First Level Requirements….Tips

Calgary Alberta area show season begins next month with the Carrots & Cocktails Series at Anderson Ranch.  If you choose to move up to 1st Level classes from training level be aware that the expectation is “to confirm that the horse, in addition to the requirements of Training Level, has developed thrust (pushing power) and achieved a degree of  balance and throughness.”

Your horse needs to move forward through the elements of the First Level tests.  Use corners to balance your horse and ask for more roundness in the frame.  Throughness is characterized by the horses pushing power working through your horse, making him light in your hand and round on the bit.  Keep transitions smooth by taking the time to plan and prepare.  Required elements come more quickly in the tests as you progress up the levels.  Make sure you memorize you tests and plan how to ride each element. If you rely on a reader, you won’t have time to prepare for transitions.  “A horse goes how he’s ridden”, use the test elements to your best advantage by knowing what comes next and how to help your horse.

New rulebook for Alberta Wild Rose Series

 Calgary Area “Dressagers”  take note, if you plan to compete in the upcoming Wild Rose Dressage series, usually held at beautiful Kestrel Ridge Farms, west of Calgary, be aware of the new rules.  the AEF has posted 2011 rules on the AEF website…

Click on the competitions tag and then click on Wild Rose.  Points for year-end awards will only be given to CADORA tests ridden at the competitions.  There is an option to ride tests downloaded free from the USDF (which are the same as the Equine Canada Tests), but you can’t accumulate points by performing these test at the competition.  Also take a look at point number 5 on page 7….”the Equine Canada Rulebook is not applicable at any time” during the Wild Rose Series.

Calgary and Alberta Show Committees need our help as Volunteers…

The Show Ring
The Really Big Show

The members of Show Committees across the province are ramping up for the Alberta Dressage show season. 

 These dedicated few are working on developing and publishing their show prize lists following Equine Canada rules.  They will be booking Dressage Judges and budgeting for the judge’s flight and accommodation.  Volunteers are assigned to host the judge for the duration of the show.  This includes, transportation to and from the show grounds, helping to sort out lost luggage, looking after any requests and providing hospitality for the judges and officials during the show. 

Show dates for national shows must be approved by Dressage Canada.  Show grounds, need to be rented, if the organizers don’t have their own venue.  One of the show committee will negotiate the use of the rented facility, including stabling, bedding, feed (if available), warm-up areas,  footing maintenance, parking, washrooms, show office area,  food service and all the possible contingencies of a show.  Paramedics need to be engaged, and if the show is of international standard, there are security measures that need to be undertaken.

The show secretary and the show office staff,  will process the entries as they come in and give each entry a competitor’s number for the show.  The show program, and day sheets ( updates to ride times) are their responsibility. They also assign stabling,  complete class schedules and ride times. They will prepare the tests sheets in order of the competitors, then once the rides are finished, calculate and post the results of each class.  Show office volunteers make sure each competitor has the proper documentation, passports, Coggins test, CD music for Kurs (2 copies) all filed correctly under the rider’s assigned number.  These people have all the answers, they direct other volunteers, they keep lost and found items and find the owners of lost pets and children.  They are angels without wings.  There is software available now to assign ride times and help with scoring, but even so the scope of work that show office people are responsible for is absolutely amazing.  They work from before the first to after the last ride everyday during the show.

The show committee hosts the sponsors.  If our show organizers and volunteers are like gold, then our sponsors are the diamonds.  We value their commitment to our sport.  We are thankful for those whose backing of our shows allow us to have a chance to win back our entry fees, or take home a cooler,  ribbon or saddle pad.  Many sponsor appreciation events  are held during the Kur, or freestyle classes.  Volunteers make sure the sponsors are well looked after, fed and watered and afforded all the special attention deserving of a patron to our sport.

When it comes time to set the venue for the competition, many hands make light work.  Dressage rings, though portable, must be set up so that they are square, on good footing, that the letters are properly placed and the entrance is opposite the judges table.  This is not as easy as it seams.  If there are enough volunteers, and an experienced foreman, the task runs very smoothly.   Ring set up usually happens early in the afternoon, the day before the show begins.  If you are arriving at the show grounds, and have settled your horse, received your show package (put together by the show office volunteers) ask if there is anything you can do to help. Ring set up and take down help is one of the big ways we as riders can contribute to the efforts of the show committee.

During the show,  someone must sit at the judges table and write down the riders scores and the judges comments on the score sheet.  These are the Scribes. They are usually volunteers at our shows.  Scribing is an excellent opportunity to learn more about what the expectations are in the sport of Dressage.  Your handwriting (printing) should be neat and legible,. A scribe should be able  to write in a readable short hand, for sometimes the judge’s comments and marks seem to come quickly.  Don’t hesitate to volunteer as a scribe, judges and the show office value your effort and it is a fantastic way to become closer to the sport.

Tests are scored and somehow they must get to the show office to be calculated in percentages, recorded and the marks ranked.  This is where the runner comes in.  You don’t have to run, you can bike. I have seen runners run tests on electric scooters.  If you volunteer to be a runner, you will either be responsible for running for one “test”, say first level test 3 or for a time period from 11:30 until 12:45.  It depends on how many riders (or family/friends) volunteer to help as runners. 

Other volunteer positions include,  ring announcers and  DJ’s for the Kurs, whippers-in (informing riders when they should head to the competition ring), general help and clean-up in the officials and sponsors hospitality area, making sure officials have refreshments during  the competition, closing the “gate” after the rider has entered at “A” in FEI or Freestyle classes, pouring wine or setting up welcome events for competitors or sponsors.  It is an exhaustive list and the Show committee members need our help to make the shows run smoothly.  Please offer your help at the next show, I know it is much appreciated.

New Competitors to Dressage? Begin with Training Level…

A Training Level PairA new Dressage Rider asked me if they were ready to enter their first show at Training Level.  I felt that they were well prepared, but I referred them to the “Purpose” of each of the national levels, which are written  at the top of each Dressage Canada official score sheet.

Training Level

The purpose of showing at Training Level is to demonstrate through performing the test you have “confirm(ed) that your horse’s muscles are supple and loose, and the horse moves freely forward in clear and steady rhythm, accepting contact with the bit.”  There it is… rhythm, suppleness and contact,  the three pillars of Dressage.  The frame of the horse would be a training level frame.  One doesn’t expect a horse at the beginning of dressage training to have developed the same self carriage as an upper level competition horse.  This takes time and training, and why the purpose of the test is written at the top of the test. to download tests  click here

New riders be aware that demonstrating your horses rhythm and suppleness in the ring can be affected by performance anxiety experienced by the rider.  Show nerves can cause the rider to get tense, tight and rigid.  I can say from personal experience  that “the horse goes as he is ridden”.  More about how I learned to overcome show nerves  (mostly) in a later post.

Dressage Canada – Equine Canada Bronze Level Shows – What you need to Know

Lots of Pics
Paperwork for Bronze Level Shows

 The Carrots and Cocktails Shows at Anderson Ranch are Equine Canada Bronze Level Shows.  National Level Dressage Shows are classified as Bronze, Silver or Gold.  The Bronze Level Show, requires you to have a valid Equine Canada Bronze  Sport License.

Go to Equine, Canada’s website to get one online.  Your horse does not need an Equine Canada Official Passport and current Horse License for the Bronze Level show. You will need to be a member of  the Alberta Equestrian Federation. The AEF provides liability coverage for the event. Check out the Alberta Equestrian Federation website  for membership info. 

There was no mention, in the Prize List for the Carrots and Cocktails Show, that proof of a negative Coggin’s Test was a required document.  Some Bronze shows do require proof of negative Coggin’s, as do some riding establishments, as part of their bio-hazard protocol. 

 If you decide to show at a  Gold Level show, say the CA/ADA Dressage Show held at Anderson Ranch every June, then you can upgrade your Bronze Level membership to a Gold Sport License.  You only pay the difference.  You would then need to have a horse passport, sport license and Coggin’s Test.

If you intend to compete in the Calgary area, there are provincially sanctioned shows.  The Wild Rose Series was hosted last year at Kestrel Ridge Farms. You can check their website to see if they will be hosting shows in 2011.  Rules for these shows can be found by searching for “Wild Rose” on the Alberta Equestrian Federation website

 CADORA tests are used at these competitions and you need to be a member of the Alberta Equestrian Federation to compete.

In my view, showing  confirms the work that I am doing with my horses is correct and that I am “on track” in  my training. Shows are not a place to school, you want to be prepared to show at the correct level for you and your horse. More about this later…..