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A few potholes in the road to PSG. Orana Dressage Championships

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The road to PSG has a few potholes, but last weekend was a flat tire and a broken windscreen all in one !

I thought dressage was supposed to be a non-contact sport, but apparently not… last weekend one rider was carted off in a rescue helicopter- 4 broken ribs, and 2 other busters for the weekend. This weekend, no busters that I know of, but a little bit of bronc riding, and a broken arm loading up at the end of the weekend.  

It’s when everyone else is having trouble with their ponies that I really do appreciate the Princesses innate goodness. She can be a high stress pony and a total moron, but she has never done anything that makes me concerned for my own safety. Even though her flight response is very well developed, she doesn’t do anything to deliberately get rid of me and she is very careful.


Heading off on Saturday morning to our local championships (Dubbo), all felt OK, loaded well, travelled well, nice pony when she got off the float, but the tension seemed to slowly develop from there. Not naughty, but unsettled and a little edgy. Dug a bloody great hole beside the float. Warming up, it just didn’t feel right, again, not naughty but just not relaxed and happy so I did something I have never done before, I scratched from my test before I was due to ride it.


Similarly to last week, I rounded up someone to help me warm up for the next 2 tests, and it really did point the finger for the issue fairly and squarely at the jockey. One of her friends was watching us. He’s a great horseman but not a dressage rider, and he quite rightly pointed out, “while ever she’s talking to you, the horse is going beautifully”.


So what am I doing wrong ?


Backwards contact….while I am relaxed, the Princess can cope. When I am nervous, I hold the contact with a tendency to take, but not release. Combine this with the effects of a double bridle and it just gets worse and manifests itself as tightness through the neck and back and pulling the tongue back. She still does all the moves, just not as nicely as I know we can.


I ended up riding 3 of my 4 tests, all with 55-58% scores, just because I knew I needed to force myself to do it, but have gone back to the really basic stuff at home. Snaffle, long and low into the contact with a swinging and relaxed back, walk trot transitions and me focussing on taking my hands forward irrespective of the length of my reins.


So who has any great ideas on dealing with tension in a rider when access to competition is very limited ? I’ve got a month to get my stuff together before our next, and last outing for the year.


For a more interesting rundown on the rest of the competition… while there were a few scratchings due to illness, there seemed to be an interesting shift in competitors and classes for the weekend. Check out these nominations…


Preliminary- 2 ponies, 8 horses,  Novice- 8 horses, Elementary- 4 horses, Medium- 6 horses, Advanced- 4 horses, PSG- 6 horses, Inter 1- 4 horses.  


And another useless piece of information… of the 15 individual horses competing Elementary or above, 12 of them have been with their current rider since Preliminary. Only 6 of these travelled more than 2 hours to be part of this competition.


Of the 15 individual horses at Preliminary and Novice,  12 of them travelled more than 2 hours.


So my conclusions based on a tiny subset….higher level horses travel less and compete less, but we are educating our own horses to a higher level, and more horses are making it to the higher levels. Anyone have any thoughts on this ?


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