Western Dressage Debut

I’m super unfamiliar with writing show recap posts where I show so seldom, let alone under saddle! My only other show recap post on this blog is from showing Joey in hand I think? So bear with me as this may be long and rambling. πŸ˜‰

As you all know, I waffled on whether or not this show would even happen because Paige seemed off after having shoes put on and she managed to get a corneal ulcer the week before the show. Farrier came on Wednesday of last week and could see the slight NQR but couldn’t find anything in the shoes that would make her move like she did. With hoof testers, she did react to one nail in her front right (where I initially saw the lameness) but then when he went back and touched that nail with the testers again she completely ignored him. We went ahead and pulled that and the opposite toe nails in her right front just to be on the safe side. Stoic mare is stoic. The NQR seems to be in her left shoulder now, so we’re wondering if right front nail was bothering her and compensating made her left shoulder sore, then the banamine (for her eye) made it hard to tell where any of it was coming from at all.

So I said, here goes nothing, and went to the horse show, having no idea what version of sound I’d get, but at that point I’d not heard a squeak regarding the fly mask so I figured the odds of getting my entry money back were slim anyway with the lack of communication, so I might as well take my pony and see how she felt.

We got everything loaded and rolled out at 8am on the nose, which made the control freak/planning nerds in K and I very happy. K’s ride times were 10:16 and 12:52 and mine were supposed to be immediately following hers, which we knew would be made complicated by the fact that I was reading for her. We coerced another friend, S, into coming to the show to take pictures and hold our horses while we read for each other.

When we got there we checked in at the office and grabbed our numbers then headed back to the trailer to tack up to go ride in the indoor and let our horses see the dressage court fencing. K was worried about her gelding more than I was Paige because he’s a little weird about trail obstacles, but luckily, he never spooked at the low white railing once. Paige was enamored with looking at herself in the mirrors and even low nickered at herself once, which made me giggle. She didn’t mind the white railing except with her dilated eye. I guess white things in a dark indoor are that much whiter with your eye fully dilated? Either way, she just counter bent and kept her ears forward looking at it. Spoiler alert, counter bending was the theme of the way from M to F…

We’d hardly made a lap around the indoor before the trainer that operates out of the facility informed K that they have a rule about helmets and that no one could be mounted without one. K isn’t a helmet wearer and touted that she didn’t even own a helmet. This was the second time the trainer had said something to K; she’d already told her that they don’t allow lunging in the indoor, so K had already broken two rules before we’d even got going. Cue the jokes about DQ’s having unspoken rules that we western girls don’t know. There weren’t signs saying no lunging anywhere and the helmet rule wasn’t on any of the show documentation either. Western dressage rules allow you to wear a cowboy hat, so that was K’s plan all along. So K dismounted and looked worried as her guy is the more likely to misbehave of the two horses. I told her that I just needed to trot Paige a couple circles to find out if she was sound, then she could wear my tiny helmet and locate her gelding’s brain. When Paige trotted out lame to the point I could feel it, I groaned. So I dismounted, gave K my helmet and focused on hand walking Paige around the arena so she could see the white fencing and hopefully stretch out whatever seems to have settled in her left shoulder now.

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Discussing our many issues in life.

After she felt she had Cherokee’s attention, K, S and I headed back to the trailer. We decided that I’d go ahead and do my first test just for the experience, then, if Paige still seemed lame and didn’t work out of it, I’d be done for the day. Trotting less than two laps around the arena slightly NQR wasn’t going to make things worse. That did mean that I didn’t warm up at all and that Paige’s brain was 100% on her trailer marriage to Cherokee. The feelings were mutual, so you can imagine that my and K’s first tests were quite eventful. Her gelding has been ridden mostly western pleasure and has the tiniest little jog, so when I was reading for her and being nervous about my own test to follow I couldn’t help but grin at comparing our horses to the others in attendance.

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That joke was on me though because I got on a very forward Paige for my test. Thankfully there were people waiting for their turn each time K and I rode, so we let those people go between us so I could get mounted/put my helmet on, etc.

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I was feeling so rushed I apparently put my helmet on all kinds of crooked.Β 

Paige was not happy about having to go into a big empty arena solo and even less happy to be leaving her new husband behind at the rail. I was very glad that I opted out of spurs and my new dressage whip. The slightest leg got me a trot and a rolling seat got me a large walk. I was suddenly regretting all my jokes from the week before when I mentioned wanting a forward horse so we didn’t look asleep during our tests.

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Our best trot picture from the first test. hahaha.Β 

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Well, at least she didn’t decide to be a peanut roller like I worried?

We were totally fine at the walk, though I stopped breathing after trotting up centerline on a VERY forward Paige. You’ll notice my legs were way off of her in the pics. I didn’t want to give her any further forward motivation, but putting some inside leg on would’ve probably went a long way when it came time to keep her on the rail instead of noodling.


Halted with legs way off hoping she’d stay in the halt long enough.Β 

About halfway through the test I started grinning like a weirdo whenever K would say “working jog” because we looked mostly civilized at the walk, but whenever we had to trot, things went all to hell. At this point I’d stopped taking myself seriously and despite my horse looking like she was about to run off and leave me, I knew that I could trust my horse and that I wasn’t in any way in danger. We were just going to look like fools power trotting around with our head in the air, I’ve been in worse situations. Apparently dressage people don’t mind Paige’s big trot and the trainer that had previously spoken to us about the no lunging/helmet rules complimented me on my gelding (two people thought Paige was male…rotfl) and said he’d looked cute going around.

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Sure. She’s cute.Β 

Paige managed to go through that test without a lame step until I turned her too sharply from her halt at G to return to A to exit, then she looked a little ouchy. Once back at the trailer we got water for our horses and pulled our chairs into the shade that the horses were tied in and hung out for a little while before heading to the show office for our Intro 1 results. I told K that there was no way either of us broke 60% on that test, and I was right. She got a 52 and I a 55. We were the only western riders there, so we still ended up with satin. We trekked back to the trailer with our tests in hand to read the comments and see what we could manage to improve before out next go.


Despite not knowing the second test from memory at all, I felt better about the second test, though mostly because surely Paige would be wearing down to her normal energy levels? K went in first again and had a much nicer test than her first go around, which was a huge relief. I want K to want to come to a western dressage show with me again, so I want her to have good rides, even if she beats me!

Then it was my turn and we let someone go ahead of me again so I wouldn’t be rushed, then a little kid went because she was supposed to follow the girl that I let go ahead of me, so I just chilled and waited my turn, no big deal. I did make poor S keep Cherokee away so that maybe Paige could regain some sort of personal independence from other horses. When I went in I could tell already that I had a much more normal version of Paige under me before I even entered. The good thing about this test is that you walk in on center line whereas we jogged in during the first test, so I was more able to keep her lined up straight on entry. This test also had a lot more walking, which worked to my advantage. Both of my 20m trot circles lacked bend and weren’t round, but I didn’t feel like my hands were at my eyes trying to slow her down so it rode nicer thankfully.

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The free walk is generally our strongest attribute, so when I let out the reins and she stretched down, I started grinning because that was the free walk I’d wanted in the test before, but she’d been too tense and herd bound to give it to me. We were still quick at the trot, but not nearly in the uncontrolled looking way we’d been in the first test.

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That free walk though…

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When you’ve gotta do a 20m circle but bae is standing by the rail.Β 

After getting the horses watered and pulling tack we went back to the show office for our second set of tests. The show organizer said, “which one of you is Sarah?” and I raised my hand. She then congratulated me on being the high scoring western rider and told me to pick a prize. I ended up with a small stiff face brush, which will come in handy since I just have soft face brushes. K and I grabbed our tests and we’d both increased our scores! She went from a 52 to a 55 and I went from a 55 to a 60.5.

I did manage to come out of this test with a “poll low” comment, but only once thankfully. I think that means that normal Paige was starting to come out. Reading my comments on the second test makes me kick myself a lot because we lost points for cutting corners and geometry. My circles were more like eggs… BUT considering that I’ve only ridden my horse a handful of times this year and not in an arena at all, I’ll take it. Especially when I consider that the ulcer and NQR kept me from riding her at all the week prior to the show. I was thrilled to see that we got a 7.5 for our free walk in the second test because it felt like a pretty decent free walk to me, so it was nice to see that validated.

The most entertaining comment to compare on my and K’s tests were the judges remarks on the second test she referenced K as a “capable rider” as compared to mine that called Paige a “capable horse.” I couldn’t help but laugh and say that the judge figured Paige and I out quickly…capable horse…rider less so.

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After looking at this picture I can understand why someone asked us if our horses were related…

We then went back to the trailer and loaded up quickly. We were among the last people riding, so the show was wrapped up as we were pulling out. Both horses got in and out of the trailer well, though sliding between Paige and the rear tack to back her out is an exercise in trust.

The fly mask thing ended up being not a big deal at all. They told me to use it as needed, no note needed. It ended up being really overcast all day so I opted to keep it on her whenever I wasn’t riding, then to pull it to ride just in case it made her more spooky. The sun did pop out and make her a little squinty towards the end of the second test, so K met me in the arena as I was walking out to cover her up. K stained her eye for me again today and she still has a tiny pinpoint that hasn’t healed, so I’m trucking on with the eye meds, but pulled her off the oral banamine to see how sound she is without drugs so I can determine where to go from here…

K and I both had a good time and enjoyed the atmosphere and the timeliness of all of it. Not feeling rushed when other volunteered to go between us was nice and we enjoyed knowing when we would ride so we didn’t have to hang out listening ringside for our classes like we’re used to at fun shows. Everyone was friendly and we were encouraged to come back for their August show, which we just might, after a few lessons. πŸ˜‰

13 thoughts on “Western Dressage Debut

  1. Congrats! The WD judges here always like to see a forward horse (just like in classical dressage), so Paige’s energetic attitude was probably a good thing!

  2. Trailer marriages are the worse.

    But I will say a dressage judge with score super high for the free walk image you showed on Paige. Long and low with a good swing is pretty hard for most dressage horses. Paige looks like she’s doing it effortlessly!

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