Finally. Finally, finallyyyy... On February 22nd 2020, we went back out to a competition... sadly though, it was only dressage...
This marks the first time me and Zarry have competed together since September 1st 2019. That's the day we had a semi-rotational fall and I big time broke my collar bone... Read this for more. So, ya know, to say I was excited was an understatement!
Since the accident, Zarry had had a bit of time off and some rehab as he had come off a little worse for wear from the whole incident (not as bad as me, might I add). So this means, after coming back in, he had had about 16 weeks of strengthening work. This mainly consist hacking in straight lines and lots of hill work, focusing on working long and low. He's been through this routine a few times in his life, it normally consists of 4 weeks walking, 4 weeks walk & trot (building trot as you go) and 4 weeks walk, trot & canter (building up the canter)... the final 4 weeks is just fitness work, so getting the contact a bit more "up", increasing schooling and starting jumping.
Anyway, so we started this in November, after about 6ish weeks off. So come late Feb we were feeling pretty good, so off to competition it was! I entered two prelims at GW Equine in their winter dressage series. Baring in mind me and Zarry don't really "do" dressage, even entering what quite the victory in itself! We had also not really been to GW Equine before. We had come and used their large outdoor arena for SJ schooling but the small arena and indoor area (where they hold dressage) were new to us... so, you know, picked myself a nice easy scenario for our first time back!
I did all my usual floofing the night before... I have quite a specific pre-show routine that I like to do to make me feel happy and relaxed. I find prep is key so being bathed, tack cleaned, kit all together and ready etc means I'm not flapping in the morning. I'm also used to going out with lots of other horses and quite hectic shows (5/6 horses with possibly 2 riders each all in 3 classes or something silly like that!) so organisation does make things easier. I think we only had 4 or 5 horses this day, so nice and chilled... she says... laughing manically like an insane person...
So off we went, all plaited up and ready! I was very excited to get back out, as was Zarry. The benefit to having a horse that's a bit of a hot-mess all the time means that, he's kind of always the same? A lot of people were like "omg do you think he will be mad or spooky?"... and yeah I did think he would be, but he's always mad and spooky so it kind of doesn't matter. I think its much easier than having a really good, reliable pony who becomes difficult after and accident. If you're used to them all being difficult, the bar for "good behaviour" and your expectations are always very low, so that's a positive in this situation!
We went back to the lorry to chill and drink some tea before tacking up again for the second test. Now this is why I entered two, Zarry is ALWAYS a second round kinda guy. He's very buzzy when you get somewhere new and uses all that buzzy, anxious energy up at the beginning, after a quick chill he's normally much better. So for the second warm up, he was much nicer. He's never the easiest to ride on the flat but second test he tends to be a bit like a slightly sparkier version of his home-self. Added benefit, the warm up was very empty so I got to spend lots of time and space getting what I wanted. This worked really well and I was very proud of us both, I think I achieved what I wanted to in that warm up and be was a good boy who concentrated on me... what more could you ask for!
So we went in for the second test and although we had some similar issues to the first test (canter was WILD and the open side of the indoor arena was terrifying), actually the bits inbetween the madness were nice. His trot work was better and he did a nice walk, I felt more able to ride and less like I was just clinging on... ideal!
This was reflected in a decent score improvement (% somewhere in the low 60s) and a much happier human!
And do you know what? I'm really happy with that. Neither of us are naturally dressage inclined, or really built for it! I have been working super hard at it since the fall, just because it's all I could really do, so I'm happy that we're improving, but also happy that we are really good at other things, so its not the end of the world. I hope, one day, we will be getting those sub-30 (70%+) scores because I want to qualify for grassroots and that's what you need... but if it takes us 5 more years to get there then that's just what we'll do!
The main thing I'm happy about is that the whole ordeal of the fall doesn't seem to have worried him. I really really thought it would. He actually was no different to how he has been every time we've been out for the last 4 years, which is all I wanted really. Its probably affected me more... I feel like I'm second guessing myself more than before, I don't feel scared when I ride... I just feel like I want to make sure its right, every time... which as we all know, is impossible! Overthinking it all, which isn't very good. Pursuit of perfection is also not great. However, to think we'd have it all figured out and magically be winning as soon as we're back out is unrealistic. We weren't before so, if anything, we're just back to where we were before.
Above all else though, I just want to get to jumping!