The good news was that it never really rained today (sprinkled/drizzled a few times, but nothing lasting). The bad news was that it was overcast and dreary all day long--and by the evening, the wind picked up to what I've heard call a "lazy" wind--too lazy to go around you, it goes right through you instead. Brrrrrr!
I THOUGHT I was finished with my shopping--but I'd forgotten about the great FITS breeches, and the Rolex Three Day Shoppe had a whole length of the shoppe at 50% off....so what could I do?? We also hit Quillin's again, this time to buy leather halters for our "big" horses, and to get something special for someone in Donna's family. We also visited the Stackhouse Saddle place, and the saddles there were awesome...like sitting on an easy chair...like floating on a cloud. A flotation device. Cushiony, Swimmingly Comfortable. So--how important is comfort?
But at least half of the day was spent watching dressage. Once again, I was amazed at how these athletic animals can be...well, contained in dressage. I also noticed that, while many of the horses were forward, only a few of them were really "up" and under themselves.
A few horses with really nice suspension: Flame, ridden by Heath Ryan; Northern Spy, ridden by Heidi White Carty, and Courageous Comet ridden by Becky Holder (who really should have won last year). Two horses had better tests (I thought, anyway) than the judges scored them: Flame and Napalm (ridden by Ian Roberts, the only Canadian in Rolex this time--strange!). Both of these horses were nice moving and obedient, and both of them were "up" and under themselves, with a few baubles (late lead change behind, not square halt, etc.). But both of these horses got significantly higher penalty scores than *I* would have given them. Maybe they should ask me to judge next time!
Some things I learned from watching dressage today (once again, in no order):
In dressage, just like in jumping, you need to look where you're going. I noticed both Becky Holder and Heath Ryan doing this, with much success.
Several riders (Heath Ryan and Bruce Davidson, SR) rode with shorter stirrups than I am used to seeing in dressage--BUT both of these riders had lovely, lose legs, wrapped around their horses--and both had soft seats.
Heidi White USED her corners, perhaps more so than anyone else--nicely done. Corners are vital.
Fluid changes can't be over-rated: Heidi White on Northern Spy and Bruce Davidson, SR on Jam and Becky Holder on Courageous Comet had absolutely lovely changes.
Several of these horses looked like their trots were difficult to sit, yet each of the riders were able to sit quietly and easily without interfering with the horse's movement. Note to Self: Practice sitting trot more!
A good stretch in the extended walk can't be over-rated.
A soft seat and flexible hands are keys in good dressage.
A good transition from extended canter to collected canter is hard to achieve, but beautiful when it'd one well. Northern Spy was magnificent at this.
The audience loves a good showman. The men were better at it than the women, for many of them doffed their hats to the crowds, much to their delight. Some of the women, however, learned that waving can be effective as well. It's never a bad idea to have the audience on your side!
The confident riders nod to the judges on their way around the ring before the bell rinds.
Good dressage riders use their seats, but NOT their upper bodies.
Good dressage riders are constantly using their hands, but you don't notice them using their hands. They appear quiet.
Experience Shows: Both Karen O'Conner and Bruce Davidson had very obedient, workman-like rides (much like Kim Severson's rides have been in the past). They are supremely professional--never missing a beat (their transitions are clean and smooth; their movements are crisp; and their details, like square halts and obedient rein backs, are perfect. They use their seats nicely, but they really look balanced and tall in the saddle. Philip Dutton on Truluck appeared to have such a ride until the counter-canter and flying changes--and the horse just lost it. Philip didn't, to his credit, but it was too bad to see what was a really strong test go sour.
Poor Tara Ziegler and Buckingham Place had a tough ride: she lost her hat, but like a trooper, she continued without pause. The horse was obviously "hot"; he had no stretch, and more of a rear back than a rein back. I think she's better than that, but I guess it's good to know that everyone has a bad ride, and you just need to come back and try again.
One of the high points today was meeting Buck Davidson, who is one of the nicest guys I've met. The Amerigo saddle person told me how kind he was to a couple twins earlier in the day, and he took the time to talk to me and (blush) sign the photo that is at the right top of this blog. We talked about how much you learn when you watch an event like this. It's been an incredible ride!
Tomorrow my fence is #12. Here's how they are described on the website:
OPEN DITCH & RAIL
Boldness is the order of the day here.
Red Oak Rail – 3’11" high
It looks like a lot of fun. I can't wait!