Right - so Echo is back in work at last, after having the best part of 6 weeks off, and today we won the last of the dressage tests in the in-house series! I am very proud of her, as we were very rusty when we started again. I had about a week to ride her, then I went on holiday again and we've just had the last couple of days to prepare.
Backtracking a little, I have been a little busy over the last few months! As most of you know, I am a teacher and this year I marked GCSE exams on top of my normal workload. When everyone else was winding down for the summer, I was slogging away, trying to get my quota done each day. It wasn't particularly fun, but it paid pretty well and meant that I could then go and do what I had been planning for months - a cycling trip across Spain. My boyfriend and I flew with our bikes to Bilbao, then cycled across the north of the country, arriving in Santiago de Compostela. It was a tough journey and definitely more of an adventure than a holiday, but it was absolutely amazing.
When I got back from Spain, I took part in the London Triathlon - again - an amazing experience. I used to run a lot, but since getting an injury a year ago, I haven't been able to run nearly as much as I wanted to, and as my boyfrined is a cyclist, I got into doing a bit of both. The swim was rather unpleasant - 750m in the Thames, but I loved the whole thing and am definitely going to do another one. So - since then, I have been able to ride Echo (except for the week on holiday - almost entirely relaxing, I promise!) and try to remind her what this dressage thing is all about. It took a couple of days, but she got the hang of it quite quickly. While I was away, a girl from the yard rode her. She's a very good rider and will have made her go nicely, although I had to remind her of a few manners when I got on again!
I feel as if we have gone back a step to some extent, as I was really working at getting her to lift her forehand before I went away and now it's more about getting a decent bend and getting her soft through her body. There is certainly some improvement here, but she was going extremely well before and it's a little frustrating to be back a step or two. However, she was great today and tried very hard. She was quite stiff to begin with in the warm up, and was being quite resistant on the left rein - I had to do lots of lateral work and loads of transitions to get her beding round my leg and using her back end. It was extremely hot and she felt a bit sluggish - she moved off my leg, but she just felt heavy. I don't blame her - it was boiling!
We had to wait a little while before going in as it was 'open order' and lots of people were ready all at once. The other thing is that it was in the indoor school and you have to trot straight in onto the centre line and start the test - going from the light to the dark makes Echo really back off my leg and she tensed up immediately when we went in. The test was fine - it was BE 102 and has a few odd moments, such as giving and taking the inside rein for 3-5 steps in the canter. It also gets you to make a transition to walk for 3-5 steps across a diagonal. I got a bit confused and walked for 3 strides, which is apparently different to 3 steps. Oops... She broke into trot on the first canter when I half-halted - I hadn't realised quite how responsive she'd be heading towards the door! Other than that, I was pretty happy. She was quite tense and it certainly wasn't our best example of what we can do, but all things considered, I was very pleased with her.
The dressage competition was marked on the best three tests over the series, so some people have done them all, whereas I have only done three. We won all three, meaning that I won overall and we also won 'best turned-out' which was very nice! We got a pretty red rosette and a free lesson with John - so that's awesome! I actually have a lesson with John on Tuesday and thought we might jump in that. I have a slightly crazy idea that I may do a clear round class at a competition being held at the yard on Saturday...but I'll see how the lesson goes first! I really wanted to do one this summer and the clear round is absolutely tiny - we could easily trot them if necessary. I'll see... I'm also planning to have a cross country lesson at some point. I'm not going to neglect the dressage, but I want to make use of the good weather and the light evenings while we have them! Plenty of time for dressage when we are confined to the school over the winter.
Anyway - here are some pictures from the last couple of days and some of the show today. If I can upload it, there is also a bit of video of the end of our test. You'll see what I mean - it's not BAD, just could be better!!