After a week of getting cleaned up and getting ready, Saturday I finished up all the little last minute preps for our big VADA show at Morven on Sunday.  Since our first ride was pretty early (8:59), I decided I’d do somethin gI hadn’t done before, and braid the day before, when I was a) awake and b) could feel my fingers.  To facilitate, I bought one of those slinky hoods; I wasn’t sure how well it would work, or what Cally would think of it, but she didn’t seem phased when I tried it on, so I took her to the wash stall, hot toweled her, wet down her mane, cleaned her socks, and began the process of braiding.  Everyone says the rubber banded dressage braids are “faster” than hunter braids, but on a per-braid basis, I don’t really think that’s true; it took me about as long for each braid as it did with a normal hunter braid, it’s just that you do WAY LESS of them.  She ended up looking quite pretty, so I hooded her up and appreciated the look of embarrassment on her face.

WBBF suggested I incorporate the superhero hood into her show attire; I told I’m I think we might have to find a Halloween show with a costume class and make that happen!  I then wrapped her hind legs, to keep them clean and from getting puffy, and tucked her in for the night, and crossed my fingers that the hood wouldn’t freak her out in the middle of the night, or get caught on something, or whatever.

When I rolled out to the barn at 5:30AM, she was contentedly munching on her breakfast, which Carolyn had given to her, knowing I was heading out early.  I went to hook up the truck, and came back down to find her finished, and wondering what the day held.  I crossed my fingers and pulled off the hood to find that the braids had held quite well, and as Sheri said, it had helped smooth down all the bits of winter fluffiness around her mane and forelock.  A total thumbs up on the Jammies, and something I’ll be making use of in the future!

So by 6:30AM, we were rolling down the road to Leesburg, and I was appreciating that it was a holiday weekend morning, as there was zero traffic.  That was extra good, because I had to haul on the highway, and I hate that.  I arrived in good time, with minimal stress to me, and tried to follow the signs to day parking.  It wasn’t well signed, just a left arrow by the indoor ring, so I followed the road to the left, and parked up on the hill.  No one else was there yet, so I figured I was good, and headed to the office to get my number, and was assured that where I parked was fine.  I headed down to check out the location of my ring (#3) and the warmup area, then headed back to the trailer to get things set up and ready to go.  As I passed by the indoor, I noticed a few other trailers had arrived, and apparently the parking was actually just down on the gravel by the indoor.  Ooops, well, they said I was fine, so I didn’t move, and spent the day up on the hill myself.  Not too bad, as we had a nice view, even if it was windy.

I unloaded Cally, who promptly looked around, went “Hey, cool, grass!” and settled in.  I dressed, and tacked her up, and headed down to warm up.  I did a lot of work just trying to get her to give and flex to whatever side I was asking her to, and worked on some spirals and serpentines.  She was feeling pretty good, if not the most forward she ever has.  We were 3rd into the ring, and I thought we were feeling good until I asked for the canter between A and F; she stepped into it, and then stepped on herself, and swapped off behind, so I had to drop back to a trot to fix it.  Bummer #1.  Then we actually had a pretty decent transition down from canter to trot to walk, and I began our freewalk across the diagonal to E.  Except the whistle blew, and I found out that I’d mis-learned the test, and I was supposed to medium walk from C to B, then freewalk to F.  Bummer #2, because she actually did a quite nice freewalk!  The second half of the test felt like it went well, and we almost ended on a good note, as she stopped well, but I dropped my right rein when I tried to put them in both hands to salute, so she didn’t stay halted quite as long as she should have.  Ugh, that was sort of the One To Get Out of the Way For the Year.  But to focus on the positives, our down transitions from canter to trot felt good, and she’d been pretty through and round, and our second canter circle had been quite solid.

Then we had a ridiculous wait around, all alone, while we waited until our next test at 1:21.  I put Cally back on the trailer with a sheet on, out of the wind and with her hay.  I hid in the truck, and poked around on my phone.  Around 10, I heard them announce our class results, and was delighted to hear we’d finished 3rd!  I gave Cally a congratulatory pat, and headed over to the office to collect our prize.  The comments on the test were about what I expected, with the main thing other than my bobbles being our issue with a steady connection.  We’re working on that, and once we get it, we’ll be golden.  Cally is golden already, though.

We waited around what seemed like forever, and I finally pulled her back off the trailer about 12:15.  I figured we were both bored, she was stamping around, and so I let her hand graze a bit, then got ready, and got on and walked around a bit, to loosen her back up.  I think that might have been a bit of a mistake, because Morven also hosts steeplechases and events, and she saw that space, and was, I think, excited that we were going to go have some fun.  Except we weren’t; we headed back down to dressage warmup, and I could feel her get a little grumpy about that.  I just could not get her to relax in warmup; she was listening, and doing what I asked, but there wasn’t any softness to it.  I wasn’t sure what that meant for us heading into the ring.

Training 2 actually felt better to me, in that we felt much more accurate, and I felt like I was sitting up and riding better, and we were more consistent in our work.  We even had actual stretchy trot!  Probably the best I’ve ever gotten from her in the show ring, and I was pretty happy that we had some really good moments, ending on the note I wanted to for the day.  However, as I found out when I went to get the test, the lack of relaxation killed us; our score was actually slightly worse on the second test.  (And I got dinged on reins being too long on the stretchy circle…aren’t they supposed to be long?  So the horse can stretch?)  But it was still good enough to finish with a 6th, so we came home with two pretty ribbons (in Hollins colors!) to add to her stall door to start the season with.

It wasn’t the best debut of the year, but it was pretty solid, and most of our problems were things I can work on.  Though I’m not sure how to work on stretching without longer reins, but maybe I’ll just have to say “whatever” on that one, and do what I need to do to get my horse to actually stretch out.  Sometimes its about riding the horse you’re on, not the horse your judge wishes you were on!  And I love the horse I’m on an awful lot 🙂