Phew! It’s Tuesday and I’m still nursing a pretty good Horse Show Hangover. You know what I’m talking about? I am tired, but it’s a good kind of tired. It just takes the mind and body a minute to adjust back to regular life after a weekend of total immersion in the horse world.
We arrived to the showgrounds on Friday evening, and after settling in I gave Clay a quick little ride in the warmup ring and both show rings. He was very relaxed, forward, and seemed happy to be out on a field trip away from our boring old indoor arena.
This is Clay’s fourth year showing, and we have never been anywhere else but at this show-ground (because it is 40 mins from home, and the shows that NWDA put on there are SO nice! There has been no real need to go anywhere else.) This place is like a second home at this point and very comfortable for us both.
Saturday morning, bright and early, I was there to wrangle all that pony hair into braids. I think it’s pretty remarkable that that was a roached mane last Oct, with the lower half all rubbed out and threatening to never grow back.
BioMane was really a game changer and brought his mane back to life, in time for the show no less! I was so excited to be able to do braids up the whole mane, no problem.
Later that morning, I had a really great warm-up on Clay. He was feeling forward and responsive, and stronger than even a month ago. His counter-canter balance–and his confidence in his own ability–has gotten so much better in a short amount of time.
He was also trying so hard in the canter-walk-canter simple changes, but they were still sketchy if I did not set him up 1000% perfectly every time. We’ll get there, I am not worried about it. The fact that he shows up and tries is what counts. I need to ride better.
Our 2-2 test was up first. I went without a reader this time because I really wanted to challenge myself mentally to do something that is haaaard for me. Memorization has never been a natural thing for me. I have to work hard at it. I’ll think I have the thing down, and then in the moment, when the pressure is on and my heart is beating faster, my mind will go FULLY blank.
But, you know, you don’t get to have a reader when you do freestyles, or when you’re riding PSG and GP tests. Working on this skill now is a step towards those (lofty) goals.
So, with no reader, we marched into the sandbox and did our darnedest. And I did not forget my test! Not once all weekend!
…I did put my simple changes in the wrong spot the first time I rode 2-3, on Saturday, because I mixed up I and L, but the judge was really kind and did not ring the bell on me. It was still a 2-point error, but at least I did not have to stop and totally mess up our flow. I think Clay would have been like “Nuh-uh, we done.”
Anyway, a wee pat on the back for myself (and a milkshake from A&W on Sunday night as I drove home) for not blacking out mid-test and going off-course. It felt really good to prove to myself that I can do it.
I did both 2-2 and 2-3 on both days of the show, and after getting my scores the first day, I was hoping to improve them slightly the second day. I was happy with them, but I knew we could do better. There was some falling in on turns, some tension through transitions, etc. that I thought I could iron out the second day.
Unfortunately, the footing in the show rings was really soft and deep this year (the grounds crew reportedly waited too late to weed the rings, and so there were large root-balls on the weeds that had to be removed, which created big, soft holes…) and on a short horse, that is a real problem. I felt like we were getting swallowed up by the sand and it was stealing our thunder.
He would feel amazing in the warm-up ring, and then as soon as we were trotting around (and especially when cantering) in the actual show ring, it was a completely different feeling.
I am frustrated that an external factor like that–out of my control–had such an impact on us, but that is the name of the game with any sport, really, and especially outdoor sports. It could have been raining cats and dogs on us, or we could have had 40 mph wind gusts to contend with. Anything. You have to be strong enough and good enough to ride through those things.
And we just aren’t yet.
And so, Sunday’s scores were essentially the same as Saturday’s.
Saturday: 62% at 2-2, 61% at 2-3
Sunday: 61% at 2-2, 62% at 2-3
Hey, we’re consistent! And there were two blue ribbons in the mix for us, which always feels like an accomplishment in the Open division against real trainers who have been at this a lot longer than I have.
Kinetic-energy-stealing-footing aside, I was really pleased with all four of our rides. Clay brings his whole heart to everything he does and I love him to pieces for that. We have improvements to make but with those tweaks and with further strengthening, we’re not far off from being able to put down some really nice Second Level tests.
Plus, the weather was PERFECT. There were no bugs. My mom and daughter, and a student of mine and her mom, showed up to root me on. I didn’t forget my tests. I got a milkshake. We got home safe. We had fun. There can be no complaints when your weekend looks like that!
My husband, who usually takes beautiful photos of us at shows, was home working hard to prepare for a big garage sale we’re having this coming weekend, so I am hoping there was a professional photographer there snapping pictures of everyone and that I’ll be able to purchase some nice images from them.
In the meantime time, here is one pretty cute, albeit grainy, cellphone picture of me grinning my face off while my pony marches along in his best gait–the walk! We got good scores on our walk and a “Great walk!” comment from one of the judges. 😉