A Fantastic Weekend!

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Last weekend’s show plans ended up being a bit of a literal washout–sidesaddle at Rose Mount didn’t fill, so we didn’t end up showing there, then it poured down rain for two days straight and I ended up scratching us from the musical freestyle at Dressage, By Chance? So while it ended up being a nice weekend from a “relaxing with WBBF and Daisy A Dog” point of view, sort of ended up as a bust on the horse showing front.

But!  We had big plans for this weekend.  We had two excellent lessons this week, a great jump lesson with Holly on Monday, then a dressage lesson with Aviva on Friday.  Cally was going fantastic in our dressage lesson, and we had a great run-through of bits of our First Level tests.  We also discussed the value of obviously working to correct something, or letting it not be perfectly to a letter but done right, to show understanding of things being a work in progress, and that I understand the training process.

We were the last rides of the day at the show, and I felt like I was really able to use a lot of what we worked on in our lesson Friday to warm her up properly–a lot of little steps of quasi-leg-yield at the walk warming up, getting her stepping up nicely from behind before asking for the trot, and just really getting her relaxed and swinging at the trot through some bending and suppling. It really paid off in spades, because we had a seriously the best dressage test I’ve ever ridden. It wasn’t perfect, but it had such good work in it. Our second test, 1-2, was less good, not because Cally was any less awesome, but because I was having trouble with the direction through the leg yield movements and ended up going the wrong way and having an error on the test, and made a few other errors of geometry that left quite a few points on the table. But we still ended up with a 2nd with 61% and a 4th with 58%, and ended up Reserve Champion for First!

Never did I ever expect to get a tricolor at a dressage show at First level! Especially because we finished second only to a Lipizzaner, and if you’ve got to finish behind someone in dressage, that’s not an unimpressive breed to follow behind, especially if you’re on a racetrack reject whose primary job isn’t even dressage.  I’ve got another chance this coming weekend to redeem myself on 1-2, so hopefully we’ll do just as well there.

Then on Sunday, we headed down to BEST for our primary job–equitation!  I actually got there early so we could do a jumper round to warmup, since doing a round then hanging out a while before our primary rounds seemed to work really fantastically for us at Caves the other week.  So we checked in and hustled over to the jumper ring, where we did the Timed First Jumpoff in the OTTB jumpers, which we actually did earlier this spring.  Holly’s masterplan for us was to ride it like an eq trip, just work on turns and keeping my leg on.  There were some nice bending lines and turning questions that worked perfectly as an eq warmup, and other than me failing to put my leg on to the first fence (fortunately, Jumpers, so it didn’t really matter), it was a really nice round that both Holly and I were super pleased with as a warmup round for the day!

I was even more astonished when I checked back later and found out that we finished second in the class for that trip! What a great start to the day!

There was a pretty good group from our barn there, so while Cally was chilling on the trailer with her haynet, I got to walk over to the hunter ring to watch our two riders in the Junior Hunter class, and they put in great trips! So fun to get to watch and cheer them on in their classes and classic. Once they headed in to flat, I headed back to get Cally ready for the MHSA Low Adult medal, which was being open carded with a bunch of other stuff in the other ring. We did very light warmup, literally just jumped one fence since she’d done the jumper round earlier, and headed over to the ring.

It was an OK round, a lot of singles and the third fence, which was set right across the ring on the short end, seemed to kind of surprise her and we ended up with an ugly distance there, but since that was sort of going towards the judge, maybe not as noticeable? Because then we proceeded to nail the rest of the course, great gallop to the single oxer and a fantastic rollback to the final fence. Must have done OK, because while we were once again chilling by the trailer, I heard the announcement that we’d finished third! Got an actual medal this time, which was pretty cool. Hopefully that’s enough points to qualify us towards the medal finals at MHSA Regionals.

If you’re sensing a theme of “there was a lot of waiting around” here, you would not be wrong. We went back to the trailer again, this time with the Juniors, and hung out for like another hour, while it was decided that my Adult Eq division was being switched from one ring to another so it would run earlier, someone actually had to call the MHSA to verify we had enough entries to run separately from the Junior Eq, etc. I had a smoothie, so that was good, and Cally actually drank water, which was very good. Til we finally headed back over to the ring, I think we were both a little over it, frankly. Or at least over waiting.

It was worth it, though, because we went in and put in a decent over fences round–there wre moments I was really happy with, like actually riding to the first fence, and a nice final rollback, but she sort of played through her change and once again got on a weird line to the third jump.

Good enough for second for the day though.  Then we managed to put in an actually really nice flat trip, which Holly said was our best eq flat ever, and finished second there to be reserve champ for the Adult Eq division!  Very very pleased with how well we’ve finally started putting all the pieces together and putting in consistent trips.  They’re not perfect, but they’re at least attempted with a plan, and I’m getting better and better at executing the plan, or at least like 85% of it.

Cally’s getting the next two days off, since she worked very hard this past week, and we’re skipping a lesson this week, too.  Probably do some hillwork/fieldwork, which we’ve been doing a lot of lately while the weather’s been cooperative and the ground has been decent.  We’re heading back to BEST in two weeks, probably skipping the jumpers on Sunday and rolling in a good bit later to just do the medal and eq, hopefully put in even more solid rounds.

A Couple of Hot Weeks

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It’s been toasty here in Maryland of late, so we mixed things up a bit, and had some downtime.  After going splat during my lesson last Monday, I was feeling bruised but excited about heading up to Pimlico with Rebecca and Hitch for Canter For The Cause, and happy that it was going to be slightly less roasty.  Very weird to drive in to Baltimore with a trailer, and Pimlico is seriously in the middle of a neighborhood, so that was strange.  But we were in the big clubhouse parking lot, and it was amazing just to stand on the edge of that track.  Cally seemed totally chill and unphased by all of, which didn’t surprise me, as she’s been back on a track before, including during the Maryland Million just a year after she came off the track herself.

We were with a small group of friends, and while we skipped trying the starting gate walkthrough due to being aside, she was alert but good.  We trotted down the backstretch on a loose rein, and cantered the turn into the top of the stretch, then came back down to a walk to go down the stretch and across the finish line.  We opted to skip the winner’s circle photo op the first time around, due to the line, so we walked down towards the first turn and were discussing the strategy for our second trip around the track when a pony came barreling into the turn at mach 12, obviously totally out of control and ping-ponging all over the place, and zipped so close to Cally that she was Done.  Like, would not move at all, and I could feel her shaking.  Poor girl was terrified until friends went ahead and sent one of the pony horses back for us.  That was slightly embarrassing, but settled Cally down a bit and we trotted back around to the start of the backstretch, where the starting gate was and people were coming in and out.  She spooked at the gate too, so I think she was just totally rattled and a bit unhappy at the idea of being a Racehorse again.

Once I got her back to the trailer and untacked, she took a big breath, had some water, and walked a bit to cool out and she’d settled right back down to fine.  Hitch was his usual perfect self, and they had a grand time, so that was fun.  Both of them practically fell asleep in the trailer on the way home!  And I’m pretty sure Cally was super grateful to be back living life as a show horse, because she’s been totally perfect for every ride since that!

We did a very light dressage school on Monday, just some lateral work to stretch out her back, and get her supple, and called it good with that.  Then we had a lesson on Wednesday that we kept short due to the heat.  Light warmup, and work on a lot of single long approaches, since I could just do a fence or two that way, then give us both a breather.  Turned out to be a great strategy, especially since I’d decided to show the upcoming weekend.  Holly wouldn’t be going, since she’d done three days of showing at two different shows with students the prior weekend, but she knew the facility and knew what classes I’d entered, and how they tended to set things.  So this was about the most elaborate thing we did:

And it went beautifully.  Plus Cally was jumping like that all lesson, we were just in a groove and hitting everything great, and had like one kind of chippy fence all lesson, but left feeling great, like we could nail it like this all day long.

But ugh, I was both excited and kind of over Saturday before it started.  Due to forecast heat, they moved the show start time up to 7AM.  Which naturally left me dealing with two unpleasant things–an early Saturday wakeup, and heat.  But I figured I should leave an hour earlier than planned, since it looked from the entries like only 3 divisions before the medal stuff I was doing started.  But coats were waived in a notice before the start, so that was great news, as it so rarely happens at hunter shows, and is so nice when it does.  I know a lot of people will still wear them for eq, but whatever, I’m an older adult showing without a trainer along (and trainer already said go for it on the no coat front!), so coatless I would happily go.

Naturally, when I got there an hour and a half after show start, the first division was still going.  Because hunterland.  At the office, I saw I was the only entry in one of the random medals, so I swapped that to the MHSA Low Adult medal, since that was earlier in the order, and frankly, earlier than I thought I would need to be there.  Plus it was the same course we’d be doing for one of the later medals, so that would give us the bonus of doing the same course twice, which always helps me, since I tend to somehow mangle the first course.  (Holly’s advice was don’t screw up at all, though that would kind of put her out of a job, should I ever actually accomplish it.)  So I moseyed back to the trailer, unloaded, took Cally off for our usual handwalk/graze, and walked over to the gate to put my number in for the MHSA medal, since the division before it was finally starting, then went back to start getting ready.

We did a very light warmup, and jumped three jumps in warmup.  It would have been two, but we got a terrible distance to our oxer, and I wanted a gallopy do-over.  Then we headed to the ring and were waiting at the gate, ready to go in, when the flat class before it finished.  The gate person seemed happy about that fact of life, and the judge must have been astonished to have someone waiting and ready, as she was still finishing up her card and I had to wait a minute before actually starting.

I felt like our first line, a diagonal 5, was just a little underpowered coming in and I didn’t love our distance out because of that, but we nailed all the singles, and a bending line that was exactly the same 5 stride bending we’d done in our lesson.  We managed some really nice inside rollbacks to two of the singles, and I was a little worried they’d be considered too jumpery for an eq class, especially since I went first and had no idea how handy everyone else was going to be.  But we managed them neatly and professionally, and I was very pleased with how we finished, a long gallop to a single oxer that we totally nailed.  Lots of pats, watched another round who did one of the same handy turns I did, then headed back to the trailer to untack and cool off.  It was actually hot enough that Cally, who is part camel and usually awful about drinking at shows, actually chugged a quarter bucket of water!

(I realize that looks totally unsafe, but unless you tie her long enough that she can drink from a bucket off the ground, she won’t drink at all.  Hence the tie ping.  Cally is weird like that.)

Then I untacked entirely, sponged her off, and put her back in the cooler, shady trailer while I went to take advantage of the ice cream fundraiser they had going on.  Mmm, perfect hot day for an orange creamsicle lunch!  Part of me was super tempted to scratch the other classes and just go home, but I picked up a nice 3rd of 10 ribbon in the MHSA, and we were already there and hot, what was two more rounds?  So we waited some more, and I kept an eye on the ring, since I was having a hard time hearing from where we were parked, but I could see the people in the ring.  Got back over there early, put our number in to go 3rd, right after a trainer’s two entries, and did a bit of a mosey around.  Did a little bit of trot and canter in a grassy area.  Got back to ringside and ready to go, and actually hopped off to wait, since things were going slowly.

Then finally the fences were reset for our height, and the trainer and their two riders weren’t there, so I offered to go right in.  Gate lady told me I was her favorite person of the day, so that right there is probably worth more than a blue ribbon.

We were back in to do the same course we’d done before, but for the BCHSA medal.  I wanted mostly the same ride as before, but with more leg into the first line.  And lo and behold, I did it, and the out felt amazing, and as we went around, I seriously knew we were nailing it, like hitting every distance perfectly, and as we approached to the final single oxer, Cally actually straightened herself out on the line to it.  I honestly have never before come out of the ring feeling like I had the round to beat so much as I did at that moment.  And what an amazing feeling it was!

The trips for the medal and the adult and junior eqs were all open carded, so we caught our breath for two trips, then went in for our adult eq round.  Our first fence was great, we had an excellent trot fence rollback to a single oxer–the line we rode there was absolutely perfect–but the final line was a bending we hadn’t ridden yet, and I thought it was going to be a straight gallopy 6, but kind of got to like 4.5 and realized we didn’t quite have the gas left in the tank for that.  We did 7, and while it wasn’t the worst chip ever, it wasn’t the perfect line it could have been.

I hopped off again, took off the martingale and left the girth loose and just relaxed and caught our breath a bit.  Our first flat was the undersaddle test phase of the BCHSA medal, which I knew was ours to loose on the flat, because we’d had that perfect fences trip.  She was good, did a nice trot-halt-canter transition right in front of the judge.  They asked for a change of direction through the canter via a simple change, and I did it through the walk, mainly because I couldn’t remember whether the proper eq was is via trot or via walk, so I think maybe Holly and I need to do a bit of a Eq Tests refresher one lesson.  We lined up, and I really wasn’t sure how I did in the flat phase, since I didn’t see how anyone else went.

We WON!  I was so astonished, she got lots of pats coming out of the ring, and I was grinning like an idiot as I collected our ribbon.  I had someone put our ribbon on top of the whip and martingale, and we waited while the junior eq class ran its flat.  Then it was time for our adult eq on the flat, and I knew going in that she was just done.  The trot didn’t feel as great, and she had kind of a sassy moment right in front of the judge, and tried to canter a bit when asked for the trot the second direction.  Nothing too bad, just overcooked.  As we were lining up, they announced we were second in the fences, so I was hoping maybe the judge liked us enough that we’d pull an OK ribbon in the flat, but no such luck, 5th there.  But I didn’t even care, the over fences matters more and we’d nailed it there!

I was so pleased with her, and hopped off right after we got through the gate and gave her a mint before I gathered up our ribbons, and our martingale and whip, and headed back to the trailer, just ahead of a line of storms approaching.

Cally has been great recently, and I really feel like we’re hitting our groove for the year.  Hopefully we’re hitting it at just the right time, since we’ve got some BEST shows upcoming for more Low MHSA Medal and Adult Eq classes.  We’re handily qualified now for Mid Atlantics, if I want to do it, so I just need to take a look at the dates and prizelist and my budget.  I’d also really like to see if we can qualify for the Low MHSA medal finals, which is in early November, and would be a perfect warmup for Mids.

Remembering How to Fall

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The last time I fell off was 3 years ago, when I fell and dislocated my clavicle.  There have been a couple of close calls, and near-panic-attacks at it almost happening when I started back in the saddle after the injury.  But Cally’s a pretty solid citizen now, and my riding has gotten pretty decent, so there haven’t even been a lot of close calls lately.

That all changed today.  I had my usual Monday morning lesson, which worked out even better than usual this week, since it’s supposed to get ridiculously hot the rest of the week, and the farrier is coming Wednesday, our other possible lesson day if the weather doesn’t cooperate with Mondays.  Things started off really well, keeping it simple, as I warmed up while Holly set a gymnastic grid for us, and adjusted a couple of other little fences, since she likes to mix grids with a fence or two that are single long approaches.  Cally felt great warming up, if slightly lazy, but woke up and was feeling great as we started jumping.  Like, nailed the warmup fence every time, and the long approach to the cool strawbale single that looked huge but rode really well.

Then we moved on to the grid, did it twice pretty low, then Holly put the fences up, and it rode pretty great the first time through, with Cally feeling super happy to be jumping something that required her to actually jump.

The second time through I felt like I rode poorly to the oxer out, and so I came around to do it again before we added it in to some combinations with the other fences. We were nailing it over the middle fence of the grid when the BACK RAIL OF THE OUT OXER CAME DOWN ON ITS OWN! Presumably all of you reading this are acquainted with horses, and how well they deal with random weirdness. Which is to say, not at all well. I mean, obviously there was a ghost in the ring mucking with that fence, and she was NOT having any parts of that, and did a pretty damn impressive stop in the one stride between the vertical and the oxer. Momentum, however, was not on my side.

Cally seemed somewhat more horrified at me being in the footing than she was at the fence, and just sort of stood there until Holly assessed my condition then grabbed her.  As you can see, I did my best at making it over the oxer on my own, but ended up landing butt-first on the brick wall.  Thankfully, not on my shoulder, but somehow that bell boot laying by the jump standard ended up velcroed to my shirt.  But, I was not panicking and crying and hyperventilating like I’d had happen a couple times when things got dicey immediately post-shoulder issue.  So, while I now have a giant bruise on my ass, it is easily covered by clothing, and I am not really any worse for the wear.

I hopped back on, and Holly made the scary haunted oxer into a little crossrail behind the boxes with no back rail, and we trotted over it, with Cally still a little spooky and jumping it about 3′ high anyway, but she went.  To finish on a strong note, Holly had us do the long approach to the haybale jump again, and that went well, so we ended there.

I feel like finally falling off again, which is something that inevitably happens as a rider, is a good thing to have had happen. And really, this kind of no-fault circumstance is probably the best way for it to have happened, because you certainly can’t fault Cally for spooking at a rail moving on its own.  I’m going to be a bit sore tomorrow, but hopefully feeling fine by this weekend.  We’ve got plans to go do Canter For The Cause at Pimlico, which should be a blast.

And I think next weekend we may try to go up to McDonough for their local MHSA summer show, and try doing the Adult medal, and the Adult Eq division they have.  Courses there last summer were very inviting, and it definitely looked like a soft 3′, which should be what we need to get our toes back in the bigger adult eq stuff, which we haven’t really done in a while, with concentrating on sidesaddle, and her being out hurt half the year last year.

Middlesex, and Making Plans

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Middlesex County Horse Show is one of Holly’s favorite shows, and they run the Sidesaddle division, plus a few additional sidesaddle classes.  So after some hemming and hawwing and deciding not to show at Ride For Life this year (they always run the same weekend!), I decided to go do the sidesaddle there.  Initially, I’d planned to haul up and show Friday, overnight and stay with my little brother (who is 2 exits down on the turnpike), and come back on Saturday.  However, there were a couple of extenuating factors that led to me changing plans.  First was that WBBF’s sister and nieces made plans to come into down that week, and were staying with us.  Second was the weather forecast as the week went on, which looked like the massive remnants of a tropical storm would roll through late Friday and then pour on Saturday, and I was not particularly feeling trailering down 95 in that.  Plus Holly was coming back with the ponies on Friday evening, and Julie was riding along with me, and could swap off the driving if I felt tired, so I figured why not, it’s not actually much more of a day haul than Culpeper.

So we went to show in New Jersey for the day!  The drive up was actually kind of miserable because it took like an hour to drive through Delaware and I was a little worried we’d be late.  But it was all good, we got to the Horse Park of New Jersey in plenty of time, though not quite enough time for me to go play with Cally on the XC course like I’d have wanted to if we were there a few days.  I’d have done a few things, even in a sidesaddle!  We were told the ring was running on time, and we’d go at 4 as scheduled.  So I got all geared up, hopped on leaving the ring bucket and my water at the trailer, since I was already trying to wrangle sidesaddle attire plus an additional normal whip for over fences and ride across a showgrounds. (This also meant I left my phone at the trailer, so not a ton of pics, or video!)  That was a mistake, because we got to the ring only to find that they still had like an hours worth of AOs to go.  Which seemed like a way generous estimation, because there were like 4 people in that whole division.  But they they had to drag and water.

I hopped back off Cally, watched the AOs go, chatted with friends, and waited.  The sun came back out from behind the clouds and it got hot again.  Finally when the AOs were undersaddle, I hopped back on, and warmed up in the nice big grassy area by the ring.  That worked well for us at Rose Mount this spring, and I was hoping that the combination of happy, field warmup and the dressage lesson the day before (where we focused on going on softer contact with me sitting up tall through my core), would put in a good place to show.  The first class was Sidesaddle Eq, and I felt like we did OK, maybe not my greatest ride and she is not the smoothest trot to look effortless on, even equitating astride.  A 4th there to start us off, then we sat out the non-pointed undersaddle class.  There were a couple of really fancy movers, as is so often the case with the sidesaddle, and I know that Cally is Not A Hack Winner.  So I caught my breath, had a sip of water, and then headed back in for the undersaddle/appointments.  Trot was OK, we had fantastic canter transitions and a nice canter, but were just out-fancied by better movers and finished 5th.

Hack class was where things started to get fun.  Flat portion was fine, then we got to do our line across the diagonal, hand gallop, and halt.  We got in a little close to the first fence of the line, because it took Cally a minute to notice it coming out of the corner, and I got a little crooked because of that, so our line was more of a squiggly add, but we made it work, and she did a lovely hand gallop to halt and felt pretty pleased with herself as we walked back to the lineup.  Finished 3rd there for our first primary color of the day!  I smiled at the very nice lady handing out ribbons as we left the ring, but was really ready to keel over from heat and thirst.  We were going second in the over fences, so here’s where actually getting to show with people ringside helps–not only did I get to catch my breath, I got two cups of water and was feeling much more focused til we went in.

I did my best to remember to go forward when in doubt, and also look right over the fences to keep me from getting all twisted up.  First fence went great, as Holly very smartly positioned herself about 25 feet to the right of it, so I just looked for her and we nailed it!

The rest of the course was going pretty well, too, up to the last line where Cally was getting a bit tired and just didn’t see the big distance from the 5 like I did, and added a chippy step at the end.  I sort of landed in a twisted heap and lost my stirrup, and ended up having to get myself sorted out in time for the final oxer.  But we got it together, and nailed the last fence, and Cally got many pats on the way out of the ring.  Because she really is The Best Horse Ever.  And as if to show that, we ended up SECOND in the over fences stake!  I almost fell off when they announced that, and we trotted in for our ribbon.

I could not have been prouder or happier with Cally than I was on Friday, so she got two very well deserved days off, while I hung out with family, and volunteered at the Ride For Life to get my year-end qualifier hours.

Today, we had a great jump lesson where we got to play with some long approaches, and Cally felt fantastic and very happy to be jumping in a lesson after feeling a little let down by dressage last week.  She’s going to have a chiro session this week to make sure she’s feeling her best after so much sidesaddle work lately, and then Holly and I chatted about plans for the rest of the summer.

It’s getting hot and she’s been working pretty hard all spring, in spite of just coming off a layup, so I think we’re going to ease up a bit for July, and concentrate on working at home and getting her a little stronger and fitter.  Now that the horses are on night turnout, it’s easier to get more outside fieldwork time in, so I’m going to up our intensity there a little, and hopefully pick up a few additional lessons next month, as the heat and humidity cooperate.  We’re already entered to do Canter For The Cause at Pimlico mid-month, which is a fun thing rather than a show, and two of us are going to go do it sidesaddle on Hitch and Cally!  Then we’ll do Rose Mount aside at the end of the month, and if there is something local with jumpers we may go do that one day, but nothing for the next two weeks.  In August, we’ll aim for one of the Culpepers, just going down on a Sunday and pick up an eq division, do jumpers at one of the BEST shows, and possibly one more dressage show since there are a few very close by.  Looks like our summer plans should also allow plenty of time on the water, in addition to riding time, which makes for a nice balance.

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!