Lovely Loudoun

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Friday morning was grey and dreary, which I hoped meant slightly cooler temperatures, and not the midday storms that were a 50% chance on the forecast.  I hitched up the new rig and set out on our maiden voyage, which was probably not the best first trip with a new-to-me truck/trailer combo, as it involved hauling around the DC Beltway and out I66, but sometimes a lady has to do what a lady has to do, and it worked out great.  I really love driving the Expedition, and it hauls well and I was so so happy to be able to pack up my own trailer and vehicle and be prepped and ready to go, with nothing to do the morning of except bathe and braid.  Well, Liz braided her tail for me, for the second time, and did a great job, so I think she’s got a new gig there.

We made it to Loudoun, which is held at the same showgrounds as Upperville, and I found a great day parking spot under a cluster of oak trees, which I hoped would give us a little shade if the sun came out (which was not looking likely) or ameliorate any showers that blew in.  Checked in easy-peasy, watched a bit of the Adult Ammy hack, checked out where our ring was in its schedule, and headed back to the trailer to enjoy my BBQ sandwich.  As I was getting back, one of the other competitors was parking and we chatted for a few minutes to figure out whether there would be enough to fill the over fences section, and sort of came up with a plan for her to possibly jump Cally, if I didn’t feel comfortable jumping a fence to fill.

I unloaded Cally and took her for a bit of a walk around the showgrounds, and let her handgraze a bit.   Upperville really has the prettiest showgrounds in the country, and as miserable as the weather always is showing there, it is worth it for the history and the beauty of it.  Next year, Upperville itself is goals for sure.

I sadly did not bring my wallet along to grab a Lime Fizz while we were walking, because til I got back to the trailers the word was that we’d be going 2:30 or 2:45 at latest.  So I started getting ready at 2, and ugh, all the wool in the humidity was gross, but we were looking good and had a nice walk around in the grass parking area as we waited for our fellow competitor and getting loosened up a bit.

The undersaddle for the children’s division was finishing up as we got to the warmup, so we just had a canter around each way to get actually warmed up and ready to go.  We had a few minutes to do what is the final best thing for her before going in the ring, which is take a couple minutes and just get a bit snoozy ringside as they rearranged the fences from the classic to the course for the sidesaddle division.  They actually looked…not scary at all.  Definitely on the soft side, and if we’d been astride would not even have caused me to blink.  We went in and naturally, the rain started just as we were all entering the ring.  Not too bad, but unpleasant in heat and wool.  Thankfully, the judge ran our class quickly.  Cally was good, just a little cranky about getting water on her ears, and distracted by the main hunter ring being reset.

Then the hack went pretty well, and I was a little nervous about the line they had for us to jump, which was a bending line with what looked like the two biggest fences on the course.  Fortunately, it was a bending line to the right, which is the easier direction aside, and actually rode quite well.  We got a bit of a chip coming in to it, because Cally was a little surprised at being asked to jump, since we were the first to go.  But I was happy with it, and we ended up 3rd.  I was feeling pretty confident, and the fences looked OK, and we’d already done the hardest line of the course, so I said I’d do the over fences myself to fill.

I went in the ring second, picked up a nice forward canter, and the first fence felt pretty good!  The course was nicely straightforward, a single on the diagonal, diagonal line, outside bending, single on the diagonal, and outside line.  We added in the lines, and were a bit chippy, because I obviously forgot everything we’d been working on in lessons and went into Survival Mode, so I was not counting my striding and was looking down at the fences.  Not the best, obviously.  But we got around, and over everything on the first try, because Cally is obviously the Best Horse Ever, and totally forgiving of my errors and so happy to be jumping around a course that she just went.  It actually felt great, despite being imperfect, because We DID IT!  I really just needed to be pressed into doing it, and once we got rolling, realized we totally had the skills and confidence we needed now to make it around.  And now that I know we can do it, I’m feeling a lot more optimistic about doing more of it again.

It was still raining as we untacked, so I hustled quickly and got her and the tack back on the trailer, then decided to still try and wait to leave until a bit later, so we could miss the worst of the DC rush hour traffic.  So we hung out with one of the other ladies and nice tailgate with some grapes and cheese and a tent made from a rainsheet.  Waiting around til 6PM didn’t help, as it was almost 3 hours for us to get home.  Awful, but well worth it for the points we got, and the big confidence boost from doing the over fences.

I thought about doing a couple jumper classes on Sunday, but given how hot and disgusting it was over the weekend, I decided to skip that.  Cally did well enough on Friday that she didn’t need to do anything else.  Instead, she did some stretches and I got stuff cleaned back up for us to show at Middlesex on Friday!

A Fun Show!

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Saturday was the second Stellar Riding Schooling Show, and like the first one, it was planned to be a fun show, both as an introduction to showing for green horses and riders, and as something that is relaxed and fun to show at for those who are a bit more advanced.  After the first show, some light tweaks were made to the prizelist, and two classes were added that I was eager to sign up for — a 21+ Don’t Spill The Wine class, and a Derby!

We practiced for the wine class during warmup for my Wednesday lesson, and with a whole lot of laughing from both myself and Holly.  It is harder than you’d think to ride around one handed with a glass.  And they upped the ante at the show by giving us glasses of RED WINE to carry around while wearing show breeches.  Extra incentive not to spill, though I was smart and wore my very forgiving Romfhs, which tend to not stain very easily.  We had to walk, trot, and canter both ways, with several riders bowing out before we even changed direction because they spilled most of their wine and/or opted to pull up and just drink it.  I think there’s video somewhere but I don’t have it, so I’ll just share our happy results, given that Cally is not the smoothest of horses, and I ended up with wine-soaked gloves: we finished 4th!

No big wine prize basket, but quite respectable, and she was a very good girl about going around the ring with a dozen giggling women as we tried to steer and not spill.

Then we had a nice long break where Cally got to back to her own stall and take her usual daily nap while I spectated, cheered on friends, and picked my Best Turned Out winner. I took my time getting ready for our sidesaddle division, and felt like we had a decent little warmup. Apparently not decent enough, because the classes were a bit of a disaster, and made me really happy I didn’t spend the money to go show at Upperville instead. She tried to canter during the second trot in the walk/trot, we picked up a wrong lead in the walk/trot/canter, and the hack line was an epic disaster as she was a bit crooked and spun out and almost lost me at the second fence. We got over it perfectly nicely the second attempt, so I’m not sure what that was all about, other than possibly being taken by surprise at actually doing something that wasn’t on the flat.

So, not at all the go I’d have liked to have, and scratched my plans to do the first of our jumping courses aside. Honestly, though, after two weeks of dressage showing, I think she was just grumpy about going in and doing more flat classes. She doesn’t like flatwork, and finds it boring, and is just totally over it after doing nothing but that at shows for the last few weeks. Because she went in and put in absolutely stellar jumping rounds.

Our courses weren’t flawless, but were definitely on the better side of what we’ve ever done, as she just went in and totally nailed the Open Hunter course we did as our first round Derby qualifier. We finished fourth there, behind Holly’s two trips and Katie’s round, so I was the top finishing Amateur in there, and scored a 73 to come back in solid contention for a nice Derby ribbon. And other than one slightly long distance, our Medal round felt great, and Cally was feeling so happy at getting to go Jump The Things. We ended up winning the Medal! So I think we’re technically qualified for MAEF now, if we want to go.

Then it was time for the tougher second round of the Derby, which took 12 of us through to jump a different course, that made use of both our rings. I went in 5th, and put in a trip that wasn’t flawless, but executed some tough turns well, and had a very nice trot fence to finish with. That was a tricky ask off a long approach at the end of a long course, but Cally really nailed it, and I think that helped us move up.

Big thanks to Valerie for videoing us! I was very very pleased with that trip, and big pats to Cally for a job well done!  I watched the rest of the rounds and crossed my fingers, and was absolutely delighted to scores a 74 and come out in 3rd overall for the inaugural Derby!

Thanks to Katie for sponsoring and providing adorable gingham ribbons and big baskets of carrots, which Cally got half of before I left for the evening, because she more than earned them with her lovely rounds.

Overall, some frustrating moments but also some absolutely wonderful ones, and so much fun!  It told me Cally definitely needs to shift her focus from doing a lot on the flat to showing more over fences, because she’s infinitely happier doing that.  We’re doing Loudoun aside on Friday, but then if the weather cooperates, I think I’m going to take her to BEST to do a couple jumper trips for fun on Sunday.  I want her to remember horse shows are FUN!   She’s definitely all-in for the jumping, and just so over the boring flat stuff.  I’m going to have to make sure we stick to hacking out and doing our flatwork in the fields for a while, so she doesn’t realize she’s doing flatwork and conditioning, because it’s so much more fun for her.

Devon, and Dressage

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Saturday was a big day, but only peripherally for me.  Holly’s daughter was entered to show in Leadline at Devon, and would be doing it sidesaddle.  Because Holly gets everyone going sidesaddle!  I had been the one to make her little habit, altering a toddler-sized jacket and making an apron, vest points, and a stock tie.  It was a fun if interesting experience in sizing things way, waaaaay down.  So needless to say, while not my child, I felt more than a little invested in the outcome.  I also came along to help with the tacking up of the lease pony, so that Holly could concentrate on child wrangling.  Part of the week’s prep had also included me helping to make extenders for the balance strap and overgirth, since the ones we had for the wee child’s sidesaddle were more Small-pony-sized than Medium-pony -sized.

The weather looked like it was holding off after a week of rain as we headed up.  I’d never been to Devon before, despite living not too far away, and I was glad to be along with a veteran Devon competitor to show me around and explain the ridiculous parking situation.  If you’ve never been, either, it’s a showgrounds that was surely once well out into the rural countryside west of Philadelphia, but is now smack dab in the middle of suburbia.  Like, there’s a Whole Foods half a mile down the road.  And there are horse trailers parked in the grocery store parking lot, because the showgrounds is basically one square block. I’d been considering possibly coming up and doing the sidesaddle division at some point just to get a picture in the Dixon Oval, but man, the idea of having to back my trailer into a grocery store lot parking space alone is enough to put me off that idea licketysplit.

The showgrounds themselves are compact but nice.  Good footing that didn’t look at all bad despite a solid week of rain, and just an amazing atmosphere.  The “country fair” part of Devon Horse Show & Country Fair is really just a midway with a ferris wheel off to one side, and a few games, nothing I think most horses would even notice because it’s positioned off and to one side of the ring.  But it is something I think a lot of riders would notice and expect the horses to get rattled by, so end up rattled themselves.  I know that’s what would happen to me if I’d rolled in without ever having seen the setup before!

We got settled in to a spot in the grandstand, and Julie and I headed out to get the classic Devon tea sandwiches.  Yum!  But sadly the lemonade from the tea cart was not the famous lemon-stick lemon, which I did not sample while I was there, I regret to say.  I did get fudge later, though!  A little shopping (Devon has GREAT shopping) that resulted in plastic Devon wineglasses as souvenirs, and it was time to meet the pony, Maple, and get things ready.  Holly and her mom worked on readying Heidi (though I did tie and pin the stock tie myself!), while Julie and I got the pony saddled.  I’m glad we’d created some extenders, but I forgot to bring along any braiding elastics to use as keepers for them, so I had to get creative in tucking them back in behind themselves.  It all looked pretty sharp once child and pony were all together, and we waited in the massive crush of people and ponies to head in to the ring for Leadline.

They started moving the ponies in, and we managed to work our way up to ringside right by the gate to watch the class.  It was massive, like 50 kids, just in our 3-and-under section.  Lots of fancy ponies, fancy hats, and fancy bows on children.  Heidi was the only sidesaddler in that section (there was another young lady aside in the 4&5 year old group, with a lady who also does the sidesaddle division, but it was so crowded we never even got a chance to get a picture of them together!), and looked just perfect going in to the ring.


I wouldn’t normally post pictures of someone else’s kid, but photos have been all over social media, so I think it’s OK in this case. You go in the ring at Devon looking this fancy and being led by the president of the USHJA, your picture is going online. (Total aside, USHJA president complimented me on my fascinator.  My day was made!)

As the huge group lined up, I think the whole crowd was holding it’s breath, because how on earth do you pin that much cute?  (And I say that as Not A Kid Person.)  Heidi ended up 5th out of the massive class!  She got a lovely ribbon (she loves pink, so was very happy), a piece of fudge from me, and a ride on the ferris wheel with her mom and grandfather to celebrate her victory.

Then we headed home, just as the rain seemed to roll back in. Thankfully we were only driving in it, and it wasn’t raining much at home, so I could do a little show prep for myself the next day, for which Holly was letting me borrow her truck.  Let me tell you, hooking up a truck and trailer in a dress will make you feel pretty badass.

It was actually looking like pretty decent weather on Sunday morning, which was good, because I ended up having to quickly bathe Cally, who had looked to have a very good roll the night before.  That put me slightly behind, but I managed to put in dressage braids quicker than I expected, and still rolled out of the barn on time.  I mentally ran through our First Level test in my head multiple times on the way up, since it was our first time doing it at a rated show, and only second time riding it, ever.  It was nice and sunny when we got there, and I was happy to say hello to Barbara, my former dressage coach, as we checked in.  She asked if I was showing aside and wanted to know what time, so she could come watch.  Gulp, better do good!

I loved the big grassy area we had to warm up in, since I could basically do what warms Cally up best, which is a nice long canter.  We headed down a 100 yard stretch of grass a few times each way, and I’m pretty sure Cally didn’t realize we were at a dressage show, and was feeling so happy getting to gallop around outside.  Also, it’s rained for a week and she hasn’t done much at all, so I think was feeling pretty happy just to stretch out her legs!  We chatted with Barbara and her husband for a few moments before we went in, and I was explaining to her a bit how sidesaddle worked, and almost have her convinced to give it a try.  I’m doing my best to be like Holly and somehow suck everyone I know in to trying it LOL

Then we went in for our First Level recognized debut.  I felt like we started off a little under-tempo, and we had a few bobbles, like the usual non-stretchy-stretchy-circle, and  I made our second 15M canter circle too big.  But overall, I was quite happy;  I remembered the test, we had a nice, non-distracted freewalk, and the lengthenings in the trot and canter had both felt great.  Even Barbara complimented our lenghtenings, and how good Cally looked in general.  So I felt quite happy with our test, and was thinking we might even do better than we’d done the other week at Schooley Mill, since that had been a judge I know to be tough.

On the way back to my trailer, I was stopped by two ladies, one of whom said she’d ridden to her Silver aside, complimented my love saddle (I heart my Mayhew!), and we chatted a few minutes before I headed over and untacked.  Then I handgrazed Cally for a while, until a big horsefly started to drive her batty.  At that point, I put her fly sheet on, loaded her back on the trailer with a fresh haynet, and went in to see if scores were up, and grab lunch for me.

We ended up 4th, which didn’t surprise me, but the 57% we got did seem a little lower than I’d expected.  Oh well, it was a start, and our first time out, and not a terrible score.  Certainly not the worst we’ve ever gotten, and as first time scores go, nothing to be ashamed of.  What did surprise me, as I got back to the truck with my lunch and actually sat down to look at the score breakdowns and notes, was the only general comment from the judge was a huge note about my saddle being “too far back.”  I had a laugh at that, and texted Holly a follow up to my message to her about having a good first test, our conclusion was that the judge must be one of the many, many people who’ve never seen a sidesaddle in person before.  Because yes, they sit you farther back and slightly higher off the horse’s back than most (?) astride saddles, it’s why jumping can be a bit of a challenge, because you have to adjust your eye slightly.  Also, sure, maybe the judge thought that it was putting me too far back to really be in a position to effectively move up the levels in dressage, but we’re doing this for fun, and have no plans to go above 1st, even in a dressage saddle.  We obviously manged the test competently, so I brushed it off, took a cute picture of Cally with her ribbon (YAY, we did First Level!!) and headed over for a soundcheck for our freestyle.

I said hi to some more friends while doing soundcheck, and things went well for that, so I puttered around a bit more, since she’d already shown and didn’t need much warmup.  I did want to be on and warmed up in time to let her do her zen thing while I watched Barbara’s Grand Prix freestyle, which was right before we went.  (Because also, nothing like having to follow a GP test with your Training one.)  We cantered around a bit, then left the warmup to go position ourselves to watch.

Now, what happened next I’ve mulled over exactly how to deal with in this blog, because it’s the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever had happen at a horse show.  And I don’t like confrontation at all, so this was doubly uncomfortable for me, especially right before my own test, where I was trying to find my moment of zen.  Two ladies approached me, one saying “I have to ask you about this.”  Which led me to smile, and prepare to launch into my Informative Sidesaddle Spiel, which I’ve done at several shows, and am always happy to do, because sharing a little knowledge and hopefully leading new people to appreciate it makes me happy too.  At the Southwind show, I must have talked to a group of ladies for a good 15 minutes, even showing them how dismounting worked, and pointing out the parts of the saddle and how the apron fits, etc.  I began, as I usually ask, “Have you seen a sidesaddle in person before?” because most people haven’t, and are working from a zero knowledge base.  “Yes,” she said, “I judged Some Other Lady before, and her saddle didn’t sit so far back!” At that point I realized the one lady was the judge; I still have no idea who the other woman was.  I did my best to explain how the tree points of the sidesaddle are positioned, and have to sit behind the horse’s shoulder blades for balance and fit.  They seemed very hung up on how far back the saddle sat, and how far back my horse’s girthing was.  Well, nothing I can really do about equine anatomy; even in a regular saddle, Cally’s girth groove is well in front of where a girth sits on her.  (For laughs, as I tacked her up for my lesson yesterday, I positioned my jumping saddle where it would need to be for the girth to actually sit in her girth groove, and the stirrup bars were somewhere near the front of her withers.)  These two ladies were rather adamant that I should get off, less than five minutes before the start of my test, and move my saddle forward.  I told them that the horse was nationally ranked ladies sidesaddle hunter last year, we were experienced at doing this, and this was how sidesaddles were supposed to fit, and I would NOT be moving the saddle.  They seemed very frustrated with me, and huffed off with the comment “no wonder people don’t do this anymore.”  I guess they haven’t read all the wonderful press sidesaddle’s resurgence has been getting lately, like the great article in Sidelines on one of our lovely lady riders, or the various wonderful articles on the brave ladies of the Sidesaddle Chase. Now, there are about half a dozen people in this whole country that I’d trust with commentary on my sidesaddle’s fit, because it’s a very important and exacting thing, for both horse and rider comfort, and safety.  Obviously, one of them is my own coach, the other is her mother, who is a lifetime sidesaddle rider, R judge, and no shrinking violet on the commenting front.  And she’d just seen us show in it less than a month prior, and commented on how good we were looking.

I’ve never sought out a USEF Competition Evaluation form before, but I will be filling one out for this show.  Because it’s fine if you don’t like a rider showing aside, even if it’s legal.  It’s even fine for you to make a comment on my test about it.  But to track me down and challenge me on the fit of a saddle you have no knowledge about, five minutes before I was to go in the ring (not in front of her), is inappropriate.  Especially because it’s not the judge’s job to comment on tack, unless it’s illegal.  Which sidesaddle is explicitly not.  And they were trying to convince me to move my saddle to a position that was not just incorrect, but would be incredibly uncomfortable to the horse, and thus potentially dangerous to me as a rider.

Needless to say, I was rather rattled as I headed in to the ring for our Freestyle.  That should have been the test I was most excited for, and ready to have fun with, but instead I was trying to wrangle my emotions into check so we could have a good ride.  But I’m pretty sure Cally, who is afterall, a TB mare, picked up on them and was just not quite as focused as I’d have liked her to be.  The test was totally fine, still working through the slightly adjusted music which did time out a little better this go round, but felt like I had too much music in a few places now, even though I just tweaked one thing.  Given the circumstances which I went into the test with, I was mostly just happy to get it over and leave, frankly.  Cally did her job, though, and I was happy to give her the peppermints from the fancy champagne class we won along with our blue ribbon.  Pretty sure she cared more about the mints than the ribbon.

After that show experience, I’m left unsure of whether or not I want to do any more dressage showing aside, or even astride. I’d had thoughts of trying for a year end award at not just Freestyle, but also First, and now I’m really not sure if my heart’s in it. At PVDA shows, people have been nothing but supportive, and I’ve been greeted with “oh, you’re the sidesaddle lady!” more than once.  But I’d had a bit of a rest from dressage stuff planned anyway, with just volunteering at Ride For Life on the horizon for June, and get our focus back on our real jobs, in the Ladies Sidesaddle Hunter at Loudoun and Middlesex, and getting back in to the Eq and Jumper rings.  If the weather ever cooperates for that again–I refuse to go sit around at BEST in the rain.  And that’s pretty much all we’ve had lately.

Cally had a lesson yesterday, despite normally getting a day off after showing, because it was the first partly sunny, non-rainy day in a week, and it was foreast to rain again today and Wednesday, so we figured we better get it in while the getting was good.  She felt so happy to be jumping, that I know it’s time to shift our focus back to that.

Bad News, and a Great Horse Show

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So after the Deer Encounter last weekend, I made arrangements through my insurance to take my darling Yukon in for repairs.  Except the damage to the old girl put her over Totalling value.  Which means that it was with a great deal of tears and fond memories that I went to the shop to clean out the dressage girth and pile of CDs and old umbrella and ice scraper, loose change and buoy rope from Cape Cod and bag of peppermints, and say goodbye.  I’m not too proud to say that I was crying as I did it.

But, I have a lead on a new vehicle, as a friend at the barn almost jokingly said she’d sell me her Expedition, and we’re looking at making that happen.  So hopefully I won’t be without transportation for too long, as I have a nice new-to-me trailer I’d like use, and also, I have a paid entry for a dressage show next weekend I’d like to not scratch.

Fortunately, for this weekend’s entry at PVDA’s Spring Show, my friend Hannah was also going, and was very kindly willing to take Cally and me along with her.  Obviously, in exchange for gas money, and lunch, because food is important.  So I woke up at O’dark thirty, headed over to the barn, and brought Cally in.  Mercifully, she stayed clean overnight, so I just had to wet down her mane and throw in a few braids.  She got braided, and finished breakfast just in time for Hannah to show up.  Cally loaded right on a strange trailer with a strange horse, even after the chaos last week.  She’s a total pro.

We made good time to Morven, got checked in, got fussed over a bit for the sidesaddle thing, and the TD stopped me and handed me an evaluation form, complete with addressed stamped envelope.  I thought that was odd, since any competitor can fill out a Competition Evaluation via the USEF site, but sure, I can provide some comments.  When I got home, I realized that it was a Judge and Competitor Report, which is apparently something different and fancier?  Not sure how I, a random Training level competitor, ended up being handed one, but sure, I’ll fill it out for them.

Before we even got down to the ring, we were oooooh-ed and aaaaah-ed over twice, for the sidesaddle thing.  Cally was feeling very chill, and focused and easy to ride.  Which was good, because even though it was cool, I was pretty toasty in all my layers.  We waited our turn to go in, and she didn’t bat an eye at the judge’s stand or flowers or anything.  Cally and I headed down the centerline for Training 2 and put in a pretty accurate test, possibly not quite as energetic as I would have liked, but it felt pretty easy.  There were weak points, like the stretchy circle, but that’s always a weak point.  Overall it was quiet, accurate, and solid.

Lots of pats as we headed back to the trailer to chill.  Cally got to go back on and take a nap, while I got to go in to the fancy indoor for an actual soundcheck with real sound equipment.  I got to stand in the middle of the ring and do a little dance as everyone giggled a little during the intro “Singin in the Rain” music.  Of course, everyone else was having just as much fun with their soundchecks, and one lady asked if we could just do our freestyles ourselves.

I warmed up with a whip for the Freestyle, got a little more energy, and took a deep breath as we headed in to the indoor for our recognized freestyle debut.  Cally was rather looky in that ring, as there are odd windows along the side, the plexiglass to which was sitting down on the ground and drawing her attention in a rather spooky way as we went around.  But the music cue started off just right for us to hit our halt salute at X, so I was feeling optimistic.

The music cues are still a little off, so I need to do a bit more tweaking, like a smidge longer walk music.  And obviously the lead thing into the first canter.  I was a bit disappointed, because I feel like we could have just done better, but I also recognize that Cally was not thrilled at that ring (it’s really obvious how looky she is in the still pro photos), or at going in to do a second dressage test.  She was looking for jumps, and was disappointed at life in the dressage ring.

We ate lunch while were waiting around for the scores for our tests to be finalized.  If you’re at Morven for any reason, I highly recommend the Frickles With BoomBoom Sauce.

It turns out that in a very large Training 2 class, we ended up in 2nd!  I could not have been more thrilled with that.  Shocked, but super thrilled!  Cally was less than thrilled, but that’s because she already knows how amazing she is.

The better news is that we finished our Freestyle with a 63.3%!  That’s good enough for a CBLM qualifying score, and 3rd place in the class.  And also, it means we’ve got all three scores we need at Freestyle for a PVDA year-end award.

For a horse whose primary discipline is not dressage, and who doesn’t even like dressage, she’s put in better scores aside than we did astride, and even when the tests feel like less than our best, they’re still better than we were getting astride.  We’ve got one more rated dressage show to go next weekend (that was our BLM score-earning backup), and then hopefully we’ll be getting back to doing what we both really love–jumping! And proper Ladies Sidesaddle Hunter.

There’s so much fun on the agenda, just as soon as I get over mourning the Yukon, and get the towing situation figured out.

Near Disaster, and a Good Horse Show

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Friday morning felt awfully early, but Cally got all braided up, including having Liz do her tail.  She looked great, and we loaded up easily and headed for Swan Lake.  That involves a good bit of highway miles, up 97 and part of the Baltimore beltway, but it went smoothly, and we were making good time on the way there, rolling through the lovely central Maryland countryside.  Until we headed out a stretch between a cattle field and a slight hillside.  I noted a couple of the cows, big beige ones, actually loping, which was kind of unusual, because you don’t see cows run much.  Then out of the hedgerow along the side of the field flew everyone’s nightmare while trailering: DEER.

The road I was on was 50MPH, and I was towing a trailer.  On a two-lane road.  There wasn’t much ability to slow down, or maneuver out of the way.  I hit the brakes as hard as I could, but it wasn’t hard enough.  The deer impacted the Yukon right on the front passenger side, with a pretty awful thud.  It rocked the truck, but she kept rolling, a couple hundred yards down to where there actually was some shoulder we could pull over on.

Certainly not as horrific as it could have been, if the deer had hit head-on and come up through the windshield, or had impacted the trailer in any way. I didn’t see much fluid coming out, and the truck wasn’t making any odd noises, nor were any warning lights on. Obviously the lights were totally smashed and ready to fall off, and the grille was a goner. I glanced in at Cally, and she was totally unphased, because she is Cally, and is cool when it counts.

So I made the decision, since we were only 6 miles from Swan Lake at that point, to try to make it on to the show.  I knew there would be better options for help there, and if I had to figure out how to get a ride home, or keep the horse overnight or something, it could be done there.  Fortunately after another mile or two, it’s a pretty slow drive in to Swan Lake, and we were able to get there no problem.  The guy doing the parking was really nice, took a brief look and didn’t think it looked too awful.

That didn’t mean that I didn’t snap the above photos after parking, send them to WBBF, then call him to consult.  From what I was telling him, he didn’t think it sounded too awful, but got the location from me and headed up to check things out, and provide mental support since I was pretty near tears on the phone.

But, I figured we were already at the show, I might as well check in and show.  I wasn’t super duper excited about the prospect, since I felt kind of like a pukey mess, and the grounds were pretty soggy from a solid day of rain the day prior.  Including a big swampy spot right at the back of where I’d been parked, so I couldn’t tie Cally to the trailer as I normally do, because she hates puddles. And had clean white socks.  So I had to get me ready as much as possible, then unload her and try to tack her up while holding her.  Eventually I gave up on that and figured while my truck was already damaged I might as well be really stupid and sort of tie the horse to it too, since that was my only option.  (I really just laid the leadrope over the door handle, she totally could have wandered off no harm no foul.)

Warmup was soggy, but not slippery.  We did a good bit of walking as I made sure Cally felt no worse for the impact, and then just a little trot before cantering around to really loosen her up.  They let us go in the ring a bit early, too, which was nice as we got a good chance to scope out the puddley and soupy areas to avoid, and figure out where the footing was good.  Lots of walking as we waited for the class to start, and she was feeling pretty swingy and relaxed.

And it paid off!  She went really great, and I tried to concentrate a bit on that extended trot feeling we had in our dressage tests and really let her move on a bit.  But I knew who the judge was, an old-school Virginia hunt guy, and I knew I’d be better off letting her stretch down and out rather than ride so put together and dressagey.  That sometimes works with Cally, sometimes not, but I figured we’d go for it.  And oh, she was so happy to stretch out and float along.  She’s not a Hack Winner, but I was really happy with how she’s moving.  Even happier when the called us to line up for appointments and I was in third!  The judge had a good time checking appointments, chatting with everyone, trying one of the lady’s sherry, probably the friendliest appointments check I’ve ever had.  And he was quite happy to be judging it, actually said “kids these days” talking about lack of attention to detail in turnout, and how we were some of the few who really put in the effort.  It was so charming I’d go out of my way to show under him again just for that experience!

The hack class started off well, with a repeat of her good flat performance.  The jumping line seriously looked more 2’9″ than 2’6″ (and most of the time it’s barely that!), but I figured we’d be fine.  Our first fence was fabulous, a nice gallopy forward distance to the vertical in, then I put leg on down the line and got to a great gappy spot…that Cally said no way to in the sloppy footing and chipped quite badly, managing to knock down the fence under the oxer and we sort of landed in a discombobulated heap.  But, we got over it, I picked my stirrup back up, and we hand galloped to the appointed stopping point, and which time the horse got effusive pats, because she is the world’s best horse.   No primary color for us there.

But, she was good in the Pleasure class, and got another 3rd.  And they needed a 3rd horse to fill the fences.  I’d been on the fence about trying it, but after the accident on the way there I was in no mental place to do that.  But I told Julie, who’d ridden Cally once before for a lesson while I was out of town, that if she wanted to fill with her, I’d be thrilled.  So after she did her round on her mare, she hopped on Cally, we shortened the stirrup as much as it would go, and she jumped like two warmup fences before heading in the ring.  The plan was to jump the first fence, and see how she felt after that.  She must have felt pretty good, because they did the whole over fences, and I got to stand there grinning like an idiot and clapping for them.  Very, very good job, Cally!  For that we added another yellow ribbon to the collection, and have plans to have Julie jump her around again, since I’m not quite there yet.

Liam and Daisy A Dog had shown up midway through the division, so got to see some of our very nice go.  And after I untacked and stuffed Cally full of treats for a fabulous performance, he poked around with the Yukon some more while I took Daisy to the office and checked out.  He thought we could make it home, despite a slow drip leak to the radiator.  We topped it off, then completely refilled one of my water jugs so if we needed more water on the way, it would be plentiful.  He would follow behind me in case of trouble, as far as the split on to 50 that’s 5 miles from the barn, where he could head home and I could surely make it safely.  I texted Holly to let her know I was on the way and hopefully wouldn’t need a ride back, then we set out.

I drove at or slightly below the speed limit, and I kept the heat on low, pointed at the floor.  Despite heavy traffic and ugly weather, we made it home with no problems and a steady temperature gauge.  It was pouring rain again until we got to the barn, but I got Cally unloaded and safely tucked back in her stall with extra hay, and wrapped her hind legs, as she’d rapped them on the boxes under the jump and taken off a bit of hair.

We looked at the Yukon the next day, to see if there was any way I could entertain the idea of going down to BEST to do jumpers on Sunday like I’d planned, but we’d burned through half the coolant on the way home, so given that it wasn’t a necessary thing, or even a rated show, I figured I was better safe than sorry, and scratched.  We had others from the barn going, but no empty trailer spots for me, since I’d actually been on offer as an extra spot for others.  Oh well, we got in the show that counted, and made it safe.

My insurance (big shout out to State Farm!) has been great, and the Yuk went in to the repair shop yesterday morning.  I’m sure it won’t be ready for this coming weekend’s dressage show, but a friend who boards near us has very kindly offered us a ride along with her, so we’re covered there, and will get to make our rated Musical Freestyle debut.  As for the Heavenly Waters show the following Sunday, I’m not so sure about that.  I’m hopeful the repairs will be done in time, but other friends have offered their truck if it’s not.  It’s wonderfully reassuring to know so many good people who are willing to help you out if you need it!  I’m just glad we didn’t need it on Friday, and that both myself and especially Cally came through unscathed.

Moving on Up!

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Sunday we were entered for the PVDA show at Schooley Mill.  The weather in the two days preceding it was not optimal, with a lot of rain, to the point that the Saturday show there was cancelled.  And as two previous attempts at getting out at First had been washouts for me, I was rather worried this would be too.  But no, it was a go.  So I spent an hour on Saturday removing dried mud from Cally, who normally remains pretty clean.  Since it was both damp and cool, it was not good weather for a bath, so there was a lot of spot cleaning, wet towelling, and currying.  Oh so much currying.  But she was looking pretty clean, and got a sheet on for the night.

Mercifully, she stayed clean overnight, but must have been partying hard, because she was tired in the morning.  She looked a bit peeved and being whisked away from morning naptime to load up in the trailer, but away we went.  The best thing about Schooley Mill is the parking, which is on a hardpacked gravel lot, which means it’s good even when it’s been wet.  As things were there, including big puddles on the edges of the main arena, though not in the dressage ring itself.

I was extra grateful for the advice to bring my own CD player the other week, as it turns out we used mine for both my freestyle and the other rider’s.  Score one for preparedness!  I didn’t do much warmup, because that is one of the bad features of Schooley Mill–the warmup rings are basically lunging rings, with a little bluestone track around a grassy middle. And it had been wet.  So less than optimal.  Fortunately, Cally doesn’t need much, and given her energy levels, probably best not to do too much, because she was pretty lazy, and I was wishing I knew where my dressage whip was.  (I think it’s in the locker with my dressage saddle.  I should really check in to that, and put it in my trailer.)  Thankfully, a friend we used to board with was ring steward/music player, so I gave Erika the rundown on how to play the CD, and in we went, Cally eyeballing the puddles distastefully as I promised she wouldn’t have to get her toes wet.

It was windy, so it wasn’t always the easiest to hear the music, but I was really, really pleased with the test.  We had possibly The Best Stretchy Trot Circle she’s ever, ever done, and actually got a 7 on it.  (Not amazing by standard dressage standards, but amazing for her!)  Everything else felt pretty good, other than her getting a little sticky in the medium walk after the freewalk–she wanted to be done and mosey around on the buckle, not get back to work.  But it felt much better than last time, more sure of what we were doing and the music timed out a better, too.

Then we had a few rides to hang out and for me to catch my breath, because the lower-level dressage tests require a lot of trotting, which is hard work in a sidesaddle!  I was the second ride at 1-1, which was good, because watching someone else ride the test always helps me, and I’d only ridden through the test once before.  On Wednesday.  In an open field.  In a jump saddle.  So, all the help I could get.  Thankfully the rider before me knew what they were doing and put in a nice test, so I had a good idea of what I should be doing fresh in my mind.

Cally was feeling rather behind the leg going in to the test.  For a normal horse she probably looked fine, but for her, I’m used to much more energy to channel, and she was totally in zen Pleasure Horse mode.  This was finally our First Level debut, though, so I went for it as best I could with the horse I had.  The stretchy circle wasn’t as good as in our Freestyle, but she was obedient, and we were accurate.  I would have liked a little more out of our lengthenings, but given the sloppy footing, I’m not surprised we didn’t get what I know we’re capable of doing.  The 15M canter circles in the sidesaddle didn’t feel difficult at all, just a bit confusing to Cally, who’s used to doing 20M circles in the dressage ring.  Our down transition from canter to trot at X was a bit hollow, but really, other than her feeling a bit sluggy to me off the aids, I thought it was a pretty solid test for a first go.  The judge is someone who is tough with scores, though, so I wasn’t holding my breath, and was guessing mid-50s for the score.

By the time we were finished our test, our Freestyle had been scored, and I was shocked to find out that we won!

We got a 63%, which is what we need at a rated show to qualify us for BLM championships. We’ve got two rated shows on the table, and I think we’ll only improve that score, so I’m feeling pretty good about it.

It was a while waiting around for the 1-1 group of rides to finish up, so Cally was tucked back on the trailer and I was all packed up til our scores came in. Turns out we were remarkably consistent throughout the test, and scored 6s on pretty much everything, with enough 6.5s and one 7 to get us a 61% and 6th place out of 8 for our First Level debut.

I was really pleased with that, as a start, and thrilled to have a ribbon to mark our first time out moving up.  Some things to improve and work on, but I know we’ll be out at 1st again this year, and now I know we can do it.  But wow, it’s exhausting in the sidesaddle!  Lots more fitness work for me, as well as her.  Also maybe more naps for Cally, so I don’t feel like I’m working so hard up there to keep her moving, just to keep me looking elegant!

A Stellar Show, and a Stellar Lesson!

Last Saturday was our first Stellar Riding Schooling Show.  Lots of hard work getting everything prepped, courses set, me fighting with software to figure out how to make course diagrams that we could print out then having my color printer fail so I had to color fences with crayons, etc.  Weather reports had been all over the place all week, and the night before, they were calling for hot Hot HOT weather.  But the rings and courses looked great, so I was excited to wake up early and roll in to get Cally all ready to go before I had to take on my Gate duty.

Fortunately she’d been bathed the night before and stayed pretty clean, so I just had to do a quick scrub of socks, and she got fly sprayed and tossed in her stall while I headed up to the rings.  Everything was looking good, and for a first show we had a pretty nice turnout.  Naturally the day started off with Leadline, and Holly’s daughter was trying out sidesaddle for the first time, in the habit I made for her.  She was adorable, and looked fabulous, and walked away with a pretty red ribbon.  Then it was a lot of flat classes, so my job as Gate Person were pretty easy, since everyone was staying in the ring.

For laughs, Cally and I did the Model class, and she actually finished 2nd there, despite her assorted bangs and bumps.  She got a bit more rest as I actually manned gate for a few 2′ divisions, then I headed down to get all dressed up for our two sidesaddle classes.  Which is absolutely awesome to have at a schooling show, since we don’t need to do appointments, and it’s a lot more inviting for new competitors.  One of Holly’s newer aside students was also showing in it, for the first time aside.

I really liked how the tweed habit looked on Cally, but I definitely need to lower the hem on the apron.  and I forgot a pin to keep the tail of the apron in place, so it kind of came loose from where I tucked it into the top of my boot.  So perhaps not our most elegant by the end of things, bu I was really really happy with how she went.

Hitch, the other horse, is actually a bit better mover, but by dint of being a big more experienced just letting the horse move out at the trot, we actually ended up winning both classes!

I then had a really quick turnaround to do the big Medal class (just one division), so ended up being a bit casually turned out for the medal–I kept on the brown boots and olive breeches I had on with the habit, and just swapped out my tweed and vest for my techy FITS coat, which was a vast improvement in the heat.  She was a little tired from the heat and confused and being pulled back and forth to the ring at her own home, and we were just a bit chippy in our rounds, though she was fantastically rideable and did some great inside turns.  I was actually pretty happy with her, and we finished 3rd, to round out our collection of primary colored ribbons for the day.

Sunday was day off for my mom’s birthday, and some much-needed rest.  On Monday, we kicked off May with a really fun lesson.  Holly had reset the rings with new courses, and the smaller ring now included a bounce and a crazy looking X of fences.  I feel like I’d seen one before but never actually jumped one, so I was kind of excited about it, even if it looked a little terrifying.

We started off with a little flatwork, just enough to loosen her up now that they’re on night turnout and she’d been in a stall for a few hours, then started over a normal x-rail a few times.  Then we headed for the X fence, and I was told the challenge was to be very accurate at the center, and not lean at it.  It was a little bumbly the first couple times through as I felt Cally looking hard at it trying to figure out what was being asked of her, but after going over it twice, we found our groove.

I really liked it, because if you were off and missed, you’d sort of end up jumping one side as a skinny, which we accidentally did once, because the turn I made lined us up for that, and it was what Cally saw. The challenge, once you got over it looking weird, was really to pick the correct track to the center of the fence, and to wait for it, because the positioning of the standards made your mind want to lean at it it too. I really liked it as an exercise, and it’s something that is easily adapted to most levels, from groundpoles on up. And it was fun to integrate into a bit of a course, because you could jump it from a multitude of approaches.

I am just so happy with how nicely she’s going now. Cally feels the most rideable she ever has, and is happily listening to what’s being asked of her and working with me, because she seems to realize that it’s more fun when we work together, and get to do more challenging things.

We’ve got some big challenges coming up this weekend–we’re doing our musical freestyle again, along with trying 1-1 for the first time.  Both aside!  And I did our entries for two other rated dressage shows later this month, so hopefully we can get our BLM qualifying scores for both Freestyle and Training.  Not sure I’ll actually go, as it’s a bit of a haul and a big expense, but I want to put the option on the table for myself.  Plus we’ve got St. Christopher’s coming up for Ladies Sidesaddle, and I want to mix in a few more shows of jumpers, possibly with Holly on her moving her up a bit.  May’s going to be a big, busy month for us, if all goes to plan!

Getting the Shows on the Road

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I signed up for the first PVDA show of the season once I figured out to how to edit our freestyle music.  It was being held at our old barn, so I looking forward to having friends around to laugh with me rather than at me if we had some bobbles working through the dressage-to-music thing.  But Cally was so wonderfully perfect in our lesson on Wednesday, jumping everything easily and feeling super relaxed and like she was totally back on her game, I asked Holly if she thought we’d be OK to go do some little jumpers at BEST on Saturday.  She said she thought that would be great, so I did a quick entry for the 2’6″ OTTB jumpers.

Naturally, after a perfect week of weather, it poured down rain Friday night and was looking ominous again on Saturday morning, kind of misty and drizzly.  Fortunately jumpers go in the covered ring, so other than tacking up and warming up, we were under shelter.  Cally was nice and quiet in warmup, did about 3 fences really nice and easy, and then we headed over to the show ring.  They had open-carded all the 2’6 divisions, and we had gotten lucky and gotten in 3rd in the order.  I watched the last couple 2’3 rounds finish up, which was very helpful from a course memorization perspective, though not so much from a horsemanship perspective.

Our goal for the day was not, as some obviously were doing, going for the win.  The goal was to go in and have a couple of steady, rideable, equitation-ish trips around.  The courses were actually perfect for that, since there were nice bending lines and a lot of options for inside or outside turns.  Too many outside turns and you’d end up with time faults, but I wasn’t worried about that, and made a plan to do the outside turns the first round, unless she was being perfect, then do the last turn inside.

First three fences were great, a single oxer to a bending line, then Cally got a little confused where we were going when I asked her to make the outside turn and few in a few extra lead changes until we got sorted out around the corner, meaning we were a little discombobulated getting into the triple line.  First fence was OK, but I picked where I should have legged, and we ended up at a half-stride to the middle fence and we pulled a rail there, then seemed to get back on track from there to get nicely down the big gallopy diagonal line, and come back politely to make the inside turn to the final fence.  Not our best round, but she was listening, and I was happy with that.

Second round, I watched the two rides before me pull the rail at the first fence on course, so I was determined not to do that.  We had a great distance there, and did the inside turn to the outside triple line, much better this time than the first.  I was a little worried she’d look at the final fence of the Power phase, a white skinny off a bending line, but she didn’t bat an eye, and happily made the inside turn after to start the Speed phase, where naturally we pulled the first rail.  I think because it was a fence you were jumping basically directly into another fence you had to decide if you were going inside or outside of to make the turn, so the horses were busy looking at that other fence, and not at what they were jumping.  But she finished out the speed phase very tidily, did all of the inside turns neatly, and basically put in exactly the trip I wanted from her.  Lots of pats, and I hopped off and we headed back to the trailer.  She was untacked and back in the trailer munching hay before the rain started doing much, so that was good.  Not so good was waiting around for another hour and a half for the 2’6 divisions to all finish up so they could pin the classes.  I seriously should have taken Cally home and come back later to find out where I finished, or asked Holly to get the ribbons the next day when Liz was showing.

We ended up finishing 6th and 4th for our trips, which wasn’t bad, especially considering that I had rails and we weren’t trying to win, just to have tidy trips.  Very pleased with that, and I think we’ll be back to do more OTTB jumpers there, as it’s good for us and pretty fun, other than the waiting around.

It wasn’t very nice weather til we got back home, so Cally just got tucked in her stall with some hay, and hopefully had a nice nap to rest up for the next day’s adventures.  I swapped out our jumper gear for sidesaddle tack, and headed home to get some rest myself.

I got out to the barn early on Sunday, since someone was coming to look at my old trailer I have up for sale, and ended up having a bit of extra time to kill before we had to load up, so I tossed a few quick dressage braids in Cally’s mane, figuring that it wouldn’t take much time and make her look extra fancy and sidesaddle proper.  Then we headed over to Southwind, aiming to get there during the lunch break so we could do a quick soundcheck.  Easy drive in what was turning out to be a beautiful day, not the rain that had been threatened in the early forecast.  Parked, checked in, and got to chat with old friends as we waited around.

Cally was a little curious as we unloaded, as she obviously recognized somewhere she spent almost 8 years living.  But she seemed to go with the flow, and was very chill as we got ready and dressed.  I was both excited and nervous, but she felt good in warmup, with some nice perfect forward trot and a nice canter with a few 15 meter circles thrown in for good measure.  I was feeling pretty confident at that point, and we had once nice last bit of trot as we got to trot around inside the arena before our test started.  I went out to A, gave a little wave, the music started, and we did a circle and headed down the centerline.  We halted at X pretty well in time with our music, then as I’m getting ready to salute, I see Cally’s head go up and sort of cock to one side, then there’s a huge ruckus, and a little white horse comes galloping down from the trailers, past the end of the warmup area of the ring, and at least is dumb enough to go into one of the fields.  Horse still had a saddle on, and a bridle that was partially wrapped around his neck and didn’t last long, as he went galloping around.  I just sort of looked up to the judge and was like, what do I do now?  Obviously, that would be a do-over.

We waited around for a good 20 minutes while they attempted to catch this horse, it galloping around and not having any of it.  Finally someone came over and asked if I was OK going on in to show, since the horse was at least contained.  I said sure, showed Susan how to operate the music for me, and headed back down to the end of the ring.  I could tell Cally was cranky from all the waiting around, and when she gets overcooked in warmup, just doesn’t really go well in the test.  A few extra minutes to re-warmup would have just made it worse, I think, so we went right in and went for it.  It wasn’t perfect, as she was fussy and a bit unfocused, and I think I was a bit unfocused, too.  But we got through it in a fairly workmanlike fashion, and have our first musical freestyle under our girths!

The judge specifically said she liked our trot music, so big thanks go to WBBF, who suggested the second trot music.  She also said she wasn’t sure whether our stretchy circle was stretchy or just a circle, since that is not Cally’s strong point, and was extra not then since she wasn’t feeling it.  So I think I’m going to revise our choreography a bit and put the regular circle first and the stretchy second.  But the judge also said she was “worth her weight in gold” for how good she was when the horse got loose, which is absolutely true, and probably the best compliment anyone could ask for.

Since we were the only ones doing a freestyle, we ended up 1st, even with a 60.7%.  I’m taking that as a ribbon for excellent behavior in the face of adversity, though, because sometimes that’s even more important than having a 10 mover or a cracking jumper.   As silly as she can be sometimes, when it counts, she’s got a good brain, and that’s something that far too often doesn’t get rewarded.

As we were coming back out of the ring, we had several people come up and ask about the sidesaddle thing, how it worked, how I managed to sit up there, and the like.  So I did a little mini-lesson for them on how the saddle worked, how you’re balanced up there, how you dismount, how the apron is designed, and it was pretty fun to be able to explain that to people who’d never seen a sidesaddle in person before.  They were all pretty shocked at how flat the seat was, and how I managed to trot around in it–I explained that the trotting was the hard part, it’s so much nicer to canter!  In a year and a half, I’ve gone from a novice to someone who can share knowledge with others, and that was a really great feeling, too.

Rose Mount: Showing Old School

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After shows that ended up not happening due to divisions not filling or an EHV scare, finally, finally we got to go show in Our Division, Ladies Sidesaddle Hunter.  We’d done a couple of pleasure classes and a dressage class aside, so I figured we’d be good to go.  Perhaps, just perhaps, I should have done our Monday lesson sidesaddle, or at least jumped a line or something.  But I was feeling pretty good, other than pondering my driving options.

Because sidesaddle at Rose Mount runs on a Wednesday, which is just super awkward from both a needing-a-random-weekday-off-work perspective, and from a traffic perspective.  It is about an hour south of DC, and I’m about 30 minutes east of DC.  Which means one major thing stands between us: The Beltway.  I decided I’d try to avoid it, and take the somewhat longer route down the MD side of the Potomac, and come in from the east.  Which seemed like a fine idea as I loaded up my questionably braided horse–the mane looked totally fine, but her tail looked like it had been done by a 4Her doing their first braiding project–and headed out on a beautiful spring morning.

All went well until we got to the bridge across the Potomac, which was both a toll bridge at a ridiculous $18 for my 4-axle rig.  Eeek, there goes any show spending money except for lunch!  And it’s a two-lane bridge.  With one lane closed for construction.  So we sat and sat, and I could feel her getting fussy in the trailer, which she’s normally quite good about.  Then the bridge was super scary to drive across with a trailer, pretty narrow, so I don’t think we’ll be going that route again for anything.  Eventually we got near where we were going, and I could see the showgrounds on the other side of the highway as we went past, Siri sending my on by and making a left farther down, so I assumed it was sending me into the property from the other side.  NOPE.  I ended up going through downtown Spotsylvania Courthouse with my trailer, directed to basically the local elementary school.  Um, no, this won’t work at all.  I ended up calling the show office, and turns out I’m not the only person that morning who was led astray by GPS, and eventually got back to the highway, made a right, and ended up on the showgrounds.  Possibly via the wrong entrance, but I got in there.  I thought I spotted a familiar face as I was making my way cautiously through what I was feeling sure was the Wrong Way In, but ended up parked on a gorgeous grassy hill overlooking both rings.

The office staff were super friendly when I went to check in, happy I’d managed to get there despite getting lost and being very kind about the fact that my Horseshowsonline entries had my old address on them, and everything go straightened out and orderly, and I was told sidesaddle was not before 3, so I had about 3 hours to relax, eat, and get ready.  Perfect!

Then as I was heading back past Ring 2, I heard the announcement of the horse on course, and sure enough, that possibly familiar face as I’d driven in was who I thought it was–the barn manager from my alma mater, the fabulous Hollins University.  Big pluggity plug plug for them, their wonderful academics and abroad programs, and the immensely educational riding program.  If you/your friends/barnmates/kids are college hunting, check them out.  I said hello, got a big hug, and chatted with her while watching her guy’s two nice trips in the 3′ division.

Since I had time, I actually got lunch, and sat on the beautiful hill by the trailer, and watched the other divisions going in the rings.  It was such a lovely, laid back place, definitely very Old Virginia Horse Show, in the very best way possible.  Adjacent rings surrounded by trees, grassy areas to warm up in addition to the schooling rings, friendly management, and so scenic.  I offloaded Cally to do some hand grazing while we waited, and had decided I was already coming back next year, before we even headed in to the ring.  It just had one of those vibes that makes you feel like it’s an enjoyable place.

We managed to luck out while hand grazing, as I noticed a fellow competitor having her horse braided, and managed to jog over to the braider and ask if she had time to possibly fix (er, totally rebraid!) a tail.  Yes, hallelujah!  So I did what I always do and paid a competent professional to do the tail for me, and it looked world’s better.

Took our time getting ready and tacked up, and then took advantage of the beautiful grassy hill to do some warming up out there.  Since Cally’s been in season, which for her isn’t so much mareishness as a tight back, I decided to dispense with a lot of trotting (also, in a sidesaddle, so trotting less than awesome) and just did a bit of walking then did some big happy canter circles out there.  Honestly, I had to restrain myself because it felt so perfect to be cantering aside out on a big buttercuppy grassy sunny hillside that I’d have just done that all day and worn out the horse.  So we did a couple big circles, then headed back over to the trailers to check on everyone else’s readiness status, and headed over to the show ring.

Then because Horse Show, we waited a while as the 2’6 division before us finished up.  They gave us some time to hack around in the ring first, and even told us which line we’d be jumping and offered us the chance to jump it.  I did not want to revv her up too much, since she was nicely in sunshine nap mode, and did not jump the line.  In retrospect, this was probably my biggest mistake of the day.

I thought our first class went really well, as she flatted really nicely for her.  It was a class with several horses who are consistently top finishers in the undersaddle, so I knew even if she went her best we weren’t winning, because she’s not that fancy of a mover, but for her, she did her best.  I was really happy with her, and we ended up 4th, which was fine by me, as I was just happy with my horse.  One of the other competitors kindly let me put my hunt whip and ribbon in her ringside bucket, and we headed back in to the ring for the hack, walking around on a loose rein while everyone else was swapping tack and getting set.  Since Cally jumps in a pelham anyway, we just keep the same bridle for everything, and it makes life easier.  Til the flat portion of the hack started, she was feeling very relaxed and swingy, and the judge seemed to like a classic loopy-reined hunter, so I decided to let the reins out a little and see what happened.  I knew  weren’t the winner anyway, so I figured I had nothing to loose if she got a little silly.  Turns out she stretched right down in some of the nicest hack work she’s ever done, going on a slightly loopy rein at both the trot and canter, and me grinning like a fool the whole time, so happy that even if we didn’t pin at all I’d have been over the moon at how she was going.

When we lined up to hack, I ended up going second.  I’d been watching people jump the line all day, a nice outside six vertical to oxer, and it should have been very simple.  Except Cally was a little surprised by it when we came out of the corner to it, and looked hard the stride before takeoff, and I also looked down, since when given the choice of what to do I always do the wrong thing, and we got over in sort of a crookedy heap, drifting left.  I managed to salvage it and get down the line in something like a bending 7, jumping out crookedly over the oxer, but getting through.  GOOD PONY!  Despite that effort, we managed to finish 3rd, so I was super proud of her.

Had we been in slightly better shape, or had done any courses at a show astride this year, I probably would have tried the over fences, since they left it at 2’6 and it was pretty inviting.  But we were way out of shape, obviously not jumping at full competence, and I decided to end on a good note.

It was a great day of showing, and a show I’m definitely planning to put on my calendar again next year, despite the bit of a haul it took to get there and back.  Looking forward, we’re entered for our first Musical Freestyle on the 23rd, back at our old barn at Southwind, so that should be a lot of fun.  I’m also looking at both St. Christopher’s and Keswick for sidesaddle, so hopefully the year is back on track for us.

A Busy Week!

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This week has been a very busy one for us, and it feels like we’ve kicked it back into high Show Gear.  We had a really great lesson early in the week, getting us back on track with jumping.  I mean, it did NOT start off that way, as apparently we don’t even remember how to do a simple grid.

That was just embarrassingly awful.  But we’re not perfect, and it had been a while, for her even moreso than me, and the two rusty souls together had some trouble. But Holly laughed with/at us, and by the end of the lesson had us back on track and looking and feeling fabulous.

Like a completely different pair. Cally woke up and remembered how fun jumping was after the first time through the grid, and by the end was back to feeling like her old self, so keen and joyful to be jumping.

I was feeling really optimistic about Friday, which was the sidesaddle at the Showplace Spring Festival.  Except I was apparently the only one entered, and though we got emergency gear in place for Holly to fill if necessary, the other rider who’d been considering it had a lameness issue come up, so there was just me.  Naturally, I found this out as I was in the barn aisle discussing with the braider how to to finish off the horse’s tail braid.  So I paid her and pulled out a bunch of lovely, completely unused braids.  Despite the disappointment of not getting to show a gorgeous and ready to go horse, I can’t say I’m too sad about it, because it was absolutely monsooning here on Friday.  Like, my birdbath was overflowing.  Not really the most crushing of days to unhitch the trailer, go home, and burrow back under the blankets to sleep for two more hours, rather than getting drenched and having to ride around in soaking wet wool on a wet, grumpy horse.

Which left me extra thankful I’d made a last-minute decision, at Holly’s prompting, to enter a local dressage show on Sunday.  One of our other riders was going to do a 1st level test, so I figured in the interest of scheduling convenience, I’d just do Training 3, since those things should be close together.  That wasn’t a great decision on my part, because firstly, since we were being entered by our trainer, they’d just schedule us near each other anyway; and secondly, she’s only been back in real work for like 2 weeks and is not really fit or strong behind yet.  Plus I just flat out don’t love the T3 test.

Weather was perfect on Sunday, though, and we had mid-afternoon ride times, which was so totally civil and relaxed in the prep.  Rolled out of bed at my normal time, had breakfast, and had time to get to the barn at a leisurely pace and pack up and get cleaned up.  It’s also only a 5 minute haul over to the barn hosting the show, which was easy.

We warmed up lightly, but she felt good.  Then we went in the big dark spooky indoor, and lost a bit of that goodness–she wasn’t bad, per se, just super tense and more interested in her environment than in me, which led to her being really inconsistent in contact and me riding a bit defensively, and in her also being a bit tired by the end of the test.  Like, I was having to use my (one, itty bitty) spur during the last canter circle.  But we got through the test, and I’ll take it as a first outing of the year to build on.

We finished 5th, which is fine by me, as this outing was decidedly not about the ribbon, just about getting out and getting her back in a dressage ring, but more importantly, getting into a full-sized dressage ring to run through our planned musical freestyle for the upcoming season! And I was able to do that in the outdoor dressage arena set up for warmup! Don’t want to share the whole test yet, and I don’t have all the music together, but here’s just a snippet of the test.

I feel what I have laid out rides really well for us, and I’ve got some fun ideas for the music for us. Now I just have to figure out how to edit it all together. That can’t be that complicated, I edit video as part of my job, so this can’t be much different than that, once I figure out what we’re using and how long each bit needs to be.  Or, failing that, I’ll beg help from one of my coworkers.