Dressage (previously referred to only as stressage) used to be a means to an end – the only way to get to SJ and XC while eventing! The aim was to try not to embarrass ourselves too much and not to get eliminated so we could move onto the ‘fun bit’ – jumping!
I realised in the end to truly become competitive eventing I would need to embrace the dressage rather than shy away from it. What I didn’t realise was how addictive it could become!
Unlike the eventing, dressage is split into different sections depending on horse and rider experience. It means that as a bronze prelim rider, I will not be up against a rider with points at elementary, or a horse with over 50 points (I think!). It makes everything fairer, and gives less experienced riders a chance to be competitive. As we all know, at BE90 with people finishing on scores in the teens, it is not possible to be competitive for everyone. Riders who have been successful at a certain section in BD are forced to move to a higher section, but not to a more difficult riding level. I think there is a lot that BE could learn from this system.
I also have enjoyed the qualification process, collecting qualifying sheets over a certain score to progress to an Area Festival or Regional Qualifier. It gives you something to work towards which is achievable.
We went to our first Area Festival last weekend which was held at the Cabin Equestrian. We drove up on Friday afternoon,excluding a slight sat-nav error which resulted in a detour to the beach in Aberdeen, the trip was ok. On arrival Corky was super chilled and settled well into his stable. We were parked next to my instructor Karen which was great – lots of help on hand.
There was a lovely big indoor arena available to school on the Friday evening which was great. It was nice and quiet so we spent most of the session stretching and getting Corky relaxed.
Next was our warm-up test. We were back in the indoor area to warm up, and again he was very relaxed and happy. I was extremely pleased with our test but we only scored a 65.5% which was slightly disappointing. For the Area Festival test it would not be the same judge so I put it to the back of my mind.
It turns out, for the main test there were actually three judges which I thought was great as sometimes it’s hard for Corky to shine against flashier horses, but with three judges they can view the test from different points in the school and I can show how correct and accurate we are. I think our test was actually the best test we have ever ridden; we were both relaxed and enjoyed it for a change too. We scored a 68.24% (scores from the different judges were: 65.8/68.3/70.6). It was interesting to see over 4% difference between judges scores but all of the comments were fairly consistent. We finished 5th out of 18 competitors narrowly missed out on qualifying for the Championships by 1.8% but I felt we rode our best test to date so couldn’t ask for more. We have another Area Festivals at the beginning of October so will be working hard to increase our scores. Corky is happy we also have two BE dates coming up at Dalston Green and Eden Valley so he can get his jumping fix!