On Sunday, put on my big girl panties and hauled around the Beltway (easily my least favorite thing to do ever, it makes me want to vomit) to go show at WBTA. I hadn’t shown there before, and the scheduling of my ring was a bit dependent on what time their leadline/short stirrup ring finished, because that judge then comes over to judge the big ring we’d be going in. So I got there early just to be safe (and avoid traffic on the Beltway). I checked in, got the lay of the land, and had a look at our ring and our courses. The leadline kids were just starting as I headed back to the truck, so I figured I had at least an hour, maybe hour and a half, since the Adults were to be the third division in that ring, after the Schoolings and the Take2TBs.
I did my best to kill time, puttered around on the phone, fiddled with my hair, puttered some more on the phone, made sure things were laid out just so, in preparation for tacking up, then I unloaded Cally, and commenced with our usual Horse Show Prep. There’s been a lot of news about “prep” for show horses lately, much of it really horrifying (truly, follow that link, and the link it contains to USEF hearing transcripts, I’ll wait here for you….eye-opening and terrible, right?). Cally, for all that she can be a little sassy and opinionated at times, is exactly the same at shows as she is at home; I’d venture to say actually a little better, because she’s one who seems to know she’s at a show, and really turns it on when it counts. I admit I tried Perfect Prep like, twice with her, in our first season of really getting out and about after I got my trailer, at little local shows in adult pleasure or whatever. If anything, it made her sassier, because she tried to fight off whatever it might be making her feel. I just had to learn to ride her, and figure out how to let her settle in to a show.
So Cally’s Prep? It consists of unloading, taking off her shipping wraps, and going for a hand walk around the show grounds. Which we did, and she surveyed her new domain, decided all was well, and we moseyed back to the trailer. There were kids jumping crossrails as we were walking, so I figured surely we should be getting ourselves ready, so I tacked up and headed over, only to find that nope, not even close to our ring starting. Back to the trailer we went, and I left her saddle on but took her bridle off, and she proceeded to doze off, using her haynet as a nose rest.
Yeah, totally needs nine tubes of calmer, that one. Eventually I heard they needed someone else to fill the Take2 TB hunters, and we were just sitting around, so I figured what the hell, I have first-rounditis anyway, I’ll go be filler and jump around for warmup and get our bobbles out there. Someone else also offered to fill (best thing about this area–no shortage of awesome, talented TBs at the shows!). Our ring prep? We walked to the warmup ring, trotted half a dozen times around, cantered once one way, once the other, and jumped a 2’3 vertical and a 2’6″ oxer and walked to the ring.
Our problems in the first round were my problems. I did not pay enough attention to the course map and had no idea what the number of strides were supposed to be in the lines once we got in the ring (I did the mental math as I was looking at the chart, but as I had to do math, once I started thinking about one, I’d lost the prior one, and til I walked in the gate, well…), and sort of underrode, so we got in weak to the bending line, and had a bad track, and horrible distance, and she said NO. It was polite, but emphatic, and we circled, came around with more pace and found a decent spot, and the rest of the course was great, including getting a lead change I had to ask for! It was a smidge later in the turn than is ideal, but we got it! So I’m going to call that a win for that goal, anyway. Second round, knowing I underrode in the lines, I did the opposite and overcompensated with too much gallop, getting a really awful chip in the 5 that I tried to make a 4, and Cally totally bailed me out on it when she’d have had every right to dump me on my head in the jump filler. I asked for a hair less, and the last two lines on the course felt great. So we got there, on our own! Which felt good, because while I know our rounds would have been better from the get-go if Holly had been there to make me have a better plan in my head, I did learn from our mistakes and figure out what I needed to do to fix them, and we ended stronger than we started, and did I mention WE GOT OUR CHANGES?! I collected my 4ths, and headed back to the trailer so we could both have a little breather and a drink while a few of the junior medals ran.
I had a better plan as we went back for the combined Child/Adults. I knew the striding we needed, and I needed to allow the forward, not manufacture it. We went in for our first round, and it felt stronger than our first TB round, but once again we had trouble with the bending–I think she spooked at the shadow from the arena lighting on the water puddle along the ringside, and we got all discombobulated and to an awful spot out. But the rest of the round was good, we even landed our leads, and I was smiling by the time we finished, because it was feeling so much better than where we started the day. Our second round was even better, but Cally was getting tired because it was warm and she’s not clipped yet (because OMG will she ever grow her winter coat in?!?!), and we had a beautiful gallop to the single oxer and got to kind of the jumper distance, a little deeper than hunter ideal, and she just didn’t get her legs up quickly enough and had the front rail down. But the rest of the course was seriously flawless and I really wish I’d had someone there to video for me.
We caught our breath waiting for the hack, and I tried to keep planning ahead. I was a little worried, because due to the heat, she was sounding rather roar-y, and the judge was a well-known, old-school, well-respected R. So I made sure to get into the ring first for the hack, and spend our time in the ring doing one thing I knew would get her to relax and be soft, and hopefully not as noisy, because she’s more roary when she’s tense–a bunch of walk to sitting trot transitions, and just got her really soft and round. And wow, that was maybe the nicest she’s ever gone in the hack. I nearly fell off when they announced we were second! And we finished with two 3rds over fences, which totally felt like wins for the progress they represent for the year–when I have a plan, and actually ride well, we can put in quite nice trips.
I just need to put my brain cells together and not stop thinking when I go into the show ring. Because sometimes it really feels like my brain goes into screensaver mode and is just swirling pictures of Rox Dene and Strapless around in my head, and oops, there went the distance to 5, you know? We’re both better than that, so it was nice to actually feel things start to come together over the course of the day, as I started to remember what I’ve learned this year. That, more than any ribbon, feels like a very big win.