I am not a Dressage Queen

20 Oct

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I am not a dressage queen, as you can see from my snazzy T-shirt over blue long underwear took.  You, too, can have this look at your next show.  I will explain how.

If you don’t know what a dressage test is, it’s a driven or ridden pattern in arena marked with letters.  You trot, circle, halt (or fall off) at various letters.  The test is approved and published by a prestigious horse committee of some sort.  They reached into a jar of letters, pulled them out randomly, put on blindfolds and stuck them on a prototype arena.  These letters are not alphabetical.  You enter at A, but the next letter is K.  There’s an M and a C and an E and a B  and an F all sitting there in no logical order for you to memorize.

Then you need to look at a test and memorize what to to between or at various illogical and memorized letters.  If you have a reader reading your test out loud you can only hope they don’t suffer from any form of dyslexia or happen to sneeze and lose their place and cue you to the wrong letter.

Then there’s a thing called a judge’s stand.  It’s a fancy table, sometimes with a scary canopy, at the end of the arena where the judge sits. The committee spent long hours figuring out how to make this table as scary as possible for a horse.  As your horse rounds the corner towards the judge’s stand they must pass the scary object and not spook.

So I decided to memorize ADT training test 1 (which I had already memorized since I never have advanced beyond this level) and take the outgrown riding pony to the show for a dressage test.

I packed a nice wool hunt coat to wear over my long underwear shirt.  I got to the show and put on the hunt coat and it was several sizes too small.  I had grabbed my kid’s hunt coat.  Every hunt coat looks pretty much the same until you put it on.  The sleeves were just below my elbow and it wouldn’t button.   Then they called me to go warm up.  I had to wear the long underwear shirt with my number on the back.  Not the classy impression I was hoping to make.

Pony entered the arena for some ground driving warm up and proceeded to whinny and  act like a giraffe with her head up.  This is not a spooky pony, but horses were whinnying in the stalls attached to the arena.  She calmed down in a few minutes and I hitched her up.  Off we went.  I should also admit that I had only driven pony three times this fall.  At a walk, mostly.  So I wasn’t sure what would happen when I asked her to trot.

I got a trot briefly, then an unauthorized walk.  I got her going again with my whip and was looking for the mystical letter X which lays in an ancient vortex in the center of the arena between the letters B and E, which are glued on opposite walls.  The holy grail of X was there somewhere, but apparently not where I was, as I stopped short.  But it was a nice stop.

So I saluted with my whip.  The judge looked at me with no response.  Oops.  I gave a big nod.  The judge nodded back and  we took off at the working trot.  We had to do an arena-wide circle.  I knew this could be bad.  But I had no idea how bad until I saw my own tire tracks.  The circle had an extra bulge like a a solar flare ready to shoot off the sun and decimate humanity.  The second circle lacked the bulge but was reminiscent of the Hindenburg before its fateful demise.

As I headed back to K or was it F the working trot had no momentum, except during a brief canter and lurch after I tapped her with the whip.  Pony generally doesn’t have momentum unless there is food involved.

But her trot was pretty.  This trot earned her many blues as a riding pony and when she collected today she was lovely.  I remembered to nod with my salute at x before exiting the arena and took a deep breath.  I had survived my test with the green pony who just needs better steering and conditioning.  We got a score of 64 which seemed generous, but I will take it.

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11 Responses to “I am not a Dressage Queen”

  1. Carol Weinstock October 20, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

    You are so funny, Monica. I wouldn’t do so well with the letters and stuff. I am impressed you can even remember the order let alone what to do in between them. You are brave. I am glad you went through with it. 🙂

    • A New Path October 21, 2013 at 9:43 am #

      Thanks, Carol. I almost chickened out but feel like I just climbed Everest or something. I was scared to get into the cart but did it anyway and then the fear was gone.

  2. Sparrowgrass October 21, 2013 at 3:38 am #

    I’m pretty sure that the trouble with the ancient vortex letters along the centre line is that they are scared of horses and move about to avoid being underneath a halted horse. One minute you’re aimed exactly for one … and the next it’s escaped off to one side … or behind you … or just somewhere else.

  3. The Dancing Rider October 21, 2013 at 6:15 am #

    What is ADT? That is a driving test, I’m guessing. Well done, and with a green pony too! I can’t imagine attempting a test while also driving? YIkes, how hard. Yes, they do tend to “look” at the tent…….I know Starzz did.

    • A New Path October 21, 2013 at 9:39 am #

      ADT stands for arena driving trial- it’s a dressage test sized for small arenas by the American Driving Society. I only attempted it because I had driven that test with a seasoned pony a few times before. I wanted Gypsy’s first show to be with no other carts in the arena for safety and mostly wanted to see how she would behave at a show.

      • The Dancing Rider October 21, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

        Well done, and great plan for Gypsy! It just sounds really, really difficult to do!

  4. wefarm October 21, 2013 at 6:42 am #

    Anyone who owns or works with horses/ponies can relate. You gave me some chuckles and a couple of snorts with this post. Loved it.

    • A New Path October 21, 2013 at 9:41 am #

      Thank you! 🙂 Sometimes humor is the only thing you take home from a show.

  5. Rodney's Saga October 22, 2013 at 7:32 am #

    Does this mean you have found a horse to drive? Or is this temporary? Or am I confused?

    • A New Path October 22, 2013 at 9:48 am #

      This is my daughter’s outgrown riding pony who has been sitting and eating for the past year- I decided to hitch her up and drive her since we couldn’t find a riding horse. She is very green in the cart but was a finished riding pony before she was outgrown.

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