All In Favor Of Backwards Horse Trials, Say "Aye"

This weekend Dino and I headed off to a very very small schooling show to do some dressage tests. It was held at the Horse Park, so we could conveniently school XC after we were done showing. How nice!

I even drove my own truck and trailer all by myself, with a pony in it, to a show, for the first time. Hell yeah!! It was not at all scary and I drove & parked that bad boy like a pro. Rachel was there, she can act as my witness.

The show was SO small that we were literally the only ones in the Training Level dressage classes. Which is cool, because that means automatic blue ribbons even if we totally bomb. 

Tiny schooling shows are also awesome because the anxiety level is literally Zero, which is great for building up confidence and good feelings about showing. Not that I show in big or rated competitions in any case, but when the competition is a little stiffer, and I'm a little nervous, I can look back on these memories of "no big deal" shows and remember what FUN horse showing is. I also only paid $30 to ride two tests in front of an actual judge. That's winning right there. 

Dino, however, was not totally into the whole dressage thing when we arrived at the horse park and started warming up. He was his normal calm yet observant self, but was really more interested in the guy driving a combine harvesting corn and the horses in the hunter ring than getting focused on me and moving forward. I couldn't quite get him in front of my leg, and he'd only focus on me for a little while until something more interesting caught his attention. I popped him over a couple crossrails in warm up, which helped, but he was definitely not as "on" as he can be.

serious dressaging. 
Our first test, Training 1, started out fairly well until I had a dumb blonde moment and realized "Oh... this is a large arena..." and totally did my canter half-circle in entirely the wrong place. But because this was the smallest schooling show ever, the judge (who I actually knew from college!) called me out on it and let me start the movement over again. Schooling shows FTW. Throughout the test, I had trouble getting Dino forward, and our trot/canter transitions were late late late. He wasn't very supple, and it was just a "meh" test in my opinion. However, his fanciness and my relative accuracy in riding the geometry garnered us a miraculous 65%! Sweet! 

Training 2 was a lot better. Our centerlines were MUCH straighter (can we say score of 8 on the last one!?) and our transitions were more prompt. Apparently, though, I got tired of riding round circles in that darn large arena and decided flat sides were the thing. Again the lack of suppleness, and I totally lost my pony's attention several times. However, we somehow got a 66%. Excellent. 

So, even though I came home with two "freebie" blue ribbons, I was actually pretty pleased with my scores and have a bit of a better idea of how to ride my pony when he comes out just not feeling it. In short, I need to be a little less aggressive and just ride soft and forward, and let him come to the bit when he's ready. I also got some great comments from the judge, including a note that Dino and I are a "flashy pair."

Unfortunately for you, no more pictures of dressage, because taking pics of XC is way more entertaining.

Next, it was on to the fun stuff! I shortened up my stirrups, put on my vest, grabbed a short bat, and headed out to the cross country course. I had a few goals for this schooling session: get Dino in the water, introduce him to ditches, and get more confident with changes in terrain/galloping over the dirt road. 

We started out at the water complex, and while Dino was not too sure about it at first (he was concerned about alligators, hippos, and the like) eventually he went in, splashed around, and learned that the water wasn't deadly. We trotted in and out from all sorts of directions, and it was just the most fun thing! I was beaming from ear to ear. Dino gave me an awesome floaty trot that I REALLY wish he had deigned to use in the dressage ring! Fun video of splishy splashy water funtime:

Again, I was amazed at how much happier, brighter, and into his work my pony is when he's out on the cross country course. He absolutely LOVES it, and experiencing his enthusiasm makes it ten times more enjoyable for me, too. Being outside and jumping gives him purpose in life, as opposed to dressage, which he thinks is dumb. Maybe if horse trials were run backwards he would do better in the sandbox?

so happy!
oh hey stretchy trot, WHERE WERE YOU IN MY DRESSAGE TESTS?!


plz to do this in sandbox?
After our adventures in the water complex, we jumped a small log a few times before heading over to the ditches. I walked, trotted, and cantered Dino around and in between the ditches, let him check them out, smell them, and generally get a feel for what they are. He was, typically, not impressed. So I picked up a nice forward trot and pointed him at the smallest ditch. Rachel was there coaching me, encouraging me to relax and just ride forward. "Sing your favorite song!" she said. So, I sang out "I LOVE PONIEEEEESSSS!" as Dino took the hugest flying leap of all ponydom over the ditch. I'm pretty sure his knees were LITERALLY at his eyeballs. It was the most hysterical thing ever, and I'm so sad we didn't capture it on camera to share with you all! After that, ditches became a total non-issue.

I got 99 problems but a ditch ain't one. 
We jumped up and down some banks (my nemesis!), galloped up this REALLY fun hill to a log jump, levitated over a hanging log, jumped some railroad ties, trotted through the water and then galloped (very confidently) over the road, and then finished up our schooling session with a BN pile 'o logs that looked really intimidating to me. But, even though the log pile was kind of scary, I just packaged up my canter and went for it, and Dino jumped on over effortlessly. After that, even the Novice bench next to it didn't look QUITE so terrifying.

big scary pile 'o logs

being awesome, basically.


down bank, turtle-style.

rocking the up bank

cute baby log!

he basically levitated over this one from an under-paced trot. 

And, some video of the bank complex. Pony wanted to go right, I wanted to go left, steering argument ensues:

In short, we had a really fun morning out, my pony is a rockstar and I love him, and Rachel is just the best. Hope y'all had a great weekend!


  1. omg so much fun!! he looks so happy to be out there - like ooh ooh what's next?? nice dressage scores too :)

  2. You guys are looking ballinnnnnn'! I wish I lived closer to Bucks so I could get over my intense fear of its very existence. I just hate it so, so much. When the next horse trial you and wonder pony are going to?

    1. Thanks man!! We're doing BCHP Starter Trial on Oct 12 - you guys still doing Burgundy? I am giving myself an extra month to recover from the vet bill of doom haha. Poooosssibly running at Plantation Starter Trial in Nov... though the hills there kind of terrify me.

    2. Yep, I'm finishing with Burgundy. It seems like Plantation either gets snowed or rained out since it's so late. And yeah, the hills are so terrifying when it's dry out, I can't imagine myself being brave enough to jump on them wet. Maybe I'll come out and volunteer at Bucks and cheer you guys on!

    3. Definitely let me know your ride times for Burgundy! I'd love to check out the venue, I hear really good things about it. Hubby is shooting weddings every weekend for the rest of the fall, so I'm a free agent haha.

  3. Looks like you guys had a GREAT show! And hey, "freebie" blues are still blues :)
    Dino looks completely in his element on the XC course, your captions are EPIC!

    1. Thank you!! XC is the best, according to Dino.

  4. You still totally earned the ribbons :) Dino looks fabulously happy on the xc course!

  5. What a totally cute pony! Dino looks so happy doing XC. :) Congrats on the well deserved ribbons


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