Anyone who brings home a red rosette is happy. They`ve succeeded. But is there a difference between those who have piloted an experienced horse around an event, compared to those partnerships who have a history, and have been on a journey together?
There must be.
Just before Christmas I gave myself a kick up the bum to have a go at elementary tests. After all, I know I can do all the movements easily individually, it`s just putting them all together in rapid succession and in a competition environment that causes me concern.
Anyway, we went for it and entered an Elementary 44 class in December. Practised like mad and came away unplaced, but with a score of 63%. Initially I was a bit disappointed if I`m honest, but then I read the comments and understood how the judge had marked and it made sense. Over Christmas and January Otis and I focused on our weaker areas, and at the end of the month we went to a competition and rode the Elementary 44 test again.
This competition was at a more familiar environment for both of us, and the whole test felt much less hurried; I was more relaxed, the movements came more easily, and it felt more consistent. I was really happy with Otis and felt that we`d taken a step forward. Elementary felt an achievable level; no more bumbling around at Novice level, feeling stuck in a rut. Of course there was stuff to work on, but we were front crawling to the side of the pool instead of treading water in a whirlpool.
As the test felt better, I was pleased that we had gone up by 3% to get 66%. It was the highest out of all the Elementary tests, which meant third place in the pick your own class. I don`t think it would have mattered where we were placed, the mere fact there wasn`t an individual score lower than 6.5 and there were a couple of 8s in the mix was enough to satisfy me and motivate me towards our next test. Perhaps trying a different test this time!
Earlier this week I found another competition for a fortnight`s time, with Elementary 49. To shake things up, it doesn`t have collected trot, or simple changes, but rather leg yield, rein back and more complicated canter changes of rein. In my lesson on Wednesday I rode a few of the movements and in theory they shouldn`t cause a problem – it will be my ability to prepare for each movement on time.
Now that I feel I am able to continuously try elementary tests I feel that Otis and I are making progress. Yes, we won`t be aiming to win, and I doubt we`ll beat 66% as it`s a different test, but the idea is for it to feel achievable, have good bits and not so good bits, and leave us feeling thirsty to try again. Of course if we are successful in this, then I`ve no doubt I will be ecstatic with Otis, and feel he is worthy of a lap of honour like Valegro at London 2012. But I doubt I`ll be able to do that, so he`ll have to be sated with a big hug and a kiss.
To me, and I`m sure it is the same for all who have produced their own horse (or child), it isn`t the level of success that you achieve (national, international; prelim or grand prix) but the knowledge that all your hard work has paid off and been recognised.
Here is the link to our last elementary test – here – which is not for everyone at home to judge, because I`m my own biggest critique, but rather there as a comparison for future tests, and so that I can watch and see where my mistakes were so that I can avoid them next time. I think everyone should have their lessons or competitions recorded regularly as it is hugely beneficial for understanding judge`s comments or why something went wrong. Likewise, when watching other people we should all appreciate their attempts, focus on the positives, and learn what we can – too many people find faults in others.