The show was at Five Fires Equestrian Centre, the same place as we did the clinic. And let me just say- this is the perfect venue to introduce green horses and/or riders to dressage competitions. Everyone was supportive and helpful and friendly. The classes were well paced, the judge was kind and gave constructive feedback.
My first test was at 9:49 and I wanted to start the warm-up at 9. Part of the whole experience was about the warm up ring too. My goal was to have her relaxed and listening. Karen came to help us warm up and read my tests. My friends Cynthia, Ashley and Nancy also came to cheer us on and provide moral support. The mounting block was set up so that the horse was to stand between the fence and the block. Carmen was having none of it so I brought her to the other side and mounted that way. There were some poles on the ground at one side and those poles plus the mounting block were identified as being dangerous. FYI earlier that morning we had walked around the warm up ring and she had sniffed those poles with no issues. So I wasn't buying it and we were going to work through it. A few shoulder ins and some taps of the whip and it became a non-issue. There's a lot more to say about how we did it and what we did but I won't bore you.
The ring is surrounded on three sides with a drainage ditch with water. There are also cattails, brush and grass. Bits of machinery and farm equipment are there. All things that would conceivably cause Carmen issues. She couldn't have cared less. I was super impressed with how she dealt with the other horses being there. It took about 23 minutes (according to Karen!) for her to start to listen to me and not argue about who got to make the decisions.
Karen snapped this picture of us in the warm up:
Our first test was Training Level 1 and our scores ranged from 2 to 7.5. There were definite spots that Carmen was having issues with:
A- you can see a sliver of the outside as you go by the door; clearly an entrance for trolls.
The ramp - just too much to see there.
The observation room windows
And the little sliver of sunlight dancing at B.
We had discussions at every one of those points. And I was not giving up. It was a schooling show so we schooled. Our score of 2 was at movement 5: 'working trot between B& M'. The comment says 'resistance in corner.' Which is how a nice judge phrases 'horse slammed to a halt and tried to run the other way while rider hauled on rein and pony-club kicked her through it'. Our 7.5 was for our trot circle at the middle. And I have to say I was quite pleased with it. Our score for that test was 51.3 and somehow scored us First Place. I loved the judges comment: "between the challenges there was some real quality! Keep it up!' Frankly I was thrilled we got over 50.
I should mention at this point that I didn't collect the tests until we were done. I didn't want to change my game plan at this point which was about the miles not the points.
For our second test the warm up was shorter and much easier. We also lined up between the mounting block and the fence with minimal fuss (it is the little things). Funny story: we were cantering down the long side and startled a crow which flew up out of the long grass (you may recall that Carmen spooks regularly at crows). Her head flew up.
Carmen: OMG a crow!
Me: *digs heels in* Let's GO GET IT!
We chase the crow down the long side for a few strides.
Carmen: *stutters her hind legs* Wait...what are we doing?
*crow flies off in a huff and I give her a pat.
Our second test (Training 2) felt a lot better. We still had issues at the areas above but our scores ranged from 4 to 7 with a lot more 6's. Our total was 55.96 which netted us second. I was so happy to have gone up. The comments was "Some much better work this time. Horse needs to be more solidly in front of the leg so you can sit up and ride into the corners". I did laugh at that - no kidding!
I was very happy with our first day at the show. Later that evening I took her out to lunge in the arena and I made her work in the spooky spots and did not allow her to hesitate at all. She was super brave and sniffed the evil death ray of sunlight. Hey, it's not dangerous at all- it's just light! No kidding.
I felt encouraged by the other riders/spectactors who took the time to say encouraging things to me. Everyone was very understanding of our shenanigans and were cheering us on.
|unlike this cat who is judging you on your failure to impress|
I have photos from the first day (not the second). They were taken by Ashley:
I went to bed at 9.
The next day I had my plan to get us ready and warmed up. Carmen felt different this morning. She was tuned in from the beginning of our warm up. I was by myself today and decided that we could do it together and if we needed help I would ask for it. But we didn't need it. She walked up to stand outside the ring and walked in with some encouragement (you can see the phone above we walk on the other side of the stage). I made sure she saw the judge and that we walked in our spooky areas. The judge rang the bell and we started out test.
And we rocked it. She went everywhere I asked. She hesitated at our spooky spots and I tapped her a few times with the whip but that was it. Instead of arguing she trusted me and did it. When we did our final halt at X I saluted and then said YES! I gave her huge pat and the judge a huge smile as we left. The judge said 'wow, what magic did you do? (or something like that). I smiled and said 'Patience' (understatement of the century). Our scores ranged from 5.5 (free walk) to 8 (circle at E). Our final score was a highly respectable 66.73. Judges comments: "Well ridden! Work to keep her laterally supple and forward to your leg to keep the walk correct. Great job!'
For our last test I did a warm up of about 20 minutes- just focussing on keeping her supple and listening. We were both tired but not exhausted and it was time for our last test.
And it was awesome. Again 5.5 to 8 but a lot more more 6's and 7's. She was with me the whole way with some hesitations. The free walk and stretchy trot were our big problems but I wasn't expecting them to be good given that she needs to much support right now. When I came down centre line I was so happy that I started to tear up. I leaned over and gave her the biggest hug. Our final score? 70.38.
That's right- our scores improved 19 points over the course of the show.
Friday I was thinking that I was nuts. I hadn't shown in 5-6 years and I just turned 53. But I had so much fun and loved the whole experience.
Even though that was not the point I am pleased to have these lovely satin ribbons. Our first together:
|Me: OMG I'm having so much fun!|
Carmen: Umm, what just happened? And does anyone have a tranquilizer gun?