Where on earth do I begin?
Fortified with the advice and support from my friends and readers I loaded up the trailer on Friday and headed off to the show. The grounds were Hants County Exhibition Grounds. Turns out there was a 'Foam Race' and other events that weekend. However, Carmen unloaded onto the parking lot and walked into the barn as calm as could be. Fortunately the show allowed riders to book times to ride in the dressage ring on friday. I paid for two 30 minute sessions because I wanted to make sure that I had time. Shanea was showing as well but she set aside time to give me a lesson in the ring. There were two other riders as well.
Like I said the show ring was inside in a old hockey arena. The entrance is through a large door that the zamboni would use. It's a freaky entrance with equipment there and hallways going off of it. I chose to walk her in and mount inside for the warm up. Carmen was definitely looking around and a bit tight but Shanea kept us calm and working. I was really happy with how we did in the ring.
|the barn is the lower 'L' shaped building, the red roof is the warm up and the|
big roof beside it is the show venue.
We walked around while waiting for the bell and Carmen spooked at the judges table. I did a bit of walking back and forth and then the judge rang the bell. We trotted down the centre line and halted. I took a deep breath, let it out and then began our test (T-1). Carmen was very tense and was decking away in the far corner and by the judges booth. I did my best to keep her together and on task but she was fighting me. Our scores ranged from 5 to 7. I got a '5' on 'Riders correct us of the aids'. Ouch. But the comment was about the accuracy of the test so fair enough. it's hard to pick up a trot at C when the horse is going sideways. The final comment was 'The potential does exist- focus on the harmony and acceptance of riders aids'. Totally legit. That's been my work all season- to get Carmen to accept my direction not just when she wants to. That has been our demon from the beginning.
My final score was 59.23 but I had no idea at the time. Our rides were very close together: 11:09 and 11:35 so I opted to stay on her between classes. Our second test was T-3 and our scores ranged from 4- 7. We really had no stretch and Carmen tried to run out between E and H. I was determined that she was not and we battled it out. At least this time I got a 6.0 on myself. Carmen got a 5 on submission. Final comments "keep working on creating a better connection- focus on harmony and straightness to improve'. Final score was 58.4%.
I felt completely triumphant with those scores and how we did. Normally I would not be happy with a below 60 score. But my fear was that Carmen would take one look at the ring and say 'nope' and have a total melt down. This did not happen. It was just our normal demons, not a really bad one. And I stayed on task and helped her to finish the test. I kept myself together- I did not forget my tests and I kept my cool in riding her. After someone who's riding I admire said 'you just look so calm even when she's being spooky and tries to run away. You are just 'nope we're doing this'. Wow. I guess I have grown as a rider. We coped with warm up rings, freaky show rings and the show environment. I never felt in danger of coming off or being hurt. I was able to work with Carmen and I never got upset with her- I kept my cool.
The other thing that I was enjoying was reconnecting with people at the show. Everyone was so welcoming and supportive. Nichole has the most stunning of warmblood mares. She has had her struggles like I have and this was her first year showing as well. We bonded at the schooling shows. I went to dinner both nights with Tanya. We used to show together and now we're starting again with our 'new' horses. It was great to catch up with her and compare notes. She has the most lovely young quarter horse who has a brain to die for. Is it wrong that I threatened to steal her?
In the barn Carmen was really enjoying herself watching the bustle. She kept trying to steal her neighbours hay. I had put her hay in a slow feed net because she was gobbling it like weddings guests at a buffet. This caused her no end of annoyance. That afternoon Shanea and I were looking at my video (that her mother kindly took) and her mom kept saying 'guys, uh guys'. I was paying no attention and then she handed me a ripped hay net. Carmen had pulled it and broke the string letting the hay all spill out. I looked at it in disbelief and then at a very smug mare eating her hay. I fixed the net with baling twine, much to her annoyance.
|the venue is right by the highway but who cares when there's grass?|
Another funny thing happened when Carmen was happily eating and I started to pat the horse next to her. She came right over and began to pin her ears and bare her teeth at the horse. When I stopped patting and stepped away she went back to eating. I guess I am not allowed to show affection to strange horses. When I sat in my chair by her stall she would periodically come over and nudge my hat.
That night as I reviewed the days events I had a sudden realization: the areas that Carmen spooked were exactly the same in all three rings: at home, at Five Fires and at this show. It seemed to be too much of a coincidence that there were spooky things in the exact same spot in all three rings.
And that realization changed everything and helped me make a plan for the next day.
|PC: Cindy McCullough|