After a week of really solid prep that included a confidence-building sidesaddle lesson with Holly on Monday where I learned that I could indeed chip into a little line and not die a horrible flailing death, and realizing that my happy spot at the canter is a bit of a “half-seat” resting more forward on my right upper thigh, on Friday we were off to the Loudoun Benefit Horse Show. It checked off a big Bucket List item of mine, which was showing at the Upperville horse show grounds, which is a lovely, historic, old showgrounds just outside Middleburg, shaded with oak trees and old wooden grandstands. While we weren’t doing The Upperville Horse Show, it was at the same showgrounds, and no less fancy. Just walking Cally around there felt like an accomplishment.
Cally was along with her BFF Sophie, so they were totally content hanging out at the trailer together. Trying to separate them for handwalking/schooling was a bit of a nightmare, as they were both carrying on and screaming for one another. And that’s pretty much the one thing that drives me absolutely bonkers. But once they were reunited, they were good to get all gussied up and head to the ring.
Sadly, due to a very full schedule, we got moved from the Main Hunter Ring, to Hunter 2. Which is still nice and has pretty trees and ambiance. Cally warmed up great, didn’t seem at all phased by the random trees in the warmup ring, and she’s been out and about enough that something would have to be Really Out of The Ordinary for it to phase her anyway. I was happy to see that they’d torn down the jumps in the ring for our undersaddle and hack, so there weren’t a lot of distracting jumps for Cally to get focused on.
We went in for the undersaddle, I took a deep breath, and just tried to enjoy being there. It was a really competitive division, with the horse that just won Upperville the week prior, the two top horses in the zone, a horse that just won a bunch of primary colors at Devon, someone who’s a multi-time national champion, and…us. I knew we weren’t going to win, I was just happy to be there and showing. So I went in and tried to let her go forward and enjoy it. And it worked for our first direction around the ring. I think we had maybe our best trot aside so far, very nicely forward and I almost felt OK with it. Then we changed directions and Cally got bored and anticipatory and we had a really terrible trot transition right in front of the judge. But oh, the canters, those were just fantastic both ways, and I couldn’t have been happier. I didn’t even care that we were 7th. Both because I actually like purple ribbons, and because I was just happy with her for overall being quite good.
Then it was time for the Hack. This class involves jumping a 2’6″ line, something that I have opted out of doing thus far at the three prior shows we’ve done Sidesaddle at. Because I was nervous and the horse was acting not perfect, and it had become, to me, Something Scary. I still don’t feel as comfortable jumping as I do on the flat, my eye to the fences feels a little off in the sidesaddle, and since it had gone on several times now, I’d sort of psyched myself out about it. So this time I lined up at the bottom of the lineup after we flatted around–which went pretty well, with a bit of a tense trot but some nice canter–and tried to find my zen.
The best part about sidesaddle is how wonderfully welcoming and encouraging everyone in the division has been, and there was plenty of cheering me on as I had to circle Cally out of lineup and we cantered off. I asked for forward, and she gave it to me to the point I actually needed a slight half-halt because she was willing to really hand-gallop, and I felt good coming out of the corner to the line. It was a very friendly 5 stride birch rail line, vertical to oxer. We found a pretty good spot to the vertical, and it only felt a bit wobbly to me, and we landed a bit left, which actually ended up being good, because I focused right as we went down to the oxer and actually felt pretty balanced in the air.
Then we landed and I yelled “Oh my God, we did it!” so loudly that I’m pretty sure everyone on the showgrounds heard me. So maybe not the ladylike epitome of a sidesaddle rider we were going for, but we did get a good cheer from everyone ringside for our effort! Someone told me after that if they were judging I’d have gotten the blue ribbon just for that!
Unfortunately not, our tense trotwork in the flat portion had cost us, and we ended up 7th again. But this was a case were the ribbon color didn’t matter at all–it was more about what that ribbon represented, and it represented me conquering all the little worried voices in my head, putting my (one) leg on, and going for it. And we did it!
And thanks to the wonderful Olivia from HelloMyLivia, who came to cheer us on and marvel at the spectacle, we got a picture of us with our fancy Loudoun ribbons!
The support team for Sophie did get video, so I’m hoping that soon I’ll have a bit of video of our jumping effort to share, and there was a pro photographer shooting our ring as well, so unless I look really ridiculous, I’m hoping there’s a really nice picture to come as proof of me conquering myself!
And on that super confidence building note, we’re gearing up for Ride For Life, where we’ll be doing Training 1 and Training 2 aside! The young lady who showed Cally the other weekend is coming along to groom for me (read: hold a water bottle and video), so there should be a fun update next week after we tackle our first rated Dressage show aside!