I have a love-hate relationship with horse shows. On one hand, I get antsy when I go too long between them, but at the same time, horse show mornings are filled with anxiety until we get through dressage.
Dressage…it should really be a four letter word. And, it’s another love-hate relationship for me. I do love schooling dressage at home, but the ring… Folks, I have a standard case of dressage ring phobia.
Saturday’s ride was phenomenal. We hacked out for a quick loosening gallop, and then on the way home, I practiced shortening and lengthening Johnny’s strides at the walk and trot. We even managed a bit of honest-to-goodness collection for brief moments. I was pretty excited for the show.
Sunday morning, the 0430 wake up came early. The hubs was up and brushing his teeth before I managed to drag myself out from under the covers. Granted he wakes up at 4:30 every morning. We were enroute to Aiken by 6:00, but after a couple of breakfast and bathroom breaks, we arrived too close to 9:00 for my liking.
Still, with help from my trainer, our too-short warm up was still fairly promising. And then…it was time to Enter at A. Enter at A…enter the white PVC box of death. Our entry was supposed to be at a working trot, but all we managed was a two-beat diagonal gait that you might classify as unsure. Enter at A, unsure trot. Down centerline, allow haunches to drift left and right. Turn right at C and again at B. Two 15 meter circles…or in our case, two 12-20 meter roundish shapes, still in unsure trot. After tracking left at E, we were to canter at F. This was an ok transition, especially considering it was his left, rocket-launch lead. The hubs had technical difficulties, so our test started somewhere around this point. You can see how it went from there.
Back when I entered this show, I thought it would be a good idea to ride a second dressage test. My downfall was choosing to ride a different test. Still, at the time, I figured I would have a break between the two tests. Oddly enough, I rode Training B and Training A back to back. It was my first time riding two dressage tests back to back…can you figure out what happened? Yep, coming across the diagonal, I forgot the second half of Training A. It was a good learning experience. And in the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”
The good news was, our class was really small. The really good news was that dressage was now done, and we could relax, because stadium was next, and well, Johnny and I love to jump.
My dear trainer formulated a plan for me to help me guide Johnny around the course. And aside from a few flubs on my part and one on his, we had success! Coming to fence 2, he saw the gate and got a little long & flat. This happened maybe 2 strides out, and so instead of half-halting him, I left him alone. My bad. Our first rub. Fences 3 & 4 were awesome. Fence 5 was Johnny’s fault. Yes. I blamed my horse. He got lazy with his front end and knocked the front rail. Fences 6 and 7 were pretty decent, fence 8 went well, and then 9A & B, I didn’t put enough leg on him. Good pony saved us both and left us with only 4 faults.
We managed a second place, but only because it was a tiny class. And, I really only have one gripe. Our judge was pretty snotty. She was the same judge we had a couple weeks ago at Paradise, and instead of constructive criticism, she wrote discouraging and not nice comments. I mean, yeah–our dressage isn’t great, but that’s why we’re doing CTs: to get more dressage ring experience. How about as a schooling show judge you offer comments like, “good effort, but need to work more on preparation before movement execution,” or “good job at stretchy trot–offer more rein to encourage horse to stretch further,” instead of “not ready for this level” and “minimal stetch.” It’s obvious my horse is very tense–has it occurred to you that maybe we’re working on our show nerves and we ARE ready for this level, but my horse needs more show ring experience?
Altogether, it was a good day–I’m so glad the hubs is willing to go to shows with me, and having a trainer at a show was a huge help. We wrapped it all up with a nice warm bath (Johnny hates cold baths, no matter how hot it is) and a big tub of soaked alfalfa that he barely picked at. He’s an alfalfa snob.