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dressage show

Central Oregon Chapter ODS, dressage, dressage barns, dressage competition, dressage show, horses, natalie perry dressage

Rodeo Dressage, First Level Test 1

Pfifer and I had been training together for just over four months and things were going great. I loved her laid-back temperament — she was fun to ride and I was really happy with how things were going.

Feeling confident, I signed up for First Level, Tests, One and Two when the Central Oregon Chapter of the Oregon Dressage Society offered their Swing Into Spring league show. Both tests were well within Pfifer’s capabilities, as she’s schooling Third Level with trainer Natalie Perry.

Six days before the show, Pfifer came into heat in a big way. She was flirting and showing her stuff to anyone and everyone. Oh, dear.

She gave a big kick at the first canter depart I asked for in our Tuesday lesson, but otherwise settled in. No big deal.

Likewise, on Thursday, just days from the show, she was a bit grumpy and didn’t really want to bend, but no big deal.

The weekend of the show arrived and the weather was predicted to be great. What could be better? I had visions of respectable scores and a couple of nice ribbons.

We arrived at the show grounds early enough for me to walk Pfifer around and let her take in the sights. She’d been to the venue the previous summer, so I was a surprised when she got nervous and spooked a couple of times on our walkabout. Oh, well. She’ll settle in, right?

Natalie coached our warm up, and while it wasn’t fantastic, it was respectable. Pfifer still felt resistant to bending and while it wasn’t as apparent that she was in heat, she was still a bit edgy.

Our time to ride came up and we entered the ring, ready to show our stuff. Pfifer balked a little at the judge’s stand, but without conviction. The bell rang, and off we went!

First Level, Test One rides nicely. I felt good about our trot work and got a fairly prompt canter depart. We started down the long side for an extended canter and, without warning, Pfifer started to buck. And buck. And buck some more.

My survival skills kicked in and I sat back, held tight to the reins so she couldn’t get her head down any further, and rode it out. My head was spinning, wondering “What????”

“If this gets any worse, I’m coming off,” went through my mind.

But the big issue was this: “Wait! I can’t fall off in front of mom!!”

Yes, of all the shows I’ve competed in, this was the first one my mom came to watch. My husband and two friends from out of town also stopped by. (Undoubtedly the cause of the bucking.)

Here’s the thing: Mom is terrified of horses, even when they are on best behavior. This was supposed to be a fun outing for her.

Fortunately, I’d asked Pfifer’s owner, Claudia, to sit with mom and explain to her what our dressage test was all about. I’d imagined a conversation along the lines of, “That was a nice trot lengthening.” Instead, mom was gripping Claudia’s arm, asking, “Is Lauren ok?!”

Claudia is a retired medical professional, skilled at remaining calm in stressful situations.

“Of course she is,” Claudia said in her most soothing voice.

“Is the horse trying to buck her off?” Mom asked. A reasonable question, applicable to other equestrian sports in addition to dressage.

“Of course not,” Claudia said, bending the truth.

Mom gasped a few times and Claudia patted her arm.

Pfifer bucked down the long side, settled into a trot, and kicked up a few more bucks as I asked for the canter again to make a circle at ‘P’. She actually cantered enough of the circle that the judge remarked: Good recovery.

Alas, there was more canter yet to come and more bucking. Our score reflected this but it was a small enough class that I got the most hard-earned fifth place of my life.

I ended the test with our highest score of the test — an 8 on our halt! I saluted the judge, relieved it was over, and raised an imaginary cowboy hat to the onlookers. I got applause for courage.

My poor mother had lost all color in her face and looked very unhappy. 

“I didn’t like that,” she said.

“Neither did I,” I replied, but I was laughing now, because it was over and I’d stayed on.

Mom stuck around for my second ride, which was better but included a buck at the end of our second canter, right in front of mom. I doubt we’ll see mom at dressage shows in the future.

My horsey friends will be wondering if I had Pfifer checked out by a chiropractor. Yes, and she’s fine. I can only assume she wanted me to practice my staying on skills. Clearly she wasn’t out to get a ribbon.

Once again, I am humbled by a horse. Disappointed? Yes, dammit, we’d worked hard. 

And, of course, in our next lesson she showed none of weekend’s predilection for drama … so there was really not much to school other than some minor resistance.

I did get some nice photos of Pfifer looking innocent at the show!

Horses!

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dressage, dressage show, summer sizzler show

Dressage in a Downpour

Last month, a group of riders from our barn attended the Summer Sizzler Dressage Schooling Show. The show is held in Redmond, OR at a lovely facility called Stonepony Dressage.

An early heat wave ended just in time for the show, letting temperatures cool from the low 100’s into more tolerable 80’s. In Central Oregon, summer cooling generally means clouds with a potential for afternoon thunderstorms.

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We watched the sky all morning, as riders quietly went about their business, warming up in the indoor arena, competing in the outdoor ring. Akela and I took turns hand-grazing Micah, the second level schoolmaster we co-lease, walking him about the property before our rides.

Akela was scheduled to ride first in the First Level Test 1 class. Clouds built ominously as the temperature dropped and wind picked up.

As Akela did her warm-up ride, under the supervision of trainer Mari Valceschini, I ran back to the trailer and shoved our gear inside just as heavy drops of rain began to fall. I grabbed a jacket and headed back just as Akela headed to the outdoor show ring. That, of course, is when the downpour began.

Continue reading…

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Rodeo Dressage, First Level Test 1
May 4, 2019
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March 1, 2019
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Central Oregon Dressage Classic, dressage competition, dressage show, natalie perry dressage

Testing 1, 2, 3

This weekend I filled the role of horse show announcer at the Central Oregon Dressage Classic. It took a circuitous route to get there.

Several months ago I mentioned in passing that I’d announced for Fort Vancouver Dressage several times. You have to be organized, but it’s otherwise a pretty easy job and you get to watch all the rides.

At the time, I didn’t know my friend, Tina, well enough to understand that Tina is a Communications Expert. Within three days, Tina had let it be known that I had Announcing Experience.

I hadn’t realized how far and wide Tina’s ‘reach’ is. If Tina was an advertising campaign, she’d be highly successful.

Within just a few days, Mari, assistant trainer at our barn (Natalie Perry Dressage) said, “We need to talk.” I assumed I was in trouble and had killed a horse or broken a serious barn rule. I held my breath, waiting for Mari to continue. Would I have to find a new barn?

“We need an announcer for our June show,” Mari said. She is president of Central Oregon’s dressage chapter and an expert volunteer rustler. I was so relieved I hadn’t killed a horse, I would’ve said ‘Yes!’ to almost anything.

Which is why I spent the day in the announcer’s booth at Brasada Ranch. Here’s a photo of my headquarters.

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The first 20 minutes of day 1 were a bit rough, as those of with walkie-talkies figured out who we were and what we were supposed to be doing. We couldn’t see one another and had to learn to transmit vital information such as Rider #1 is moving toward the indoor; Rider #3 is in warmup; Rider #2 is nowhere to be seen, and so on. With time, we developed our own code and rhythm.

Continue reading…

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dressage for mere mortals, dressage show, natalie perry dressage, seat aids

Honey, Is That a Carrot on the Nightstand?

Of course it is! I’d spent the day at a horse show and will need days to unpack and regroup. You’d think my husband would catch on to these things, but I haven’t shown in several years, so it’s a new experience for him. The carrot accompanied a pair of gloves, so it was something of a montage.

After seven years out of the show ring, my return had the fascinating feel of something new yet familiar.

Familiar: getting up at the crack of dawn and hauling an incredible amount of equipment for a one-day event.

Familiar: a mix of anxiety, excitement, and exhaustion as I wait for my rides, scheduled for 1:41 and 3:04 p.m. It seems like an eternity.

Natalie gives Charles his show ring debut. He was scared but did a great job.

Natalie gives Charles his show ring debut. He was scared but did a great job.

Familiar: spending the day with our barn community, with their own levels of excitement and show nerves. We have owners taking new horses into the ring, horses who have never shown before, and even a young stallion. We’re all pitching in where we can. Everyone’s supportive and upbeat. Thank goodness someone brought Gatorade. Continue reading…

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