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Saturday was our second MSA show of the year, and the 3rd of the required B/C shows we needed to qualify for the USHJA Stirrup Cup awards.  I wasn’t so much worried about riding in it, because my lesson Friday left me feeling confident, and I was so excited to actually get to have a coach along at ringside to smack me upside the head and tell me to actually RIDE.  But I was worried because entries were very low–the online stats were showing me as the only person entered in any of the rated hunter divisions.  The Ariat Medal would run with one, but the AAs wouldn’t count unless there were three.  I crossed my fingers and loaded my trailer.

I got there to find that I’d be starting off their day with my Ariat Adult Medal round, but it was still up in there air whether we’d get people to run my hunter class.  Sad day indeed when there aren’t even enough to fill the 3′ hunters in any capacity.  We did some scrambling to find anyone else willing to fill, and consulted with the Steward to see exactly what constituted filling–if we just needed them in the first class, etc., and the ruling was that it was the number of people who jumped the first fence in the first class.  Well, OK, then.  The girl who’d showed up to do the 3’3 juniors offered to fill the O/F as a warmup for her doing two schooling rounds at the higher height.  We ended up finding someone Holly knew that had a gorgeous little Appy who wasn’t showing until the next day that I could pay to hop over one fence on, to fill the class.  I breathed a sigh of relief, tried to put out of my mind having to jump random horse, and went in to do my Ariat round.

It’s a good thing it was a class of one, because it was not my best riding.  I knew where I was going, but did not do a great job of getting there, riding backwards, not sending her forward enough down the lines, being so worried about the 2 stride in-and-out that I actually somehow managed to get 3 in there.  It was not fantastic, but we got around, and as a test, had to go right back into the ring and canter straight to the first fence, roll back to fence 2, halt, then trot to the gate with not stirrups.  Yeah, managed to boff that one pretty terribly, too, by thinking we were leaving a stride earlier than we should for fence 1, and while I hung on her neck in a precariously monkey-like fashion, Cally totally saved my butt and went anyway.  The second fence/halt/trot wasn’t too bad, but Holly looked a little like she might want to sink into the ground after I came out.  But, class of one, we got our blue ribbon and qualified for MidAtlantic Equitation Festival.  Now I just need to ride better before then.

Winner Winner! (By default)

Then they had to move the in-and-out back out to a 5 stride for the hunter rounds, so we puttered around, wondered where the other horse was that was supposed to be going, and discussed strategy.  When I rode forward, the horse went great, we hit our spots, and made the step look easy. So I was made to repeat my game plan, of where we were going and how we were going to gallop down the lines, nice and forward, no picking. Just what I need a coach for–to smack me upside the head with the obvious and tell me to ride the way I know I can. And we went in and put in two trips like this.

I was so stunned I was near tears coming out of the ring, totally thrilled with how great our rounds felt. Then I handed Cally off to a barnmate and hopped on random horse to go pop over a few fences. Appy was very round and had a much shorter neck than Cally, such that I was slightly worried I might go arse over teakettle, as they say. But we jumped to warmup fences, then went to the ring, where we picked up a nice forward gallop and jumped the first fence in what actually felt like fantastic fashion. I pulled up, circled, and left the ring to thank the young rider profusely for the use of her absolutely awesome Appy. I watched the other rider do her jump rounds, and thought it might be close. She wasn’t hacking, so as they were putting fences up, we wandered into the ring on our own. I should just have said forget it, it’s not worth hacking one horse.

But we went around, put in our walk-trot-canter, and I saw the judge talking to the steward, and the steward talking to Holly. And after we did our WTC to the right, after pulling back up to a walk, rather than being told to line up, I heard “you’re excused.” Huh? Apparently the judge noticed Cally’s roaring during the flatting.

Now, I know she roars. She’s been scoped, I’ve talked to vets, including at Morven, and since the actual paralysis isn’t so bad, I was told that unless I was aiming her for more racing, upper level eventing, or high level jumpers, that there wasn’t enough obstruction to outweigh the complications of tieback surgery (which isn’t always a permanent fix) or laser removal (which is permanent, but has a long recovery time and a lot of life-long complications, like increased choke risk, that have to be managed).  So we’ve been competing for six years, in everything from dressage to eventing to hunters, eq, and jumpers, and never had a judge say anything to us, despite it being one of those “technically unsound but penalized at the judge’s discretion” sort of things.  For the first time, we were Eliminated for it.  And not just from the flat where she noticed it, but from the whole division.

I was heartbroken.  Cally put in amazing trips that would have put us in the ribbons at most shows, and I was really proud of her.  I tried to put it behind me and be proud of her, and myself, and know that one judge’s ruling obviously wasn’t the case for all of them, because we’ve shown in front of plenty with no problems at all.  I’ll just have to not show in front of that one again.

I’ve done some poking around in the Rule Book this morning (I went straight from Horse Show to Boat, which was AMAZING, but hadn’t had a chance to look earlier) and am only more confused by the ruling.  The Eq rules say that unsoundness isn’t to count unless it impacts performance.  So it shouldn’t affect us there, because she shows no sighs of distress or inability to do her job.  The Hunter rules say “serviceably sound” is required.  The General Rules mention “broken wind” as unsoundness, but there’s no definition of the term, and it seems in other sources to be used only in reference to COPD, which is entirely different than roaring.  But how is the judge to know that?  Eventing folks don’t seem to count it the same, and won’t DQ you for it, because I’ve been on the jump judge end of the radio, where a heads up is given that a horse is a roarer, don’t be troubled if they’re noisy going past.  And GR rules should treat it the same there as they do in Hunters.  Which I guess leads back to the having to continue to take my chances, knowing she can go great, but also can be totally knocked out of the competition.  One out of 60+ shows is odds I’m willing to take.