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Saturday was the 11th Annual PVDA Ride For Life.  After having a lovely day at the 10th Annual R4L as a volunteer ring steward, I decided to make it one of my 2014 goals to show there.  And so with great excitement I navigated the online entry, and woke up at o’dark thirty to bathe and braid and hook up the trailer.  Though I drive on the Beltway on a near-daily basis, the idea of hauling a trailer around it terrified me, so I opted to go a longer way that avoided all that mess; it ended up being just as trafficy and full of stoplights, so I’m not really sure it was a win.  But we got there, got to park in a lovely park-like setting, and I toddled off to text WBBF about where I was parked, and drop off my Rider Pledge Donations and check in.

We warmed up nicely, and were looking sharp.  The classes were big, so I wasn’t worried about ribbons, just going in and getting the best score we could.  The way she was feeling in warmup left me feeling nicely confident about how she’d do.

Warming up nicely and looking sharp!

Then we were up for Training 1.  I headed around the ring, and as I have always done, cheerily said “Good afternoon, number ###” as I went past the judges box.  Rather than the usual variant of “Hi, thanks,” I hear “Technically, it’s still morning.”  Well, then.  I should have known before the bell rang how those tests were going to go, but I am apparently ever the optimist and thought that aside from the Error we got when I forgot where the stretchy trot circle was supposed to go, that the test felt very nice.  It wasn’t the second coming of Valegro or anything, but it was steady, it was consistent, it was relaxed, and it even had a little bit of round!  I was very happy with her.

So we had a bit of a break where I let her go hang out on the trailer away from the bugs, and we went to grab lunch and watch a barnmate’s freestyle.  She does it to Michael Jackson, and it’s a lot of fun to watch.  Til that was done, the scores were up.  53?  It wasn’t fancy, but it didn’t feel that tragic.  Certainly not as “hollow” and “resistant” as the comments indicated.

We headed back the the trailer and got dressed up for our other two tests.  Unfortunately, whatever good vibes we had going for us earlier had been used up, it was time for Tense Angry Mare to make an appearance.  Maybe she was offended, too? (I actually think it was a mix of the bugs, which she HATES, and the fact that she was expecting to go jump things, because she’s used to doing her one test, then getting to do the fun stuff.)  So I knew going in it wasn’t going to feel good, and actually left the ring in tears it felt so tense and awful.  I took a few minutes back at the trailer to regroup and ponder just scratching the last test, but figured I’d already spent the money, and it couldn’t possibly get any worse, so we might as well go show.

Test 3 was in a different ring, and I think she liked the feel of it better, because while she was still tense warming up, we got a little bit of relaxation as we were going around to start.  And the judge was friendly when I said hello and gave my number, which I’m now going to be a little scared to do.  It still wasn’t a great test, but it felt worlds less resistant and at least forward rather than stuck behind my leg.

Are we done with this dressage thing yet?

When the scores came back for the last two, I was astonished and confused to see that Test 2 had actually gotten a 53.9, despite feeling so much more terrible.  I’m at a loss to explain that one, because while I can’t always tell how we’ll finish numerically, I can tell a good test from a bad one, and wouldn’t have been at all surprised to get a 53.9 on that tense, sticky nightmare.  So how was it better than the first one?  I’m at a complete loss.  The last test only got a 50.8, but at that point, I was happy just to get through it without her blowing up.  I’ll take “running” in the actually forward canter rather than sticky, and I’ve learned what battles to fight when with her.

By that point, I was pretty done, and despite crying most of the way back to the barn, actually managed to navigate the Beltway to get there without much problem; it was mostly a matter of just getting in the lane and staying there.  I’m reevaluating our plans for the year on the dressage front, because obviously we’re not getting our Rider Awards now, as my budget does not allow for two more rated shows.  So I think it’s looking like a schooling show for us in August, to hopefully get better scores that will leave us near the bottom of the Year-End qualifiers.

Sunday I got to scribe for the dressage portion of the CT going on at my barn.  It was incredibly educational to sit and listen to my trainer’s comments on each rider, and get to see what she was looking for at the different levels.  There was a lot of really nice riding there, too.  Part of me wishes I’d just saved my money and shown there, using the CT to move up and try Novice.

Just to get us back in the ring, I think, weather-permitting, we’re going to head to a little local h/j schooling night tomorrow.  We’ll just go jump around a few times, and remember why showing is fun.  (I think the secret may be that it usually involves jumping, which she is awesome at.)

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