Our First Level Debut…

Ike dressed and ready for one of his lessons.

Ike dressed and ready for one of his lessons.

This Sunday is our last show of the year.  I thought the regional finals would be the end, but I got a bit of an itch to give First Level a go, so we are headed to one last schooling show to try First Level Test 1.  It should be an interesting afternoon.

We signed up for Training Level Test 3 as well.  The comfort zone.  I would love, love, love to cross that 70% mark.  We came oh so close once this year with a 69.4%, but then we kind of found a comfort zone in the 64%-66% range.  If we could just have once error free ride, we might actually be able to accomplish this elusive goal.  No spooks, no shies, no falling out of the canter, no eyeing the horses in the distance, and definitely no hand galloping.  All that nonsense ends up hurting us in the collective marks, which we all know, can kill any chances of crossing the magical 70-mark.  This is my last ditch effort to achieve the goal I set for myself at the beginning of the season.  Please keep all fingers and toes crossed; I know I am.

We are just hoping to stay in the ring and survive the First Level test.  No real expectations for a high score.  Just hoping to not completely embarrass ourselves or make the judge regret getting out of bed that morning.  Throughout this year, we have played with lengthening the trot, but we really didn’t spend a lot of time schooling it on a regular basis.  The focus was a connected working trot with a steady connection.  Our work this year has Ike in top notch condition – when we work on lengthening the trot, he isn’t even breathing hard while I stop discuss what Ms. C saw or did not see in our work (and to catch my breath!).  The problem comes when I get a bit greedy with the lengthening or use a bit too much leg or whip without the necessary half halt to rebalance Ike’s movement.  Imagine a toddler running down a hill.  They get faster and faster and you can see the fall unfolding.  They just don’t have the body control to stop themselves…well Ike has the same problem.  If I’m not there to help him hold things together, he loses his hind end and stumbling ensues.  Graceful as his mother.

The hardest parts of the First One test are the transitions, i.e., free walk to medium walk at P to trot at F to right lead canter AT the letter A.  It all happens really quickly and unfortunately has a coefficient of 2 in the scoring.  We have practiced repeatedly, but it will still be a crap shoot on show day.  All the canter to trot transitions are also at the letter (with a double coefficient as well), and usually right in front of the judge.  Please Ike listen to me when I ask for the down transition.  Down transitions are not optional in the test.

The other tricky part will be the canter, only because there is so much of it in this test.  Poor Ike is exhausted when we are done with our lessons that include all the canter work required for this test.  Canter, canter circle, keep cantering, lengthen the canter, show a comeback from the lengthening or attempt to show one, canter to the appropriate letter for a down transition…Yikes!  It is probably a good thing that we are starting this work in the cooler weather and not in the wretched heat of summer.  I too would be as exhausted as Ike is at the end of our lessons except for the fact that the USEF test writers kindly made sit trot optional at First Level.  A big shout out to the person or persons who made this call.  You are now some of my favorite people.

I’ve got my bet on what our score will be for our First Level debut.  Anyone else want to throw a number into the mix?


2 thoughts on “Our First Level Debut…

  1. I would not venture any percentage for your and Ike’s First Level debut, as I am so inexperienced.

    However, from my limited exposure to dressage (only intro a and b), I immediately see that transitions are “it”, along with gaits exactly at proper point, etc. Fortunately, I did not get dinged on my coefficients. That said, the transitions you cite in your upcoming event sound really difficult.

    Seems like an excellent idea to also have signed up for Training Level Test 3. This could be the time you reach/pass that mark!

    Can’t wait to read all about it here. Best of luck to you and Ike!

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