Category Archives: Competitions

Hot But Chilled Dressage

Well if I thought it was hot during my lesson on Saturday, we were in for a shock doing Prelim 7 on Sunday at Codham! Having given ourselves a bench mark last time, I was aiming for more relaxation and less tension from Saf, and for me to keep my hands softer. After a boiling hack there, Saf was on her best behaviour and stood happily tied to a tree eating her haynet. It was amazing for all of us to be ‘hands free’, without one of us having to hold onto her. Simple things! After a half hour rest we headed down to the warm up, which seemed less busy compared to last time.


Saf started out tense and looky, but we had a happy canter on each rein which seemed to get it out of her system. She then worked really rather well. Wanted to keep the warm up to a minimum due to the heat, and we were soon called.

I was so pleased with her, I remembered to relax my hips and kept my hands light rather than the usual ninja grip I develop when I feel like she’s going to run off during the test. She was understandably happier and aside from a bit of nose poking at times and ducking in on a few corners in canter I was really pleased. Came out with a grin which is always good 🙂 61% which I was happy with and felt about right from where I was sitting and particularly pleased since it’s only our second time at this venue.


All the photos here:

Emma & Saf x


First unaff at Codham

First competition at Codham Park on Saturday. Approx 1 hour 20 minute hack, which involved wading through a flood! This was our first time at Codham, and Saf was Tense with a capital T. We arrived an hour before my time, gave Saf a break after her hack, got changed and on to the warm up. Saf’s eyes were on stalks and the warm up was rather busier than we’ve encountered at Bluegate. There were more lorries, horses and people milling about in general but there was a nice atmosphere and it didn’t feel busy, if you know what I mean. I couldn’t really get any sense out of Saf in the warm up, she just refused to listen and I ran out of ideas after a while. Eventually I managed to gain some of her attention but wasn’t too hopeful as I was called.

You can see from the pix that she was just a ball of tension the whole time. I know it’s a new venue and we’ve not been out since September last year but it was really hard work and I felt like I’d been down the gym by the end of the test. She just kind of fixed her neck and I couldn’t get her to move it. In hindsight I probably should have tried letting her go a bit more but I’m convinced she’d have just shot off at 100mph! Never mind, it was a lovely place and we’ll definitely be back next time. Good points: Well I remembered the test, and she basically did everything she was asked (albeit fast!) and our halt was good.


Back to Bluegate!

After a 2 month competition break, we dragged the bog pony from her mud pit, brushed her off, gave her a haircut and hacked to Bluegate. I think Saf might have forgotten all about being a dressage pony, and we’d also hardly done any hacking, so she was a bit surprised when we arrived. A lot of tension from both horse and rider, but with Claire’s brilliant help in the warm up, we managed to calm down. Even though I felt calm myself, when we got to the long arena for the test, the tension came back in Saf.

She managed to keep it under wraps, it felt the best in ages, plus it was my beloved Prelim 17 test! I was enjoying the feeling of having time to think, and was confident about the next movement so could actually plan ahead – a first for me! We seem to have well and truly slain our ‘incorrect bend gremlin’. I was really pleased with both trot circles, and even enjoyed the canters, actually managing a single half halt during the canter to slow Saf (it worked – just need to work a few more in now!) Loved the final centre line and halt (got a lovely 7 for that).

I did have a bit of a ninja grip on the reins, before the bell rang and asked for a trot transition and Saf decided to sod off at high speed, so wasn’t too keen on giving too much rein after that. Things to work on: longer rein for next time and remember my elbows!

Finished with 61.53%, really pleased with that, so nice to claw our way into the 60’s. We’re going verrry slowly but it’s so nice to see a bit of progress. We’re now more consistently getting 6.5’s for our trot work and 6’s for our canter work, as opposed to 5’s and 5.5’s previously. Canter feels a million times more controllable now. Not entirely sure whether we’ll do any more this year, it really depends on how the weather goes, but if it is our last one this year, a really nice test to finish on.

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Knee mishap and online dressage success!

Had a mixed day on Tuesday, popped into the gym to sort out my membership with Andrew. After my lesson with Rui I’m determined to get fitter, been meaning to for ages but never got around to it. All keyed up to go to the gym after doing horses.

Then on to the yard to get the horses down for their annual jabs. I managed to get caught between Saf and Rosie when they were having an argument over breakfast and got kicked in the knee, which was a bit of a shock to say the least! Got the jabs done including trotting up both Rosie and Saf for the vet (Rosie has historic stifle problems and I just wanted the vets opinion on Saf – verdict: keep working her, there’s no soreness and work is the best thing for those older joints 🙂 ) Vet rather amused but sympathetic about my own extreme lameness and suggested euthanasia as there wasn’t anything he could do for me! 😉

Felt I’d earned a pub lunch after this trauma, then got my results back from this month’s Dressage Anywhere Prelim 17 (video below) 64.23%! Really pleased with this, was thinking about the 62% mark as we had much better inside bend than we’ve had at live competitions. Lots of 6.5’s for most of the work and 6’s for the canter. Looking forward to September’s comp which is Prelim 19.

Note to self: Use brain during dressage test situation!

First go at Prelim 15 on Saturday, can’t say I was too keen as between that and the other prelim on offer (can’t remember which one) P15 was the best of the two. Compared to P17 (last time) this seemed horrid! I’m still at the stage where I need time to think in between movements, and P17 allows this with changes of rein etc. P15 seemed to be one thing immediately after another with no thinking time.

Anyway, we started in the indoor warm-up, but realised that Saf seemed to be getting more stressed and distracted with other horses working in there. The short outdoor arena (where I’ve done most of my tests) is now also a warm-up so we headed over there. Empty, and Saf worked much better.


Went over to the long arena for the test and as I suspected I had no time to think during the test, so I went into standby mode and just steered her round. No incorrect bend, but a bit of a battle and didn’t feel like Saf was on-side. I did have a LOL moment when I got my sheet, judge’s comment: “Seemed rather ‘on a mission’ in canter today”. Haha! Made me smile anyway! 58.2ish, a different (more generous) judge than usual, felt like it was faaar worse than last time and not a mere 1.5% difference. Chalk it down to experience and try to keep at it in the hope I might somehow work out how to think whilst I’m actually doing the test rather than just steering.

Click here for lots more photos


First time competing in the long arena prelim…

A scorchio test on Saturday! This was my first go at a long arena test… and I LOVED it! Saf was mega tense and looky in the warm up (probably not helped by starting the Land Rover’s engine when she was standing right in front of it – my fault!)

Anyway, I wasn’t feeling too hopeful as we headed to the long arena. Despite the climbing temperatures Saf was wired and as we walked round the outside waiting for the bell she started neighing – something she hasn’t done in years. I was cross with her and told her so, and that seemed to do the trick. She knuckled down to work immediately.


I was more than happy that I knew the test, the arena felt huge, but in a good way. There was so much space and I felt like I had time to think in between movements. I was concentrating on using the corners and not throwing the contact away. The canter work felt lovely, even more so after having a few nightmares working at home on the rock hard ground. I finished the first canter and realised I was thoroughly enjoying myself and had time to give Saf a scratch on the neck which she appreciated (I think she was pleased that I had taken control and supporting her rather than just blindly steering round!)



After the first canter I felt her slow down as we usually canter at home then have a walk, I had to quickly say ‘we’re not done yet’ and she popped into canter nicely on the other rein. We had a similar conversation about the walk, when she wanted to stretch straight away (right in front of the judge) and I had to insist we waited until the marker. Oh, and a gorgeous square halt at the end.


You may have gathered that I’m was over the moon with the whole thing. We didn’t have any incorrect bend issues (just need to continue working on more bend but absolutely no looking out) I assume she just didn’t like the high fences around the short arena and loved the extra space in this one. Canter was good (for her) and no breaks in it. I just felt like I had miles of room. Anyone considering making the jump to long arena prelims – do it! I won’t go back now 😀 We scored a rather conservative 59.8% – would have liked 60+ but my enjoyment and pride in Saf today outweighs any disappointment in the score.

Only 10 Tests

I realised the other day, that I’ve only done 10 dressage tests in my life! This came as a bit of a surprise as despite feeling rather out of my depth at times, I felt like I’d been doing this forever. 10 tests is absolutely nothing. No wonder things don’t always go to plan, and if I come up against problems in the ring I don’t know how to fix them. We’re doing a lot of schooling work at home (and should probably chill and hack more) but many of the problems in the test never happen at home, so I don’t get to practice how to fix them.

We only did 3 unaffs before Saf’s loading issues left both Claire and I nervous wrecks and decided that at Saf’s age it just wasn’t worth it. We then started hacking to Bluegate, which only runs affiliated shows. This is enough to put the fear of God into anyone as inexperienced as I, but it’s such a lovely venue and everyone is so friendly I never feel out of place.

Saf is easy going, and I’m so lucky to have this lovely mare who doesn’t mind that her rider is nervous when she goes into a test. She doesn’t stress but she doesn’t understand why I’m suddenly riding differently when I’m trying to remember what I need to do next. I’m not concentrating on my inside leg, so that goes walkies, then she bends the other way because of it.

I’ve learnt P17 for tomorrow, it’s a nice symmetrical test which I looked at a couple of times and memorised straight away. There’s little point (to me) in having it called as I don’t learn the letters, just the patterns. I’ve ridden it a few times at home – in our newly extended grass arena, dodging knee high grass and thistles, and pony-lawnmowers grazing just where we needed to go.

Tomorrow I’m going to try to be more conscious of what I’m actually doing, rather than merely steering her round. Every corner I’m going to use as an opportunity to balance her and get our bend correct. The trot work shouldn’t be a concern as she’s going so well at home, canter, well we’ll see how it goes! Wish us luck!