Saturday, September 2, 2017

Twilight Eventing: Prologue and Dressage

Making Your Own Reality

It isn't easy to dive into a new discipline. There's a big learning curve that comes from multiple directions no matter how you look at it. Add in the fact that you may not live anywhere near professional resources or an established community within the new discipline and the difficulty level ratchets up a few degrees.

Training Griffin from the ground up (my first experience doing this with a horse) was both eye-opening and confidence-building. Through the process, I learned a lot about the resources I did and didn't have available in my area. I also realized that if I wanted certain things to happen in my equestrian life (eventing, jumping, or dressage), I would need to create my own reality.

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This horse has turned into quite the handsome devil

And so I spent the past few years delving deeper into distance-resources (e.g., books, internet, blogs) to build my knowledge-base on jumping and dressage. To practice things I learned about, I purchased and built my own jumps at home to practice with, delineated a dressage court in the field to practice in, and asked copious questions to friends and acquaintances that were involved with the eventing and dressage communities.

As my skill - and Griffin's - advanced, I moved us into the next steps: we had a lesson with Stephen Birchall, we schooled XC, and we competed in a dressage schooling show. Nothing happened quickly, it was hard to do what I did with a 3-4 hour one-way drive, but the important thing is that I got us out there and we experienced the experiences.

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Like a true endurance professional, he dove right into the grass

All of these things were pursued with the eventual goal of competing in eventing. This goal that was finally realized Wednesday night at Loch Moy's Twilight Eventing.

Getting There

Twilight events are always held on Wednesday evenings which meant I'd asked for the time off from work at the beginning of summer. Originally, I was going to attend two Twilight events, one in July and one in August; unfortunately, my work life has been beyond crazy since March and the July event just couldn't happen. Instead, I threw my eggs into one basket and planned to definitely make it to the August 30 event, enetered at the elementary division.

Grif overnighted at my house as he'd done in July to help take an hour off our trip the next day. He handled his overnight with much less stress than last time and walked right on the trailer the next morning like a professional.

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Calmly perusing his surroundings - and view of stadium and XC!

Fortunately, we didn't have any trailer tire snafus on our eastward journey and we made great time. I rendezvoused with Austen at her barn. We had a late lunch and visited a bit before we headed to nearby Loch Moy where the event was held - and where Emma would be meeting us!

Once on site, I set to organizing the mess of things in my trailer while Austen checked me in. Things were well underway and I knew time would move fast, so Austen and I struck out to walk the XC course and check out the stadium jumps before getting Griffin ready for everything to come.

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I'm convinced everyone who rides at Loch Moy needs a photo with this view


Due to the expedited format of Twilight events, most competitors ride dressage in their jumping tack. Despite not practicing this much at home (only 2 rides), we went along with the crowd.

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I'd originally hoped to warm up for ~40 minutes. Due to my complete lack of organization at the trailer, that time dwindled down to a mere 15 minutes by the time I reached the warm-up area! Fortunately, it was totally okay.

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Emma giving us all the beta

My nerves that had been such a bother at the schooling show weeks before were completely and totally nonexistent. I was more flummoxed from my lack of organization back at the trailer than I was with the actual act of riding my horse in front of people. After a few minutes of aimlessly riding my saintly horse around, I organized my mind enough to start focusing on the present moment and the task at hand. I reminded myself of my primary goals: give Griffin show miles & help him find success and enjoyment in this job; the secondary goal was to finish on a number and not a letter! The primary goals were more than achievable, which further settled my mind.

Emma discussed various strategy with me as I warmed up. Primarily, she pointed out that warm-up was a time to polish the things that would make us stand out to the judge. I nodded along with her, understanding and agreeing with that logic.

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Soakin' up the learnin'

Griffin was his typical away-from-home sluggish self. While it's great that he isn't a basketcase, his chill demeanor doesn't bode well for dressage at all! To get him more round on the contact with any consistency, I need him to be much more "up" in mentally and physically. It's hard to get a horse consistently round in the contact without impulsion.

Knowing this show was more about time and miles spent Doing the Thing, I decided strategized that I wouldn't pick a fight with Grif about contact at all. We'd do the bare minimum and focus on being consistent within that bare minimum with the idea that consistency would benefit us more than inconsistency.

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Final words before we head to the ring

Due to his relaxed mood, Grif was also having trouble picking up the correct lead. This wasn't a huge surprise to me either given his mood and lack of impulsion. Intro C doesn't give much opportunity for correcting a wrong lead though! I discussed with Emma my options for if we botched it during the test and resolved to try to correct it one time if it went awry.  If one correction wouldn't resolve it, then so be it! I'd move on to the rest of my test.

I looked over at the ring after making my decisions about strategy to see the rider in front of me finishing up her test. It was now or never and I found myself wishing I cared a little more than I did in that moment - I was SO MELLOW.

I walked and trotted Griffin around the dressage court, smiling and greeting the judge as I did so. After my second pass by the judge, she rang the bell and we headed in!

Intro C

A: Enter working trot, rising. X: Halt through medium walk. Salute - Proceed working trot rising.
Score: 6.5
Judge's remarks: Salute with hand that doesn't hold whip
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Perma-grin, already in effect
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Yeah, yeah, salute without the whip hand. I swear I'll practice! 

C: Track right, working trot rising
Score: 7.0
Judge's remarks: Correct bend
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I was smiling, the judge was smiling, Grif, are you smiling?

B: Circle right 20 meters.
Judge's remarks: Nice energy
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Good boy listening to me

A: Circle right 20 meters developing working canter in first quarter of the circle, right lead. Before A: Working trot rising.
Judge's remarks: Slightly on forehand
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One of our better canter pictures...ever!

Transition in and out of canter
Score: 7.5
Judge's remarks: Obedient

K-X-M: Change rein, working trot rising.
Judge's remarks: Straight! Active.
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Grif loves the diagonal trot work, though he looks worried here, haha

E: Circle left 20 meters.
Score: 8.0
Judge's remarks: Nice activity
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Still smiling...

A: Circle left 20 meters developing working canter in first quarter of the circle, left lead. Before A: Working trot rising.
Score: 7.5
Judge's remarks: Correct size
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I can't believe I got a good note on my geometry...admittedly it's something I worry about a lot!

Transition in and out of canter.
Judge's remarks: Obedient.

Between F & B: Medium walk.
Score: 7.5
Judge's remarks: Fluid.

B-H: Free walk. H: Medium walk.
Score: 6.0
Judge's remarks: Nice march, needs more stretch
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I felt like his walk was a bit better than early July

Between C & M: Working trot rising to A.
Score: 6.5
Judge's remarks: Slight abrupt bending left before M
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re: left bend, yeah, he wiggled a bit about something he saw and I told him to get back over

A: Down centerline. G: Halt through medium walk. Salute.
Score: 6.5
Judge's remarks: Hindquarters slightly left.
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Ugh, these crooked halts! If he'd been straight we'd have scored even higher! We have been and will continue to practice...

Collective Marks
Gaits: 7.0
Impulsion: 7.5
Submission: 7.0
Rider's position: 7.5
Riders effectiveness of aids: 6.5 (correct bend is circled)
Geometry and accuracy: 7.0
Further Remarks: Nice job, good energy. Keep reins shorter in canter work to keep balance off forehand.

For those of you who didn't have your calculators out as you went through the above, our efforts earned us a [shocking] 28.8! This was NOT anywhere what I was expecting. In my head, behind my primary goals of giving Griffin show miles and making sure he felt confident in this job and my secondary goal of finishing on a number and not a letter, I hoped that my dressage score would be sub-40. That was it. Never in my wildest dreams would I have dreamed we'd be sub-30!

Fortunately, I didn't get to be surprised and shocked by my dressage score until I was about to leave. All I knew finishing dressage was that we'd remembered our test and it felt better than the schooling show had in July because I'd been much more mentally present. That was more than enough for me in that moment!

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Walking by stadium on our way to warm up!

I had a perma-grin through most of the dressage test and it didn't diminish at all as I headed to warm-up for stadium.

Stay tuned for details on the jumping phases soon!


  1. Fantastic test! You've done such a good job prepping Griffin for this experience and I had a huge grin on my face reading this entry -- I'm so excited for you and how successful this out was for you guys, both in terms of results but also just for getting out there and doing it! You are an inspiration ☺

    1. Aw, thanks. =) I'm so happy with Grif - and so glad he loved this job so much.

  2. Fantastic! Looking forward to hearing about the jumps. (Salute with your right hand. Just grab the whip with your left before you start.)

    1. Yes. Good call. I'm absolutely going to do that next time!

  3. Congrats. That's an awesome score. More importantly, you guys had fun.

  4. Good decision focusing on consistency instead of worrying about forcing him into a contact at intro. Glad it paid off for you!

  5. i had SO MUCH FUN watching you guys killin' it at this event!!! so cool to see all your hard work, preparation, and dedication paying off! Grif looks like he LOVES this new job!!! :D

    1. =) I think he definitely loves this job! He's gonna move east without me so he can do it more if I'm not careful lol

  6. Congrats! Dang that test was loaded with 7.5s and 8s. You go chickie!

    1. Oh man, I know! I was honestly just having FUN. I guess my relaxation from happiness showed through the horse's work? Regardless - I'll take it =)

  7. Congrats!!!!! I'm sooo excited and happy for you! You look great out there :)

  8. well done on the test - i think people get caught up in making it look 'dressagey' and forget to ride the horse they have.

    1. I agree - I've read so many posts from bloggers over the years that concluded with something about "riding the horse you have". It's sometimes hard to do, but I'm glad I was able to do that this time and find good results, too.