On the long drive home, I tried hard to focus on the positives from our Dressage - technically speaking, nothing bad happened. There was no bucking, bolting, rearing, or any other kind of dramatics. Mare was just tense and couldn't for the life of her get her leads. Was she pissy? Yes. Was she dangerous? No.
I still gave her a hearty pat when she off-loaded from the trailer and fed her her evening mash, still debating what I wanted to do about the following day's classes. In the end, I took some sage advice from a friend and decided to return for the flat and hunter classes, even if I didn't compete and just toodled around the grounds.
|No media from that day, but here is Annie at the last|
Ride time was at 9am, and we pulled in around 7am - we were the first rig there (aside from the campers who stayed overnight). Annie tied to the trailer, but was a little fussy about being by herself. About an hour later another competitor parked her trailer beside us, Annie was happy to have the gelding's company even if it was from afar.
I was still toying with the idea of scratching and just riding around the grounds when I saddled up and headed to the warm-up arena. A friend of mine saw me and asked if I had considered dropping down to the walk/trot classes instead of going in the Senior rider category like I had entered. I replied that I didn't think I was allowed, as I had done a walk/trot/canter Dressage test the day before and wasn't even sure if I was going to actually show yet.
The show was being run by Finn's mom and she agreed to let me drop down to walk/trot and stated that I wouldn't be breaking any rules anyways and she just wanted us to have a good show. I was thankful for her willingness to change my classes and told her that if the flat classes went well, I would probably be scratching the three cross-rail classes I had signed up for. I didn't want to push it and I didn't want to overface Annie again.
The walk/trot category was first and due to the rules, I wasn't allowed to carry a whip. I was kind of sad about this, mostly because the whip is our "back up" when we have a lack of forward. Once Annie gets more broke and responsive, I won't need to carry it, but sometimes I need to reinforce forward with a slight tap.
The first class in walk/trot was English Pleasure. We placed 4/4 and I'm not exactly sure why - Annie felt pretty good although a little hesitant and backed off the leg. She was certainly more in the contact than the other horses though, so that could have very well been the issue. It was kind of embarrassing to have little kids place ahead of me, but I breathed in and out and reminded myself that two of the horses in the ring were very good competitors (one of which consistently places best of show in breed shows) and the other horse was also green but has been in professional training for the last several months.
Second class was Equitation and we had a minor issue wherein Annie figured sitting trot = halt. Sometimes if I sit a little too heavy, she'll think I am asking for a halt and falter her step which I back up with a tap of the whip and my leg but since I didn't have my whip, I couldn't keep her going. I don't think the judge saw though, because we ended up placing first in this class. I had to actually reach back and flick Annie's butt with my hand to get her going again because she was convinced we didn't need to trot anymore.
Third and final class was Hunter Under Saddle (on the flat) and we placed 3/4. Annie was a super good girl tho, so I can't say for sure if she just wasn't the type the judge was looking for or we did something we weren't supposed to.
In all of the classes, Annie did exactly what I asked. She still felt wiggly and nervous, but didn't do a darn thing wrong. All of her halts were immobile, including during the ring line-ups. She entered and left the arena quietly, didn't protest at all, and stood quietly beside a friend and her mare for most of the morning.
All in all, I was quite happy with the flat classes and was very happy I chose to step down to a lower level because holy shit, the senior flat classes were INTENSE. Lots of walk-canter, canter-halt, dropping stirrups at trot and picking them back up again, 2 point, etc. In addition to having a bunch of shit to do, those classes ran FAST. No sooner did I hear the announcer ask for sitting trot did I hear "extended canter".
I thanked the friend that had suggested I drop to walk/trot and even she (who was riding in the senior category) said that those classes were really tough, even for seasoned horses. She also let me in on a little secret - that just because you do w/t/c at home, doesn't mean you need to do it at a show - and that she hadn't shown w/t/c with her young mare until they had a year and a half of shows under their belt. Some horses take longer to develop and some need more time - each to their own and all that.
I finished flat off by standing with a few friends while still mounted when a random rain storm swept over us. Annie got hunchy in the back, but didn't do anything wrong. It was more like "Ooo COLD COLD COLD." when the drops of rain hit her back. We sought refuge under a tree before I dismounted and took her back to the trailer.
After untacking and refluffing the hay net, I grabbed her some water (she drank deeply) and went to get myself some lunch. I was still not sure about doing the hunter courses, but figured I'd just play it by ear and see what happened.
She stood at the trailer quietly, aside from when my friend walked by with her mare and Annie called out proclaiming her undying love (they literally just stood by eachother earlier in the morning... hadn't even sniffed noses or anything). She kind of just side-stepped around but didn't pull back or anything and once Nixie and R left, she went back to eating her hay.
|Still not a show-pic, but a pic nonetheless.|
I don't really know, it's just something I observed and I've pulled the slow feed net out of the feeder to see if just straight free-feeding hay will make a difference in her weight. And if it does, my suspicions are correct and I'll have to find a new hay net that has larger holes or something.
Anyways, random unrelated tangent and back to the horse show stuff!
I decided to tack up Annie and take her back for the cross-rail courses - so thankful poor Finn's mom was all good with my flip-flopping and undecidedness.
We wandered over to the warm up ring and it was a bit of chaos - children and ponies all over the place. I didn't really want to be in there too long but did want to go over one jump to get her used to the idea of a warm up arena and get her in the mind-set that we will be doing the jumping things. She hopped over it easily and offered up a quiet little canter. I brought her back down and went to stand by the gate to learn my test.
I wasn't sure how she'd react to standing by herself (there were horses around us, but she didn't have a buddy), but she impressed me by standing and barely even moving an inch.
The first class I was very, very conservative in my riding and basically just pointed her at the jumps and offered a light cluck or kiss when I felt her back off. She didn't hesitate at any of the jumps, just more or less was like "this thing is in the way, do I go over or...?". I mostly trot-approached every jump and brought her back down from a rolling canter each time to ensure we had straighter lines and more steering ability. She was good though, ears perked and happy to be in the ring by herself. We didn't place in this class - there were something like 10-12 entrants.
|Pictured: Being conservative.|
Second class I pushed the envelope a bit more and she was FABULOUS. We cantered pretty much the entire round and nailed the simple change (it was an Equitation class) to the white x-rail. Even though we botched a rail coming into the brown line due to some wigglyness, I was completely blown away by this horse.
And guess what?
She got all of her leads except once.
It's funny how that happens. You get so stressed out about canter leads that when you ignore them and just say "Fuck it, we're gonna just go do the thing canter leads be damned" and you end up getting canter leads....
I was so very proud after this round and it made all the turmoil and frustrations I had pent up melt away. It wasn't perfect by any means, but it gave me a good insiders perspective into our canter issues and it also made me realize that sometimes you just need to go have fun with your horse.
We didn't place in any of the Hunter classes. But, we had so much fun.
So much fun that I forgot my last course half-way through and we got eliminated. ;)
I came out of the ring smiling tho, patting my horse and telling her what a damn good girl she is. The running joke among friends now is that the Jumper ring is calling Annie's name and that Dressage is stupid. While I'm not giving up on Dressage yet (because I love white breeches ok), the mare seems to have a natural pull towards the jumping thing.
After my last class I untacked, said my thank yous to friends and show organizers and headed back on the road home. Annie was a bit reluctant to get into the trailer and I actually had to pull out the dressage whip (weirdly enough, I didn't have to even use it) for the first time since our trailer loading issues have been solved. Who knows - maybe she just wanted stay and do the 3' courses.
It was a really enlightening show and I realize that a lot of readers are telling me that I'm too hard on myself and that I should be proud of where we are. Make no mistake, I am really proud, but I also want to ensure I write these blog posts fairly and have them accurately represent the way I feel and the emotions I face when I ride/ show.
It has been a few days since we've shown and I am still over the moon about my horse - the exit stage left in the Dressage court has become more of a joke now than a disappointment. I've left Annie to decompress after her stressful show days while I get back to work and get acquainted with living alone (Boy is working out of town, so sad). She deserves the time off, all the cookies, and to have some jumps integrated into her schooling ;)
So in trying to keep with the theme that is horse shows - did you remember a particularly disastrous show? What happened? Were you able to change the outcome or "fix" it for the next class/round?