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The 8ft dressage arena

Written by Andrea Parker

Find out how placing last helped me to see that we have moved out of the 8ft dressage arena

Dead last.

23rd out of 23.

I don’t know if that’s ever happened to me before. Sure we’ve come third out of three several times before but somehow that felt different.

I left the ring after my first test at the Caboolture Dressage Group Championships knowing that it wasn’t the best I had ever ridden but it certainly wasn’t the worst either. When I saw my name last on the board I was filled with shame and embarrassment.

That was probably an overreaction. It was a seriously classy field of horse and rider combinations with the top spots filled by some of the best in the business. But there you have it – my honest reaction was shame.

After taking a beat I was able to reflect on my tests in a more realistic way. It was a huge improvement from two weekends ago. There were several positives that I can be quite proud of in both of those tests.

We rode two tests without errors of course. Yeahhhh. So this is a pretty small thing but something which I have always struggled with since moving up to elementary.

The changes were both clean (at least in the first test). Nonie and I have learnt the changes together and it’s been an interesting experience to say the least. Most recently the changes left to right have been late behind. But with a few adjustments to the way we were rising them from Paula and lot of relaxation and forward on my part they are improving.

We scored over 60% in both tests. Not brilliant scores but once we turn the couple of 4s and 5s into 7s we’ll be nailing the tests!

So I’d managed to make myself feel ok-ish about the fact that we had come last and then I saw this on one of my friends Insta feeds.


And that’s when I realised. Nonie and I were now playing with the big kids. We’d graduated from the paddle pool aka the 8ft dressage arena. And with this being my first time riding a horse at medium level I was in uncharted territory.

But I want to play in the big leagues. I want to dance down a Grand Prix centreline some day, hopefully with Nonie. And if we’re to do that then failing and growing will be part of the journey.

I’ve felt a huge amount of growth in the less than two months that we’ve been down in Brisbane with the more regular lessons with Paula and getting out to more competitions.

So bring on this period of growth!


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About the author


Andrea Parker

Andrea is an Adult Amateur dressage rider who competes at medium level on her 13-year-old mare Mon Ami. Andrea shares her journey through the equestrian world on her blog The Sand Arena Ballerina and is working on an equestrian podcast called Equestrian Pulse.