he hates dressage. When he sees the cones at my barn I swear he makes a face. When he sees jumps, he lights up and trainer has commented many times that he loves to jump and canter jumps. We are working on that in the background but due to his age I can't jump him all the time, and we currently jump low (Crossrails, 18" and low verticals). I plan on doing a pleasure class hunter soon to try that.

I know my biggest mistake was letting him get in too many canter steps. I was completely taken off guard when he cantered on that circle.

He was clearly being BAD but I cannot help but think he was picking up on my tension. And there were so many NEW and OFF things today. The way I entered the ring. Never, ever, ever did that. The saddle (I am tipped forward in all the pics I have that hubby took, and my legs are too far back) I so missed my CC saddle today :( Not to mention the keys in the car fiasco, arriving late. UGH.

I will tell you I was SO close to scratching "B", as I was so afraid to go back into the ring. When I finished "B" EVERYONE applauded (how sad is that!) I am so glad my horse didn't decide to do another jumping exhibition.

But now my dilemma is, I am worried that he just HATES this and it's his way of telling me. He looks miserable in most of the pics. He can be naughty but never this naughty. We are going to try a hunter pleasure show in a fenced ring to see how he does. But I hate to just give up dressage as it is good for both of us.

Any advice? Chin up and just move on? I know we all have bad days, but I never expected to feel this awful. My husband and children watched the whole thing and hubby said "Wow, I was worried. I never saw you look that out of control..." gee, thanks! And trainer told him NOT to video Test B...I guess not alot of confidence it would go well. To me, completing the test was a success at that point, which we did....and I am SO glad I didn't scratch and forced myself to do "B". I know I scored poorly on B, and that the judge cannot score me "compared to "A" or based on what happened in "A". I am sure most everyone knew why I was riding the test so slowly. I had a good cry and am trying to put it behind me but I feel a fear now of riding him in an open ring (vs. fenced).

Any advice, thoughts??
tpup is offline  
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post #2 of 9 Old 06-26-2011, 08:10 PM
Join Date: May 2011
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ok, so i've had my share of bad dressage tests, at least your guy didn't try to brain the judge with a buck =P I think you can always have a bad day, and this was surely one of them . I used to own a gelding that would have two or three psycho days per year, where he would just be a nutcase and there was nothing you could do. But sometimes it's also my fault. From reading your post it seems you were extremely stressed and worked up... maybe this could have effected your horse? My mom's horse is a complete angel for anyone, beginners included, but if you're nervous he turns psycho. From reading your post, it seems you are only blaming your horse, it's just the impression i got. I don't know you or the horse, but always look to yourself for mistakes too.

As consolidation, I've seen so many botched tests that yours isn't even shocking or abnormal. At my shows you get disqualified if you leave the arena, and i've seen horses buck out of the arena, not want to move at all, or like in my case try to brain the don't get discouraged, and just learn from your mistakes. Always try to train for the circumstances at a show... i'm training my current mare for a show and i'm desensitizing her to anything from crowds to lawn chairs and popping chips bags. The more you get used to at home, the less to worry the horse there.

don't worry about the bad times, just look forward to the good =) (i know it's hard)
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post #3 of 9 Old 06-26-2011, 08:22 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks Indigo! I'm definitely not blaming my horse only - I hope I didn't come across that way. My riding was horrible. I just wasn't effective today....and I am so frustrated with myself. He definitely picks up on my tension. I also put alot of pressure on myself to do the right thing for HIM. He is older, is a little over halfway through a month of Gastroguard treatment (scoped for ulcers and has Grade2). I do know he is feeling REALLY good. The Gguard has really helped his appetite and speed of eating - it's a remarkable change, so I can only assume he feels good in general. Because he is older and had years as a lesson horse, and came from a not-so-nice place before me, I tend to "humanize" him more and actually feel a heavy heart today because I feel like he may be or IS unhappy doing dressage. His absolutely favorite thing to do is trail ride - he loves going place to trail ride and just run through the woods...and he loves to jump. I find myself questioning my motives to do these schooling shows at the "expense" of him if that makes sense?

There are so many possible contributing factors, but he could also just have a few bad or nutcase days as you mentioned. The other thing I forgot to mention was there were several no-shows at the show, for both of the tests we did, and a few scratches. The staff was rushing in, "Hey # 7, 4 didn't show and 5 is a scratch so you need to be up in the warm up now." My trainer tried to tell them that my ride time is my ride time and we would take all the time we need (which I thought is standard...they can't force you to go early!) but that didn't seem to fly there. It was strange.

Anyway, I am venting and writing a book about this............but should probably chalk it up to just a BAD day.
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post #4 of 9 Old 06-26-2011, 09:33 PM
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My test from last weekend was very far from great. I was too easy on my horse (didn't demand as I should), and she took a full advantage of me. Not good. But that's OK. We are learning, so even not a great test is a POSITIVE experience, because re-watching it on video gave me an idea of what was wrong (and I can work on it).

"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass: it's about learning to dance in the rain..."

"When we are no longer able to change a situation - we are challenged to change ourselves."

"How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours."
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post #5 of 9 Old 06-26-2011, 11:26 PM
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Don't stress, we all have bad ones and good ones :)

I did an absolute ripper of a test at the State Championships a couple of years ago, I'd been really nervous beforehand as my mare was fully in season, kicking and squealing at every horse that came within a 20m radius of her in the warmup.
Got to the second to last movement with a huge grin on my face, about to turn down the centreline and a bloody stallion cantered straight past the arena, mare bucked, squealed and leapt clean sideways out of the arena and got up eliminated.

The score was at 71% before that 'incident' and ended up knocking me out of contention for overall novice champ. Not happy!!! But horses will always be horses and thats why we love them, they keep us on our toes thats for sure. But I learnt something from that - don't celebrate too early!!

Another shocker was when I was riding a client's horse in it's first outing, just a walk/trot test to get him used to the arenas and atmosphere out a competition setting. He'd been schooling at elementary level at home and being a tb, was a very sensitive type. Rode up to the judge's car, and he absolutely lost it at the noise of her winding the window down. Turned around and aimed a kicked straight at the car and missed it by maybe a couple of inches. Then proceeded to run backwards at a million miles and hour until he hit a fence, reared and took off. As it was only a training day, the judge said I could still go into the arena, but that bugger of a horse would NOT walk forwards. I ended up asking someone to lead him to A with me on board, so that I could at least get him in there. Test went alright, down the centreline, asked for my final halt and the bugger thought he'd leap sideways and wave to the judges again.

My latest horse, a little warmblood that I took on as a lease/project due to my own horse being out with a permanent injury, was a hugely sensitive, nervous type. I took him to his first competition a few months after I started working with him. He was dead quiet there, but as soon as I put a bit of pressure on him, BAM! Got into the arena, got to my free walk across the diagonal. No problems until making the transition back to medium walk through the corner... he was not impressed about being asked to take up a contact and work a bit harder again. So again, BAM up we go, nice rodeo display, head between the legs broncing on the spot. Got over it, continued the test, got to a 20m canter circle, asked him to come up in front a little more... waaaaaay too hard for the poor sensitive darling so BAM off we go again.

Test marks looked a little like this: 8. 7. 8. 1. 1. 8. 0 ..... fabulous horse, very consistent :P

So don't worry, we all have those times and this is in official dressage competition, not just pony club stuff!!

~Horse & Hound Artistry~.

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post #6 of 9 Old 06-27-2011, 04:50 PM
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Originally Posted by tpup View Post
Because he is older and had years as a lesson horse, and came from a not-so-nice place before me, I tend to "humanize" him more and actually feel a heavy heart today because I feel like he may be or IS unhappy doing dressage. His absolutely favorite thing to do is trail ride - he loves going place to trail ride and just run through the woods...and he loves to jump. I find myself questioning my motives to do these schooling shows at the "expense" of him if that makes sense?
i know how you feel. I've ridden horses that love one thing and HATE another, so it's always hard to "make" the horse do what it doesn't love best. I rode one horse for 4 years that only liked to cross-country jump...however, we only jumped x-country about 2 times a year. The key is to always mix it up. Maybe practice some dressage on a trail. He can get used to being outdoors and in new situations while doing dressage. you could also ride out in a field, not an arena. Have some fun days in the arena too, maybe try bareback riding, or teach your horse something new like gymkhana. Heck, turn out your horse in the arena and let him roll, just so he sees it can be fun. I know he likes to jump, so maybe work over some poles and also do dressage. The most important thing is to challenge him and let him have some fun too. I think its great that you want to do dressage, now you just have to convince the horse too =) Good Luck =)
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post #7 of 9 Old 06-28-2011, 09:51 AM
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My second dressage test ever i rode a school pony who i always rode. She was always an angel so i just assumed on the day of the test she would be the normal pony i always rode. Nope! During test A she spooked at the flowers and left the arena at A, i was disqualified but my instructor at the time wanted her to go back past the flowers and for me to finish the test for practice (it was a schooling show). She left the arena 4 more times at the same spot, i have video of her spooking left and then right and bucking. It was a nightmare.

I rode test B on a different pony who wasn't warmed up and hadn't been ridden all day, she was super excited and i was still stiff and nervous from dealing with the spooky mare. All in all a bad dressage day.

You did well to go back for test b and not to scratch. It was probably really good for your horse to get that type of experience at a new place with the crowd and different arena set up. Hopefully next time he won't be so bad about the whole thing.
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post #8 of 9 Old 06-29-2011, 12:11 PM
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My first dressage test with Jasper went horribly, although I somewhat expected it since it was our first dressage test ever for BOTH of us (he used to be ridden western, and I just had never been to a show before). We entered in two different classes at the urging of our trainer; she said to treat our first class as just a practice round. Poor Jasper freaked out at the dressage ring; he thought the scary dressage rails and the judge's desk would eat him. XD He wouldn't go near either of those at first, but by the end of the test, he was kept busy enough to not have time to worry about the scary new ring. Our second test went much better! We ended up getting 1st *gush*
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post #9 of 9 Old 06-29-2011, 02:13 PM
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Well I'm not even up to par to try to embarass myself in a dressage test yet so don't feel bad! Not dressage related, but I did get disqualified on a XC course one time for not going through the finish flags. I felt pretty dumb after that one! Whenever I get to the point where I can show again I will make sure to document the hot mess that first show is destined to be and share it with you!
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