Yes… we have done it! We have qualified for the Dressage Ireland National Winter Finals! We needed two qualifying scores of 63% or higher on two separate outings before March 20th, which I thought wouldn’t be possible given we only affiliated in January and there were just two outings that I could attend before the deadline. But as ever, Betsey pulled it out of the bag and scored us 69.75% and 65.4% in two consecutive outings to get us through in the nick of time! Never in a million years did I expect we would qualify for the Winter Finals in our first year affiliated, not to mind qualifying in just two outings – so proud of my little horse.
Last Saturday (March 12th) was the day that we got our second qualifying score, and if I’m honest I really didn’t think we would – in fact, I was set to withdraw from both of my classes at one point! Betsey is a headshaker – for those of you that don’t know much about headshaking or how to treat it, you can join the club, as not many horse owners (including myself) or vets do either! Betsey’s symptoms involve tossing her head up and down quite violently, twitching involuntarily, blowing out through her nose incessantly, and coughing. It only happens in warm or sunny weather – typically from April to October – so I have deduced that it is either photosensitivity or a reaction to pollen (like hayfever for horses).
Good news for me and Betsey is that her symptoms are about 99% removed by using an Equilibrium Nosenet (review to follow), so as soon as she starts displaying symptoms I pop this on her noseband and she is much more comfortable. I also smear a bit of Vaseline around her nose which helps to catch any dust that could serve to further irritate her sensitive nose.
Unfortunately I didn’t anticipate the headshaking kicking off quite so early this year, and so I hadn’t yet received my dispensation certification from Dressage Ireland to compete with a nosenet – you are permitted to compete with a nosenet in all non-FEI competitions but need to send a Vet Certificate to the Board of Dressage Ireland for approval – and so we had to compete without one. In the warm up for the first test (BD19, Long Arena) she was quite clearly distressed and the headshaking was very obvious, hence why I seriously considered withdrawing. A good friend advised me to just focus on relaxing her, not worrying about her way of going, and at least give the first test a stab to see how she handled it. So in the warm up I focused on long and low so she could relax into the contact, lots of transitions to get her focusing on me, and giving her a good canter to let her do all her ‘blowing’ and get it out of her system. This really work and if I could remove the headshaking I’d have said she did some of her best work to date!
So we gave the first test a go, and it wasn’t the worst! Yes, we had a lot of head movement, and in one of our canter strike-offs we had a buck (totally unrelated to headshaking, just exuberance!), but we managed to do a decent test despite this, and even scored a few 7s! We came out with a score of 60.45% which was enough to scrape us a DI point 🙂
So I decided to do the second test (BD12, Short Arena) to see how she would go, and discovered after speaking to the Show Secretary that I could warm up with my nosenet, just couldn’t ride in the arena with it until I had my cert – if only I had done my research in advance! So I popped on the nosenet for the second warm up and it was like a switch – just the odd twitch here and there which I expected given how severe the headshaking was the first time around. My friends even commented how massive a difference the nosenet made to her! She did a beautiful warm up, and I didn’t ask much of her given we had done a long one for BD19 – just 20minutes of transitions and flexing, a big walk on a long rein and off we went to do BD12.
Much stronger test this time around, she was listening to me, stiller in the contact and much more relaxed throughout. I would have liked a little more control of her shoulder in the canter, so that’s something to work on at home. We had a series of trot-canter transitions over the diagonal at the end, and I had probably over-schooled them a bit at home, so Betsey anticipated these and cantered a little early in some places – a true reflection of her nature of trying so hard to please! This got us a lot of 7s (until the enthusiasm at the end!), and a qualifying score of 65.4% – YAY!
I was so pleased with my little horsey, she tries so hard to give what I am asking of her at all times, and the fact that she pulled two strong scores out of the bag and qualified us for the National Winter Finals, despite being bothered by the sun/pollen, makes me feel very lucky to have her indeed. Thankfully my dispensation certificate is due to come through in the next week or so, so our next day out should be much better for Betsey.
So off we go to Cavan in April to attempt Preliminary Winter Finals – now to start learnings those tests…