Yesterday I took Kate to a schooling dressage show to act as a warm up for GMHA's biggest dressage show of the year next weekend. This horse is so nice to work with at a show. She absolutely loves being on the grounds and showing off. She is a giant golden retriever in a horse suit! She got a little distracted by the nearby cows being fed dinner, but other than that she put in a very respectable third level test.
Our sport tests all kinds of things that "regular" athletes don't have to deal with. Having a 1200 lb living, opinionated critter as your most important piece of equipment leaves you open to problems you never even dreamed of. My relationship with my horse is of the utmost importance. She must trust me to the nth degree and seek to understand what I am asking her to do ALL of the time. But she's a horse. And horses are curious, sometimes anxious animals by nature. So it's not just teaching her how to carry her body, perform the movements and respond to the slightest, barely perceptible aids, I also have to teach her to always be listening to me; to seek my queries and to respond appropriately.
And it's a two-way street. I need to listen to her, so I can understand when she is confused or when I haven't been clear or when she's just not feeling quite up to the task. Extreme relationship building. That's what dressage (and all horse-related sports) is all about! It's a steep challenge, but well worth when it all works!