Riding Dilemma: Choosing Which Level to Compete At

Since finding out two weeks ago that I will indeed be in the area for show season (yay!) because I got a job in the area, I have just sort of assumed that I will show Silver (provincial) Training Level dressage. However, after a conversation with my coach from home last night, she prompted me to challenge myself – to push myself to compete at First or Second Level. She particularly encouraged me towards the latter option, but that definitely won’t work given that my new coach (and Gordon’s owner) will be competing him at that level this year, and we can’t very well compete against one another on the same horse. So maybe I should give First Level a try… I’ve done Training Level so many times before on so many horses (albeit usually at schooling shows and not at provincial competitions), but wouldn’t I have more fun trying out some of the more challenging movements that are required there? It would be nice to be able to leg yield, etc., rather than just doing extremely basic movements and 20 metre circles. It’s definitely something to consider… although I really don’t like “rocking the boat,” so to speak, and when I mentioned Training Level to my current coach she immediately agreed that was the best level for us. However, she’s not exactly a “pusher” coach like my coach at home. Maybe it is best to challenge myself so that I can grow more, rather than perform at a lower level (and maybe win more ribbons). I’m not sure. I guess this is a conversation that I’ll ultimately need to have with her. I hate confrontations though, so we will have to see how she reacts. Although usually she is a go with the flow type personality, so maybe she won’t put up any resistance! We will see. This would mean that I definitely would not go visit my brother in the Canary Islands though, as I would need those extra two weeks in April for practice, definitely.

On another note, I had two great rides this weekend again! Daytime riding (especially first thing in the morning) is really working for me lately. On Saturday I rode at the same time as my coach and another girl. I think I often have more confidence and ride better when there are people around either riding or watching. In any case, I think we had some really nice moments. We had an amazing full-school canter on the left lead – round, from the behind, etc. I’m able to keep him cantering without breaking a lot longer now – although this is still something I will need to work at, along with smoother upward transitions. Maybe I should try riding him with spurs sometime soon. At first I put it off because he can be really sensitive at random times, but I think I’ve gotten a good enough feel for him that I should be able to incorporate that aid. I can’t ride him with a whip because he has a phobia of them, so that is out of the picture. In any case, ride 1 this weekend was good overall – we had a really nice, forward trot at the end too and had some nice serpentines etc. Would also really need to work at our trot extensions though, if we chose to show First Level.

Ride 2 this weekend was over fences. This was only my second time jumping Gordon. I raised the jumps up to about 2′ and 2’3″ respectively. The last time we only hopped over a little cross-rail. Gordon was great! He pretty much figured out his own distances and made my job really easy. His jump can be a bit slow-motion though – but apparently this is resolved as the heights go up a bit more. In any case, it was a fun reprieve from all of the more serious dressage work that we have been doing.

I’m off to the barn shortly too and am going to hopefully incorporate some of the First Level movements into my ride to see how they go. If worse comes to worse, I can always train for First and then do Training at the first few shows and move up after we see how things go. Lots of decisions to be made!

Happy riding, everyone!

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