Hello again!

June was all about ‘Mission PSG’! First stop was a lesson with my trainer Gareth Hughes. Just amazing! Ruin really struggles with the concept  of canter pirouettes and you’d be mistaken for thinking they were simply small circles…I have a couple of exercises I have used to teach previous horses but none seemed to have made sense to Ruin so this was my first challenge for Gareth. Naturally Gareth immediately gave me this awesome exercise to use and you could feel Ruin starting to understand within minutes! Next I showed our 4 tempi n 3 tempi flying changes, which went well (and would have scored 8s apparently), then Gareth said to try 7 x 2s…which Ruin has never done before… Correction; which Ruin has done before on his own accord going down the centre line in a dressage test when NOT required!! So we gave it a go and got a few! Did a few lines and got some great ones. Really proud of Ruin, he tried so hard. He might be getting the hang of this dressage malarkey…Forget PSG, maybe Inter 1 isn’t that far away?!

Two weeks later was the big day – my first PSG with Ruin! Very weird emotions on the day because I’d been at this point several times before and each time something had gone wrong, e.g. my horse went lame. As nothing was going wrong I almost expected Ruin to be lame in the warm up or something so it still wouldn’t happen! You cannot underestimate the amount of time and effort it takes to get to this point; top hat and tails is real  milestone. To not get there on my previous attempts has been devastating and you start to doubt it ever happen, but this sport is addictive and you just keep trying! We’d had a great run up with really good sessions all week, which of course meant that on competition day things did not go well. I knew as soon as I got on Ruin that he was ‘off’…he was very ‘heavy’ to ride and spooky, being really gobby and not his usual self at all. Sometimes that’s the way it goes though, for whatever reason, so you have to adapt and ride what’s under you on the day. Not surprisingly the test was far from our best –  I can only describe it as driving a car with flat tyres – he’s lazy at the best of times but this was pretty painful and just felt awful. We struggled on though and managed to keep the work as correct as we could; damage limitation  you could say.  The major problem was our 4-tempi flying changes, which  just did not happen at all. One of our highest scoring movements so that was very frustrating and not surprisingly we got a 3! I’m never a ‘blame the horse’ person but on this occasion it really was a case of Ruin being in fairy land and not responding to my aids. As a result I really attacked the next line of 3- tempi flying changes to ensure we got them! We did manage to get all those, which was great, although my over riding (to ensure I got the fricking changes as and when asked!!) meant they weren’t our prettiest.  Again  gutting when it’s our party piece.

Came out feeling very deflated but the end of test protocol has to continue so I took Ruin back in to the warm up for his stretch cool down and gave him some pats and a mint. I don’t want his next memory to be of an unpleasant feeling after the test so it’s important not to let your feelings pass to them, as much as possible anyway. As I have gotten older I have learned how to deal with my emotions better. You will always have a knee-jerk reaction after a  test. Sometimes euphoria and sometimes disappointment and devastation. However a few hours later on reflection your feelings can be very different!  So I try not to react too much to my immediate feelings after the test. If I feel disappointed and upset I simply don’t say a thing and those with me know to just leave me be and not try to reassure me; it’s one of those occasions  where ultimately nothing they can say will make me feel better! As soon as is possible I will watch the video of the test back to see if it looked as bad as it felt, which can really help improve the way I’m feeling as it often looks much better than you think! On this occasion I was really pleased. I had given myself 3 objectives after our last Advanced test – (1) Sit up and don’t look  like a hunchback (2) not have too high head carriage in the trot work, and (3) have Ruin more collected in the canter. Watching the PSG video I felt there was a big improvement in those three things so I was really chuffed with that! Plus in reality there was only one big error, the 4 tempi changes, even if all of it felt below par.

Before the test I had aimed for 65% but when I saw who the Judge was I changed this to 60% as it was a Judge that is, in my personal experience, quite a low marker and usually she gives me about 5% lower than other Judges. I have no issue with this as she’s consistent across the class so the placing is the same. Plus for every mark you feel was a bit harsh you will get a score that was rather generous – so it all equals out in the end! Once we had the error and it didn’t feel good I knew we would be looking at a mark in the 50s. I looked at the score and was amazed to see we got 63%! As predicted all the scores were low and some of the combinations with very flashy experienced horses that were used to much higher marks only got a few % higher than me. I was thrilled! Lots of 7s/7.5s and the comments were spot on. Left feeling super motivated because if we can get that from a   tough Judge with frankly an awful test then what will we get when it goes to plan! I really can’t quite believe Ruin’s dressage career so far… last year he did his first dressage test and it was an Elementary. One year later and only his 14th ever dressage test, and he does a PSG! He’s really defied the odds and I’m very proud of him. Somehow it’s very fitting that it’s Ruin who has managed to take me across the line to finally competing at PSG. I’ve had  him from 18 months old, he was an unintentional purchase for £2500, and  has caused me more grief over the years that any other horse! If you know any of my other horses you will know that is saying something… He has  been such hard work to train and when I first took him to Gareth as a 7 year old it was to see if he thought Ruin was worth the effort or if I should just flog him! He really has proved he was worth the blood, sweat and tears and has taught me so much. I owe him a lot and will never forget that.

The plan now is to crack on with the PSGs and give Ruin more experience and exposure. I have two competitions planned for July, as well as another lesson. Cannot wait to see how we get on next time now I know what to expect and that we didn’t completely embarrass ourselves! I also have Fozzy’s first BE90 at the end of the month so really looking forward to that! This summer is shaping up to be really amazing.

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