Monday, November 19, 2012

Better than the Dream - part 2

Two weeks ago I left everyone with the tease that Uiver and I competed in the USDF Region 7 Prix St. George Open Championships. Needless to say, simply qualifying for these championships was beyond my wildest dreams, let alone being competitive in that company.

 Being in California, competing in the open division means riding against some exceptional riders and horses. Anyone who makes even a small amount of money by training or teaching must compete in the open division rather than as an adult amateur. I have often joked that there needs to a new division for riders like me who do train professionally but aren’t amazingly gifted as the likes of Steffen Peters, Guenther Seidel, Jan Ebeling and David Blake to name a few, or for those without large budgets to purchase horses with mind blowing movement. I call it the Open but not rich and never been to the Olympics or Gladstone division.
But off to championships Uiver and I went anyway with only the hope to maybe place in the top 15 out of classes with up to 30 riders entered. Uiver and I qualified for both the CDS (California Dressage Society) and the USDF (United States Dressage Federation) championship classes. We entered a “warm-up” class for Thursday and the CDS class Friday and the USDF class on Saturday.
The week before champs I contemplated whether or not I should body shave Uiver and decided not to because his coat was not that heavy yet and he would lose some of his beautiful mahogany color. This would be a decision of vanity that I would come to regret. It is common for we in Southern California to body shave in the Fall/Winter because our relatively mild winters make our horse’s winter coats a huge hassle and a problem with them overheating when worked. The championships were the first week of October, still a little early to shave, and I thought that because the weather was cooler and Uiver had not gotten that furry, that I would be able to put off shaving until November.

  Of course, as luck would have it, we had a heat wave the week of championships with temperatures in the mid 90s on Thursday and Friday and of course all my ride times were in the heat of the day. On Thursday both Uiver and I were a bit distracted by the immense activity and the enormity of the show (over 300 horses entered). As a result, our warm-up took a little bit longer than normal and by the time we were half way through out test, poor Uiver completely ran out of gas. He gave me all he had but the second half of the test lacked energy and we barely pulled out the tempi changes. I could not be upset with him, he was simply exhausted and it was his stupid mother who warmed him up too long. Our score was one of our lowest of the season at a 59.8. Now all the scores for the entire show across the board were relatively low I think in part, because everyone was suffering through the hot weather and because the judging standards were high because it was the championships.

David Blake, my trainer, and I later strategized for the CDS class the next day and decided that Uiver knew his job and that we would do the test with only about 15 minutes warm up so not to wear him out in the heat. The strategy was a success, and even though it was not one of our best, the test was much better and we reached out goal of at least being in the middle of the pack, finishing 11th with a score of 63.3.

So we continued with the same plan for warm-up the next day. What needed to be different though was the way I rode the test. Uiver and I are a true partnership and that includes both being green to this level of dressage. Because of this we both lack the miles of experience needed to be 100% confirmed and confident in the movements, especially the pirouettes (both walk & canter) and the tempi changes. If Uiver was going to do the test without taking the time to practice the movements in warm-up, I needed to more clearly and confidently guide him through the movements in the test.

In our hotel room later that night, my sister Marta and I talked about the show. I have been competing for many years in several different disciplines and have often been my own worst enemy mentally when it comes down to the biggest shows. I get both intimidated and awed when in the “big boy pool” and sometimes get so lost in feeling lucky to be at the big shows that I don’t really compete when I do get there. My sister said “You do deserve to be in this company you know, you just need to remember that when you are in the arena.” My other sister Christi had told be a few weeks earlier that I always need to remember that the “pure joy of the partnership” is why I ride in the first place. And David said “You know Terri, it is OK to want to win.”

I took all of these pearls of wisdom into the ring with me and I rode Uiver with more confidence and forethought then ever before. The result was a mistake free test and a score of 67.5. I was the first ride (at 1:15) in the class of 30 riders and had to wait through nearly 5 hours of rides to see how I faired (the last ride was at 6:00 p.m.). I remained in first until the second half of the class and remained in second until the last 4 rides. At the end of the day, literally, Uiver and I ended up 4th and needed to get tacked up for the awards ceremony which would be at 8:00 p.m. in the indoor arena. Although incredibly excited I was equally unsure of how Uiver would react to the lights, audience and applause in the indoor not to mention the large ribbon on his bridle. Well we were going to find out.

Although quite animated, Uiver was a perfect gentlemen and I think he even enjoyed all the attention. Me?. I was giddy beyond control and as you can see by the photo, was grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. It was a great evening and I still smile when I think of it.

Uiver and I have now moved up to Intermediare 1 and our debut was just this past weekend at the first show of the 2013 show season. It was a small recognized show, the perfect venue for our first go at I 1. Like it seems everything else with Uiver, the show went better than my wildest expectations. The leap from Prix St. George to Intermediare 1 is a significant one the the introduction of full canter pirouettes, tempi changes every 2nd stride and even a medium trot to walk transition. Our tests were not mistake free but pretty fluid with respectable scores of a 63.8 and a 67.5 which won the classes both days. Not bad for our first go at it. Now comes the challenge of I1 at a bigger show and then perhaps a CDI (Concours Dressage International) later in 2013.

Uiver with one ear on David cheering in the stands

As far as I am concerned it is all a lot of icing on top of a very big beautiful equine cake named Uiver and I am a very blessed and lucky girl.


Martine said...

I'm sitting here in my kitchen Provence, grinning from ear to ear on your behalf. What a fairy-tale! Congratulations :D

Francesca Prescott said...

Love it love it love it!!!! I love your attitude, your doubts, and your courage and determination. I love the comment from your coach, and how you managed to keep this in mind during the test. I love the photos, your happiness, and your love for your horse. You are an inspiration for me and my little uber green, insecure, easily unsettled Qrac. I doubt we'll ever get to your level, but it's the journey, the discipline and the enjoymentthat counts.

Brilliant, Terri! Congratulations! xxxxxxxxx

Kris H. said...

Congratulations!!! The pictures of you both are terrific.

Alison said...

Terri, You and your handsome horse seem to have that magic partnership. And to be able to share the dream with you (from the comfort of my VA home) is great. Thank you for the photos and story. I don't know who took the photos but he/she did a terrific job capturing your joy.

Promise said...

Congratulations!! Winning was always a bonus for me when I was showing, but it's definitely one that can't be matched when everything comes together for that near-perfect ride! I'm sure these are the first of many wins for you and Uiver!

TBDancer said...

I was at the Championships but did not get to see your wonderful ride. Your entry "put the reader there," and you are to be congratulated!! Several times.

I too loved David's comment. It IS "OK to want to win" and those of us who are sort of on the periphery of this wonderful sport need to have more faith in ourselves and our horses. We can do this--and you just proved it to us ;o)

Congratulations again!

Terri Rocovich said...

Martine - It is a fairy-tale and I am so glad it brought you a smile. Thank you for your congrats.


Uiver and Qrac seem a lot alike. Both a little insecure, but talented and they love their mothers. Thank you so much for your kind words, they mean so much, especially from a fellow dressage addict. And you are so right, it is ALL about the journey and I am really enjoying this one.

Terri Rocovich said...

Kris H and Alison

The pictures were taken by 2 different photographers that frequent the show circuit out here. The ones in the arena were taken by Terri Miller. Terri is also an amazing artist and when I have the extra cash I have promised myself portraits of both Uiver and my schoolmaster Pete. Terri also happens to be married to the dressage judge and trainer Axel Steiner.

The photos of the awards were taken my McCool photography. I thought they were all amazing too.

Laura Crum said...

What a wonderful story. Terry, you are a real inspiration, even to someone like me, who has zero knowledge or ambition concerning dressage. But I can still appreciate how much you've accomplished and how much you love Uiver. Congratulations...and thanks so much for taking us along with you! Also, Uiver is my very favorite color, but I would call him a bright bay. Is he darker in real life than he looks in the photos or do I just have my terms wrong?

Linda Benson said...

Wonderful post, Terri. Thank you for taking us on your journey with you. Really enjoyed reading this!

Terri Rocovich said...


I am still waiting for that perfect ride (I think you have to be Steffen Peters to get those) but I am elated when I get even close. Thank you for your comments and I agree, ribbons are just a bonus, it how I feel we did that really matters.

Terri Rocovich said...

TBDancer, I am so glad you liked the post and I wish I could have met you at the show. We will bac up at the LAEC in February so perhaps then. And you are so right about the importance of faith, it is everything that matters.

Terri Rocovich said...


I would call Uiver a Mahogany bay, or blood bay, but the photos show close to his true color. I don't really know what the correct term is, but is has a lot of deep red in his brown. He really lightens and gets more brownish when he is shaved but there is still a lot of red undertones. It is one of my favorite colors, along with chestnut. His coat is really shiny when he is clean but of course, one of his favorite things, other than eating, is rolling in my pasture and getting as dirty as he possibly can.

RiderWriter said...

I am catching up on EI reading and just saw this - CONGRATULATIONS!! You and Uiver just make a lovely pair, and a true partnership is my favorite thing to see in dressage. I'm so glad you successfully battled your show nerves and the heat and had such fantastic results!

(By the way, I've seen Terri Miller's work and it's fantastic... do splurge on a really special portrait of your boys!)