On Saturday, our ride was at 10:00 am, so I got to the show grounds early. I do not like to be rushed, and I wanted to have time to re-braid Clay if necessary (thanks to about a gallon of hairspray, his braids looked OK, so I just had to re-do his forelock.) I ended up having plenty of time, and even had a bite to eat at the cafe and was able to get fully caffeinated. 😀
We took a long walk around the grounds to let Clay stretch. He seemed loose and well-rested. At 9:00 I tacked up and headed to the warm-up ring. It was a lovely morning…low 70s and overcast.
Clay felt great in our warmup…More relaxed than the day before, but still nice and forward. Our warm-up at shows usually goes like this:
- Stretchy walk both directions to get the back swinging and to encourage relaxation from the start. If he’s too nervous to have a long rein right off the bat (that’s unusual–he’s typically able to be trusted on the buckle basically anywhere) then I keep my reins shorter to start.
- Rising trot both directions for a couple mins, in a “training level” frame, just to get the heart-rate up a little before going into canter.
- Canter/hand-gallop (half-seat) both ways, concentrating on keeping his poll up and being forward but balanced. This really gets him working over his back and thinking forward. He feels totally different (better) after we do this–it’s the biggest key to our warmup.
- Short walk break in which I transition between normal walk and collected walk/half-steps and back to normal walk to get our half-halts super sharp and him listening to my seat. I usually ask for some turns on the forehand and turns on the haunches out of that collected walk as well.
- Sitting trot, collected and in a second level frame. Leg-yields both directions focusing on being super straight. Trot-halt and halt-trot transitions.
At this point he is fully warmed up and ready to segue into harder second level work…counter canter, canter-walk and walk-canter transitions/simple changes, shoulder-in and haunches-in, 10-meter circles, transitions between collected and medium gaits, etc.
We ran through our routine as best we could, but the ring was crowded so it was difficult to do certain movements like the canter serpentines. Clay felt ready, though, so I didn’t over-do the warmup, wanting to save some gas for the actual test.
The main thing I remember about the test was that I had fun riding it. It had a nice feeling, Clay was relaxed, and I had a smile on my face for a lot of it. It was far from perfect, but it was an enjoyable ride. 2-3 is a nice symmetrical test.
My parents took video, and when I watch it I can see a million things I want to do differently/that could be better. But I also see a reallygoodboy trying hard in a very stimulating environment. And I see myself, nervous but having the time of my life riding my favorite pony.
I got totally lost in the moment during the walk portion of the test. I was reveling in the experience–a little too much–and got a step ahead of myself (even with a reader! That’s a new one!) and started to head across the diagonal for my stretchy walk before the turns on the haunches.
I realized my mistake before the judge even rang the bell, but it still was a 2-point error. Poop. (I edited that bit out of the video because the video was long enough without watching me circle around at the walk for ages.) 😛
Oh well. You know what? I was just so tickled to be out there at this show that I have been wanting to go to for years, on this pony, in this amazing location, and nothing else really mattered to me.
But I don’t mind also saying that my geometry kind of sucked. And there was some head-wagging at the canter because he wasn’t quite collecting and I was doing my darnedest to keep things soft while also being like “damnit, bend your hind legs!”
I know we’re capable of better. But it is going to take time, and more shows, before we can ride as well in the show ring as we do at home.
In the meantime, I sure am having fun.
One of the best moments was hearing my little girl yelling happily “Mama! I’m over here!” from the stands. She was SO excited. My husband was desperately trying to keep her quiet but every time we’d ride close to them she would wiggle out of his grip and yell for me. No one gave her the memo that spectators cheer quietly at dressage shows. 😉
We scored a 63%, despite the error. I felt it was very fair. Our free-walk got an 8, and our center-lines/halts also scored high. Our trot work was mostly 7/7.5’s. The canter, simple changes, and walk error were what brought the score down.
One little personal triumph for me this weekend was that I finally got 7’s for Rider Position & Effectiveness in the collective marks. I have been stuck at 6.5 for the whole time we’ve been at Second Level, so it felt really good to see improvement there.
Our score put us in fifth place again–same as the day before–so we won fifth overall for our division and Clay got a fun pink neck sash.
With our ride out of the way, I had the rest of the day to pack up my trailer for the long trip home, and watch my friends lay down some AWESOME rides.
It was so inspiring to see the caliber of riding in our group of folks from up north. It’s a beautiful thing to watch a horse and rider partnership that is harmonious and trusting. Some of the freestyles made me teary!
When you know just how hard these people work, the sacrifices that are made to make this all happen, and the endless amount of time and energy put into these horses….well, they don’t call us Crazy Horse Ladies for nothing. But it gets you right in the feels to watch it all coming together for someone in that moment, especially when they’re on a super special horse that means a lot to them.
The awards ceremony was at 6:00 PM. It was SO fun to watch all the amazing ponies galloping around with their happy riders! Several members of our group were Grand or Reserve Champions of their divisions–such a rewarding moment for them to take that victory lap with everyone hooting and hollering.
The rider banquet that evening was also super fun, and the food was great. It was extra special to watch my friends win some more cool awards at dinner. This show is not lacking in awesome awards and beautiful ribbons!
I can’t say enough what a well-run show this was, and I really hope they bring it back to Lamplight again for years to come. Top to bottom, just a wonderful show.
Of course I had to take a picture in front of the NDPC sign! 😛
What can I say that will sum this whole experience up?
…Good ponies are awesome, and good friends and family are even awesomer. And I have it all. ❤️
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who had a part in making this weekend happen, go smoothly, and turn out so fun. I’m full-up with gratitude and love and contentment. It was especially so helpful to be able to stay with family while we were down there, and my Aunt and Uncle were such fabulous hosts. My husband…he’s a saint, and none of this would be possible without him. My parents, always so encouraging and supportive of my crazy dreams. I could go on, but I’ll make myself cry, so…just thanks. You all rock.
I’m so grateful we all got home safely and without incident. The traveling part was stressful for me so even though I was looking forward to this show all year, when it was all over and we were home, I took a big sigh of relief. Clay travelled extremely well, and then promptly got a few days of rest.
I only rode him once this week and it was a chill hack in the field. We are done with shows for the summer now, so I’ll just do some trail riding and stuff for a couple weeks before we go back to work in preparation for next year.
The learning never ends!