Dressage Practice 

For Mother’s Day I only wanted one thing: to trailer to the equestrian park and practice my dressage test. Dusty was all for it and we ended up bringing Pete along too.

My two favorite butts
I had two goals for this ride:

  1. Practice my warm up
  2. Run through the test and see what we still need to focus on

If endurance only taught Gem one thing it would be how to travel. She unloads and immediately gets started eating and relaxing and doesn’t fidget while I tack her up. After a quick moment to get her dressed, we wandered up to the dressage arena to get started.

It has been extremely wet down here this spring. The puddles made for good practice getting Gem to ignore everything but me and the work at hand. Also, I was wishing there was a small dressage court to practice in, but we made do in the large one.
For goal #1, I had a plan of action: work on a million halts to get her understanding that I really do want her to stop moving until otherwise instructed and then work on rhythm. It can be a little frustrating riding Gem at times when she seesaws between over reactive to the smallest leg aide to sluggish and needing a dressage whip. Each ride is different, but with enough warm up time, I can get her moving in a much more steady manner.

She was skeptical as to what I had planned and I believe she was pleasantly surprised that all we did was halt, walk and trot.

I got to work on halting first and began down the long sides asking her to halt at each letter which helped give me a visual as to where we were and how long it took to get her halted properly. She was really responsive on Sunday and it didn’t take very long to get her stopped exactly where I wanted with less and less rein. So much better than any prior ride!

Then I moved her out to the quarter and center lines and that wasn’t so great. She still halted, but it was really hard to keep her square and not shove her butt around. A continued work in progress.

Once we had done a dozen or two walk-halt-salute-walk transitions I asked her to trot. Mare wasn’t in the mood to work any harder than she had to and began in a lovely western pleasure jog. It took several demands on my part to get her moving forward and then she began to get racy and braced. No Gem, that is not the correct answer either. Tone it down. Eventually she settled into a decent, although still lacking much of a spark, working trot.

Having found a rhythm I could work with, I began to fiddle with bend. Neither of us are particularly good at bending although going right is coming along nicely. My main focus in the circles was shape, size and consistency which are all things I can control to gain points on the test. I’m not naive enough to think I will fix our bending issues in the next two weeks, so my focus is more on what I can control: shape and size.

After that is was a run through Intro B. The first time through was pretty nice. Gem was relaxed and played along with my requests and I rode decently enough. I found that it really helped to speak out loud to myself (not something I can do during the actual test): start looking ahead, sit up taller, ask now for walk, turn your whole body etc… It made me quit focusing on the movements so much and just ride my horse the way she needed to be ridden.

Dusty wandered over at that point and I asked him to grab a video as we ran through it again. I immediately wished that I had him secretly doing it the first time because as soon as I knew he was videoing, I got tense and began to ride like crap. Sigh.

For her part, Gem began to anticipate what was coming and tried to bulldoze through me. Me being tense and braced through my lower leg didn’t help matters at all, but I was a bit frustrated that she couldn’t just do the thing since she had just done the thing and did it well enough. Apparently, she figured we could be done a lot quicker if she just raced through it and she knew better than I did.

If you feel like watching paint dry isn’t boring enough, you can watch me ride Intro B like complete crap for just over 3 minutes below. Its riveting stuff for sure.​ There is a lot to pick on although I’d be happy if I could just relax my upper body and release those elbows. This is just suck a different picture than pre lessons it is almost unreal. 

​After that we were done. Gem tried hard for me and was such a good girl overall. Light years from where we were before and given how infrequently I ride (1-2 times a week) our improvement to date has been pretty awesome. I really wish I had a before video to show, but it was so ugly I didn’t want proof of it. The mere fact that we haven’t gotten in a real argument in months is testament enough. 

Wyatt jumped on Gem then for a few circuits around the arena and afterward it was time for Pete to have some fun.

Pete hasn’t been ridden off the farm in three months, before that it was about 18 months. He walked right onto the trailer as if he did this weekly. He is such a good boy.

Dusty mounted and they walked off no big deal. If I hadn’t ridden Gem for that long and took her someplace new she would be a freak. Different horse, but annoying nonetheless.

Dusty headed up to the jump arena and I dropped the rails as low as they would go. I was surprised to find that the lowest is 2′ which means that the vertical I did last week was 2′! Not a major deal to some but a big huge deal to me!! It didn’t even look big at all. Hopefully that means that the 18″ cross rails at the show will look tiny.

I missed their warm up due to playing with Wyatt but did manage to catch them jumping. Pete adores jumping. It is his calling in life.

I tried to convince Dusty to sign Pete up for the jumping tests at the show. They are only $25 a round and I figured they could do one or two but Dusty isn’t interested. Mostly because he owns even less show appropriate gear than I do and has no interest and buying any.

We left the equestrian park with two very good and happy horses and it was the perfect way to spend Mothers Day.

16 thoughts on “Dressage Practice ”

  1. What a great way to spend Mother’s Day 🙂

    “If endurance only taught Gem one thing it would be how to travel.” Amen!!! Ozzy is not very good at… well… pretty much anything… but he can travel like a pro.

    I love your list of priorities and the order you tackle them in. Brakes, rhythm, bend. It sounds like soooo many of my lessons! I know you see a lot to improve in your video, but I see a lot of things that I like! Your upper body posture is great, and your hands are steady and supportive. It’s clear you’ve been working on both yourself and Gem and I can’t wait to see future videos.

    Pete is adorable. He reminds me of JR in personality and manners 🙂


    1. We have been working really hard. I’m glad it doesn’t look quite as awful as it feels.

      Pete is a really good guy. Crazy scared on the ground, but under saddle he will do anything.


  2. Having the video on was a good idea becasue it gives you an idea of how you will react to being judged. Now you know that you tense so can make plans to adjust. I also agree that it’s not as awful as you think.

    Wyatt is being pretty patient for a preschooler!


  3. Gem is such a cutie – she has a very pleasant relaxed look about her in that video! Also I know what you mean about tensing up when the video starts recording haha, that may or may not be why I try to get video ALL THE TIME to help get me used to it. Anyway sounds like a great Mother’s Day!


  4. Sounds like you had a great day. =)

    Awww, yay PETE! I’m so happy he got to go out and do some of what he loves.

    “If endurance only taught Gem one thing it would be how to travel.” THIS. Q is such a better traveler than my other two right now!


  5. Sounds like you had a really fun day! I think you are absolutely smart to focus on the things you CAN control to optimize points on your dressage test, you’d be surprised how many people give up easy points by not doing those things. Good luck!


      1. Because I barely get him out of scrubs or wind pants. Seriously it’s pulling teeth to even get him in jeans. He had breeches at one point and wore them but it’s been years.


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