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When you go to a show with a horse, you want to be going to do something you feel (at least mostly) confident in, and know that you’re capable of doing, and doing well.  It’s never about going and coming home with a pile of ribbons.  Though I will fully admit there’s few things I love as much as coming home with a pile of fancy ribbons.  This weekend was supposed to be about a good experience at a height we’re comfortable and capable of, in a casual setting before aiming our sights on something bigger.

This weekend was emphatically not that experience, and I feel rather like I betrayed my horse with it.  We got there with plenty of time, settled in, and got ready.  She warmed up great, super relaxed, totally unphased by a show at a new place.  Cally is a total Show Pro.  We watched a few rounds from the 2’6 divisions before us and couldn’t for the life of us figure out why riders were making kind of funky, end-cutting turns, or horses looked like they were struggling.  At 2’6, which most of them should have been able to step over.

But then I went in for the undersaddle (which was weirdly running before the over fences) and understood. The ends of the ring were like sand traps. I mean, this is a still grab from one of the over fences rounds, but look how deep it is over her hind leg–she’s buried up to her fetlock.

She actually went really nicely in the undersaddle, at least down the long sides. She was obviously a bit sluggy and felt trapped in the short ends, trying to get through that, so I just tried to keep her forward, and didn’t even worry about how she went, I just wanted her to get through it. And even at that point, seeing how not great it was, I was not excited about jumping in it and was thinking about scratching our second division. We finished 6th of 6 in the undersaddle, which confused me, but OK, fine, undersaddle is not her strong suit anyway, and I was happy with how she went. We had some beautiful trot down the long sides, and even her canter was soft and round. I had no complaints.

Then we tried to warm up over a few fences they had set on the grass. The two smaller were fine, but there was no good approach to the larger fence that didn’t result in the horse slipping on the turn to the fence, and then again on the deep clover at the takeoff point. We nearly crashed through it, but got over, and came back around and just did the smaller fence twice. It was not the most confidence building moment to go into the ring with, but I at least felt assured she’d go.

We went last, after watching several struggling rounds. I got a nice forward gallop, and felt really confident going to the first fence–we had great pace, we locked on to the fence, and I saw a perfect distance. It seemed like Cally did too, but then we hit it and she sort of…stalled out, and almost jumped from a stop at the base of the fence. It felt terrible, and totally unlike her. We got the change coming away, with a little hop of displeasure in it, and came around through the deep end towards an angled fence for an outside bending line, and Cally stalled out, then ducked out. It was not the normal slo-mo slide out right maneuver she normally does if she refuses, and I was worried about that. We reapproached, and she sort of stalled out again, but jumped down the line.

The only line that felt OK was the diagonal across the center of the ring, which was a bit more solid, and rode OK. Everything else was either jumping into our out of a sandtrap, but by the end, she felt like she might be figuring out how to make that work. I came out of the ring and looked at the friend with me and just shook our heads, and conferred. She was stalling out trying to find something firm to push off from over the fence. I debated even going in for a second round, but made the decision to finish out the division at least, and see if she did a bit better in the second round, where at least I’d have an idea of how to possibly choose a bit better track to the fence, and maybe ameliorate the effects of the footing a bit. So we went in again, and it was better, but still super stall-y, and she really kept trying to add in the chip to the base to get some traction.

I feel terrible for having taken her into this ring twice to jump around in that. I didn’t need ribbons, I needed to go have some good jumping experiences that built both our confidences. And this did the opposite of that, because I asked my obviously good-hearted horse to go in and jump around in crap that could potentially injure her. She did it, bless her, but I should have realized it was a bad idea after the first course. Doing the second one did nothing for our confidence, it just made me feel bad for asking it of her when she was obviously unhappy with the going.

I scratched the other 2’9 division, and stuck around for the In-Hand, since I figured looking pretty and a brief jog wouldn’t hurt her. We went in and she was the epitome of relaxed, plump, shiny Hunter. Stood quietly, jogged and lined up where she was supposed to, and I didn’t fall down while trying to jog through sand dunes in field boots. There were some cute horses in the class, a few obviously young ones that didn’t quite know how to stand still yet but were trying to be good and obviously were just out getting experience At A Show, and a couple other nice Hunter types. And then there was the one that was trying to rear and spin, and wouldn’t come in the ring, and then, not fifteen feet in front of us, reared, sat back on the fence and cracked a rail so it ended up sitting on the ground. They were moving the rest of us in the class around to avoid proximity to this horse. I have no idea how it wasn’t dismissed from the ring after breaking the fence, but when they called us to line up, it was in THIRD. Ummm, WTF? All the rest of us in the ring were just sort of looking at each other in total confusion.

This, meanwhile, was Cally, with one of the other cute, well-behaved babies behind us.  So at least from a positive experience point of view, this ended the day for her on a good note.

I handed Cally over to Brooke as I walked out of the ring and said I was going to close my check. I’d told them when I scratched out of the over fences stuff that it was because of the footing, but I wasn’t even sure how to express my confusion at the judging of the In-Hand, in allowing a dangerous horse to continue in the ring with what were obviously a bunch of amateurs and juniors. So I just signed my check and packed us up.

Cally got a lot of Twizzlers as we were packing up, and got a little bute with dinner. I’m heading out soon, and crossing my fingers she feels no worse for the wear. I’d originally hoped to do a sidesaddle day today, but I think it may just need to be a brain-refreshing hack around in the fields. After what felt like a disaster of confidence destruction this weekend, we’re going to go with the barn to McDonough next weekend, and hopefully regain it on good footing.

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