I was excited to be heading back to the Mid-Atlantic Equitation Festival this year, since we didn’t go last year due to a variety of factors, including the fact that it was the weekend after the election and I knew I couldn’t mentally handle that much stress from both work and horse in one week. And in retrospect that was even truer than anticipated, so I was in Florida rather than horse showing. So I was happy to have had a really successful year, and be heading back this year.
We deliberated between my doing Novice (2’6) versus Intermediate (2’9″), but while I’d competed and placed in the 3′ Adults there in 2015, she’d been off all last winter with the Weird Leg Abscess and only done 2’6″ stuff this year, which we’d been rocking, so thought we’d be more competitive. Plus one of our juniors was doing the Intermediate, so that would space our barn entries out more and not be as competitive with one another.
Because of the odd dashboard electric issue with my vehicle the prior weekend, I didn’t feel comfortable trailering myself as usual, so Cally got to go down Thursday night with one other horse from the barn, and was professionally tucked into her stall and left to settle in. I got an adorable photo from Holly.
We also consulted on number of trips before our Open Eq and M&S Adult Medal on Friday, and made a best estimate of 3PM for us to go. Which is great for me, who gets from from work at 3AM and does her own braiding. I slept my normal hours, woke up and had breakfast and made my tea to go (thank you, makers of Yeti, for giant insulated beverage containers), and made the short drive down to PGEC. I got all my additional stuff unloaded (truck, tack, garment bag, etc) and gave Cally her ulcerguard, which we’d decided would be a good preventative during a stressful weekend away from home, particularly since a round of it this summer had helped when she’d been doing a lot of showing all spring. Then we went for a little handwalk/graze around, which was pretty uneventful because at least half our yearly showing is at PGEC, so Cally knows it well and doesn’t bat an eye at being there. If anything, she was probably confused as to why she was staying there and not coming home, but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t understand the economics of cost of stabling versus cost of time & gas to haul back and forth for 3 days straight.
I did our braiding for Friday and Saturday, and decided to use green yarn, since we rarely get to have fun with that, as all of our braiding for appointments is boringly mane-colored. I was pretty pleased with how they turned out, and how they looked with my green coat. And Cally does look so gorgeous all braided up!
Warmup for the Open Eq, which had 34 people in it, was more than a little chaotic, which is not Cally’s thing, and frankly, not mine either. We had a couple of good fences and called it and headed down to the ring. She knows her job, and we just needed to make sure my eye was working and she was warmed up, not drilled to death. I am always perplexed by those folks needing an entire lesson in the warmup ring, because your time for homework is at home, not 3 minutes before your trip, but that’s probably a whole ‘nother post.
Cally obviously remembered how the big coliseum works and marched right down to the ring to get her toes painted and my boots wiped and go over the course one more time. I was incredibly easy, very hunter courses of single-diagonal-outside single etc rather than a particularly equitation course at all. But it was the first day, and we saw a lot of issues just in the time we were waiting to go in, because this was most horses and riders first time in that big ring. Cally, however, went in like a pro and we put in a trip I was really happy with, aside from one close fence going into the 4 stride line by the judges.
But with a class of 34, that was enough to keep us out of the ribbons, even if it was a round I was really happy with as a first go of the weekend.
Then we waited around under a cooler for what felt like forever to do the Open Flat, since they managed to schedule it in the covered at the same time all the 2’6″ fences stuff was running in the indoor. I honestly should have just skipped it, since flat eq is not our strong suit because Cally hates flat classes because they’re boring, and this had like 30 people in it. When it did eventually run, I was actually really happy with how she went–it was maybe one of our better flat classes, I think helped by the fact that they just had us trot and reverse and separated us in halves to canter, so she didn’t get to anticipate the second canter on the reverse. No ribbon, but solid performance from which we marched straight back to the coliseum to put in our M&S round.
I think our M&S round was actually our weakest all weekend–I overshot one turn at the far end of the ring and was just off the track coming in to the diagonal line and got a funky spot that left us with a crooked add down the line. Yet by virtue of number of entries (9), that ended up being the one class we pinned. I’m going to call that the compensatory pink ribbon for all the great rounds we had that went unrewarded all weekend.
Day 2 started off with more ulcerguard and hand grazing, and an opportunity to sit and watch some rounds and see how our course rode before getting ready. Where I expected things to ramp up a bit on the second day, they stayed really huntery. I mean, this is a hunter course, not an eq one.
But since it was very simple, it did give me a lot of time on course to think about my plan an execute it. Other than chipping in to the first fence of course one, we actually did a great job of going in and doing just that. The line from 5 to 6 was actually the trickiest, because while it looks bending, it actually had to be ridden straight, and that was coming right out of a short turn at the end of the ring. Cally totally nailed it both times. Our second round actually felt really fantastic, and Holly and I were both pretty sure I’d get a nice ribbon for it, since we just nailed everything. Unfortunately, we went next to last in the division, which is a tough spot to be in with 29 horses, and it really worked to our disadvantage there, as we were surprised that I didn’t place. I was starting to wish I’d done the Intermediate with Liz, which had half as many riders and the same courses, which we were more than capable of.
Saturday night was the big Costume Class. Since we were a team all mounted on OTTBs, Holly had the brilliant idea of us dressing up as racehorses and jockeys. I took care of ordering a bunch of the racing gear and the girls did their “silks” and it turned out amazing.
Liz was on Cally, since her mount was not stabling, and I figured the girls should have the fun of actually riding in the class, where as I would “ride” the bouncy horse, which was the timed portion of the class. For as sharp as our costumes looked, they were super horse-friendly and easy to ride in (duh), whereas some of them were so over the top and like local-theatre-production-level-outfits. I think it was a bit much for some of the horses to handle during the costume parade, including Cally, who was lowkey freaking out during the parade lineup. She seemed to settle OK while we were waiting our turn to go back in, but you could tell both she and the other horse on our team were just a bit rattled from the whole experience, and that they’d both prefer to be back in their stalls sleeping at 9PM, rather than cantering around in silly costumes. So not the best equine performance there, but I did set a record time on the bouncy horse of 5.3 seconds! Not enough to get us a ribbon, but my somersault off of it at the end should have gotten me something, is all I’m saying.
Sunday was the big championships. I splurged and had the pro braider do her for that, including a braided tail, so we looked super sharp.
There was a drawn order of go, and I was in the disadvantageous 3rd spot in my division, which left not a lot of time to watch how the course rode for the Intermediate riders before I had to get ready and warmed up. (There was a lot of trouble there, and I was again wishing I’d done Intermediate.) Suddenly it was definitely an Equitation course, with opportunities for inside turns and fun lines. It was our kind of course, and I was looking forward to riding it.
Cally warmed up great, we had like 4 perfect fences and I only got yelled at by Holly’s mother once, and it was for looking down at my lead not anything I did to the fence, so that seemed a good sign. I watched two rounds ahead of us, which had some issues, and knew we needed to head in and nail it. And for the most part, we really did.
She got a little confused in the turn from 3 to 4, as her eye caught on fence 8 instead and I didn’t put on enough leg soon enough to straighten her out, so that rail at 4 was counted against me, and was enough to keep us from the callback for the second round, because again, 28 people.
So while we came home with a lone pink ribbon, I feel like it was incredibly successful weekend for us, because I was able to consistently go into the ring with a plan, and execute the plan. And the few times when things didn’t go to plan, I did not get rattled, I sat up and rode and still managed to finish out strong. Cally was listening and responsive and on her game and was really having fun with that last course. It was a good end to our season, and I’m really looking forward to building on that confidence and skill to do even better next year.