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We Are Flying Solo

September 17, 2011

Baby's First Dressage


Now that we're clear on that...

In some fit of insanity, I decided to take Encore to a dressage show today. Because I've had him all of, what, seven days? I figured it was the perfect opportunity to get him out there in a dressage arena and start racking up the miles. Our goals: staying in the arena, not getting eliminated, and successful exposure to a show atmosphere. What could possibly go wrong!?

Yesterday, the temperature dropped 20 degrees and a layer of silky, grey clouds unrolled above us. Perfect weather for Horses Gone Wild, right?

I'd selected USDF Intro Test A, so simple a 3-legged pig ridden by a blind gerbil could do it. Except I've only ridden this horse twice in any sort of arena. And he doesn't know how to bend yet. Or half halt. And oh, there's my tendencies towards Idiocy Upon Entering At A.

After nearly falling out of the trailer upon arrival in his haste to check things out, Encore proceeded perfect. Well, he was about 17 hands tall for the first hour, but he still never put a foot wrong. Funnily, he was more interested in the woods than the people and horses and trailers and fences and booths and flowers. That little racehorse never spooked, never flinched, never rushed, never protested for even a moment. THIS is why I buy horses for their brains. The evidence does not lie:

I apologize for video quality -- the only thing I had charged was the helmet cam and given the high chance of rain today, I decided waterproof was the way to go.

Naturally, I managed to mess up even that simple test. Being trained for years to trot boldly down centerline upon arena entry, that's exactly what we did. Even though you are supposed to transition to the walk at X and walk all the way around to M. Ooops.

But Encore was a superstar; he held a rhythm, he even did some stretching! And we won! First place in our class of, oh, well, one. Ha! I can only thank the amazing CANTER ladies for what they have done for him. They took a horse who was sour and hated people (it's true, this babyfaced ham wanted nothing to do with the pink apes) and gave him a chance to blossom into the amazing horse he is already becoming.


  1. YAY! Congrats to both of you guys! I am glad you are still able to go compete but give Mr Solo the time off he needs to (hopefully) recoop

  2. Awww..... If you ever get tired of him, feel free to send him my way. You know where Tami's place is, right ;)

  3. Argh, I hate you, because we are currently at 1-legged pig ridden by blind demented gerbil status.

    That out of the way, he is GORGEOUS! Such a nice mover, obvious good brain, fabulous all around. I am so very happy for you, having these 2 wonderful guys to play with :-)

  4. Thank you! LOL, Jen -- I was not even as smart as the gerbil, since I messed up the test!!!!

  5. AWESOME! He's so pretty! I love it, way to go!

  6. Wooohoo! Your first first place of many, I'm sure! He looks great and was certainly a Very Good Boy for his first time out. ;)

  7. Well done Encore! What a horse!

  8. What a good boy :) he's going to be a superstar one day :)

  9. YAY! CONGRATUALTIONS! Big things ahead!!!!! Enjoy the ride!

  10. Thanks, all! This guy is such a pleasure...

  11. Wow, really? He didn't like people? That is hard to believe since he's such a good boy!! I'd like to deck whoever gave him that impression... >:-/ SO glad he's got a great mom now? Also, question: how DID you evaluate him for his brain? Could you maybe write about that? Would be good info to know...

  12. I think I can answer the he didn't like people thing. He was very personable at the track and came from an awesome barn. Super good care and people who who loved him. I always stopped in to see him while making track rounds. It's fairly common for horses who come off the track to experience a transition time where they would rather not deal with people. We tend to just leave them alone until they indicate they are ready to start working again.

    I don't know how to explain when you know but you just do and because we have a large number of horses coming into our layup farms each year we are okay with the horses who are antisocial and give them their space to rest/heal/relax without humans bugging them. I know a lot of people choose to just restart them right away and that works great for some horses but not all. I also find that the longer a horse raced the longer the transition period can be.

    You have to remember you are changing their whole routine. They go from being in a stall and being fed like kings (seriously, racehorses are super well cared for especially where he came from!) to being kicked out into a big herd of horses where humans don't factor much into the equation because they don't bring you food. It can take them a while to become friendly again even if they used to be.

    Brains- super easy to tell. I think Brena got to hack him out off the farm which tells you a lot about the brain of a horse. How do they handle scary situations, how quickly do they learn new things, do they try hard, are they brave and what do they do when chaos is happening around them. The awesome thing about CANTER (well of course I work for CANTER so I am biased) is that we do all the legwork. He had already been let down, hacked out, schooled xc and had basic training. It takes the guessing out of the equation because you get to see the true horse. Very hard to evalute personality at the track!

    We have many really super nice horses. Right now I have Letterman, Romeo and Burgiss in training in Delaware and they are all exceptionally quiet with good brains.

  13. Wow you waste no time! I cannot wait to see you two progress! The only thing I disagree with is your very first statement but I guess I will let that one slide ;) Really though it looks like you got yourself a winner there!

  14. Jess, thank you for the great explanation, well said!

    Thanks, Amy!

  15. Congrats! What a great project to keep you busy and riding. When life gives you lemons... go find a lime to add to the mix! :)