We had our final show-prep on Wednesday, where it seemed like a good idea to maybe try jumping both an oxer and a line, since I’d entered the Sidesaddle Hack, where we’d have to jump a 2’6 line. And I hadn’t before. The first few times were rather awkward–it’s very hard to overcome decades of muscle memory of what you’re supposed to do at a jump, and also retrain your eye to see a distance when you’re sitting a bit farther back and higher up on the horse. But in the end it worked out, and we managed a line that felt pretty great by the end!
I was feeling pretty optimistic for Friday after that, and was darn near giddy as I got our tack and belongings all cleaned up for the show.
The weather forecast for Friday looked terrible, chances of thunderstorms, but warm, nearly 80. Which isn’t too awful until you realize you don’t get technical fabrics to show in for sidesaddle–you’re in actual wool, and wearing layers of it over other clothing, like breeches. So it’s hot. But I crossed my fingers and got us all ready, admiring the lovely professionally braided tail, and doing my own mane braids. By the time we loaded up, the rain seemed to have cleared out and there were patches of blue sky appearing. Til I got to PGEC and checked in at the office (where even the office ladies seemed very interested and excited about the sidesaddle), it was looking lovely, warm and sunny. At that point I was almost disappointed we’d be showing in the covered ring, because pictures would have been so much better in one of the outdoors!
Getting ready, I took my time, trying to make sure everything was perfect, from the grooming on the horse to my stock tie. I did take a mid-prep break to say hello to folks a couple vehicles away, who were also sidesaddle riders and had a bit of a nibbly spread with cheese and veggies and wine. But sadly no corkscrew, and it turns out the Leatherman in my truck console only has actual tools, not anything Jen-useful, like a corkscrew. After a nibble for me, and a bit of carrot for Cally, we were all Appointments-ready, snapped a few pictures, and headed over to the ring.
Cally seemed to recognize it from BEST the other week, and was totally ho-hum about the giant water truck and tractor and whatever. We didn’t do a ton of warmup, since we’d schooled at home in the morning astride, just trotted around a bit in the holding area. As we were walking a bit, the Steward came over, said I looked like I knew what I was doing (HA!) and said the judge had a question–she wasn’t sure if she was supposed to check appointments just for the first class, or for all of them. I had to explain that it was just for the first undersaddle, people could swap our whips or whatever after that. So maybe for all the fiddly rules, appointments might not be that do-or-die, since the judges and stewards don’t even know all the rules and are relying on a first-time competitor (who thankfully has at least obsessively read through the rules to make sure what I’m doing is correct). I probably could’ve made a peanut butter sandwich.
A few more ladies arrived, for a small friendly class, and there were a goodly number of spectators, too, from kids on ponies to half-dozen folks on the stands, and went into the ring for our first ever Ladies Sidesaddle Hunter class!
Needless to say, I was more than a bit nervous, and so I didn’t allow her to move on enough at the trot, but Cally was perfect, got both our leads, went right around, and lined up nicely on a loose rein for Appointments check. Which was pretty cursory, and a little disappointing after spending so much time getting everything right. I was amazed as they called the placings that for our first time out, I was 3rd in the under saddle! My goals had been to stay on and not be last, and check on both of those! I was over the moon as we came out to do a quick whip-swap, and I asked Holly to put my stirrup up, since with my dress boots, I seemed to have trouble keeping it. The soles on them are leather and super slippery, and I’ve got to figure something out, because I didn’t like the shorter stirrup length, and I don’t have the slipping problem in my field boots or paddock boots, so it’s obviously a boot issue and not a rider or stirrup issue. I suppose I could take them down to Alexandria to the guy who resoled my brown field boots, and have him resole them to something that has a tread on it. That might be the best solution.
So we went quickly back in for the Hack, not thinking about how little tolerance Cally has for a flat class. It’s even less interesting to her than Dressage, where at least she’s making shapes. Just going around the ring, she gets bored, and naughty. The first direction wasn’t too bad, and we actually had some decent canter.
The ring is hard to get photos/video though, because it’s so dark in there versus outside. I’ll be interested to see the pro photos, since she was there shooting us. Holly said she showed her a few great ones of me, so hopefully I’ll at least have something nice to buy from our debut.
Once we reversed, however, all bets were off, Cally was grumpy we were flatting and not jumping, and was just not wanting to play along. She was jiggy at the trot, and when I tried to canter around and make a circle inside to get on our own, she locked on to a fence and got mad when I pulled her off of the line, and did a series of tempi changes. Which is an interesting choice of a weapon, really, for a horse that hates dressage. But it’s a bit disconcerting in a sidesaddle, so I put my hand up, waved to the judge, and left the ring. I probably should have stayed in, because we were almost to the line-up-and-jump-a-line part of the hack, and I KNOW she would have been great and super happy about that. And while she wasn’t being particularly well-mannered, she wasn’t doing anything dangerous (if I’d been astride, I’d have probably been laughing aloud at her antics!) and we weren’t a risk to anyone else in the ring.
But we had a good first class, and now I know for next week to maybe fuss a little less between classes, maybe not even swap our gear, just keep her in the ring and moving between undersaddle and hack, try to get her to relax and take a breath before the second class starts. And that goes for me, too, a few deep breaths and relax and let her go a little more. It was a good start though, and we’re still definitely early on in the learning process of how to do well aside.
I’ll call this a very successful first outing, where we had a few issues, but also some really great moments we can build on next time out. And that next time is next week, so it’ll be pretty fresh in my mind, and I’ll remember what we need to do to improve. Though I’m not sure how I’ll improve on this feeling.