How To Make A Little Dressage Diva Cry

No, it is not a custom saddle, a bling bling browband or a matchy luxury saddle pad. It is a tiny piece of plastic that says: RD4.

Let me explain what this means. In Austria, you are only eligible to enter a certain level when you have a license that allows you to enter. First, you need to ride a test in front of two judges and have an oral exam - passing that, you get license RD1 (D stands for dressage, there is more on show jumping but I will concentrate on the dressage system only).

With RD1, you can enter first and second level. And you collect scores. All above 62% counts. You need 6 first level and 8 second level test scores above 62% to get RD2. With that, you can enter LM and LP tests, which are intermediate levels between second and third. With 4 LM and 4 LP test scores above 62%, you are happy to receive RD3 and you are on the way to third level. Last but not least, you need six third level tests above 62% such that you eventually reach the last license level, RD4. Meaning: no one can stop you from aspiring Grand Prix anymore. At least in theory.

So you see, there is a long way to go from the very beginning to RD4. And I have walked this way. An exhausting but fun journey on a path covered in endless entries, tears and sweat, garnished with satin ribbons every now and then. One step forward, two steps back, aching muscles, misunderstandings and tonnes of learning. When I got this little plastic card stating that I am now the owner of RD4, I cried. I cried because I was relieved. I was able to show in the last couple of years that you can become anything you dream of. Sure, there were and are horses and riders that are way better than we are. Sure, there is people who dedicate even more money and time and sweat into their career. But seeing that we reached this goal feels like landing on the moon. Who would have guessed that we would ever reach that? Hafl is the first horse that I brought up the levels, now showing FEI Junior Rider level, even competing against world's number 16. Seeing that all the persistence, all the sweat and tears, the fun we had and the experiences we made eventually paid off in being rewarded with such an honour - an incredible feeling.

I remember well when in the early days I watched people leaving the ring after an LP test and I thought to myself: if I could ever get there. And here we are, only a few years after and trying our heart out at third level. It makes me super duper proud to manoeuvre this little fighter through third level, showing flying changes that get 7s. Of course, we are not among the top performers and we will probably never be. But knowing our show record and all the advancements that we have made over the last couple of years feels way more important to me. Hafl will forever be known as the horse that taught me through the levels. And how many horses are there out there that can claim that?

How to make a little dressage diva cry? Make her realise of her achievements no matter what result lists, judges or any other rider says. No matter what anyone says: we made it! We started from zero and we ended up with an RD4 license - as a matter of fact, we made it! And now, no one can stop us (formally) to enter fourth level!

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