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The week started off great.  Cally was feeling good, and we had a great flat school Monday in actual dressage tack, then a bit of a sidesaddle fun ride on Wednesday, both in preparation for doing a local dressage show aside, as warmup for our recognized PVDA show on September 3rd.

Even though this was a dressage show prep, I’m really making a concerted effort to go over a jump or two every time I ride aside, to keep myself comfortable with it.  I feel pretty confident on the flat in the sidesaddle, but we’re getting stronger jumping, too.

Then Friday we did a really great lesson, with me on Cally and Liz on Sophie.  The two mares were rock stars.  We started off with some flatwork out of the ring in a little hilly area, to both build strength and get them working well on the flat.  Cally was not happy once she realized that this wasn’t fun field work, but actual flatwork, but she felt really good.

Then we went into the ring to do some jumping, and she brightened right up. Maybe a little too much, because she’s also just had a three week course of Pentosan after not being on it for a while, and wheeeee someone was feeling good!  Once we got jumping she channeled all that energy into good, and was jumping like a pro.

So I was feeling very optimistic, especially after our near-perfect ride times were posted–11:30ish, early enough not too be too hot, but late enough not to necessitate waking up before the sun.  I headed out to the barn on Saturday mid-day, and took Daisy A. Dog along with me, figuring I wasn’t going to ride much, just loosen Cally up a bit, then get stuff packed.  Daisy thinks the barn is doggie Disneyland, even though she’s not a big fan of the horses–they are too big in her mind.  No one was around, and the horses were in, so I let Daisy off-leash and she followed me back and forth, from my truck to Holly’s trailer, to my car to the barn, as I packed things up.  Then I pulled Cally out, brushed her off quickly, and tacked up.  I didn’t pick her feet, or I would have noticed, before walking down the barn aisle and hearing the distinctive clip-clonk, that a shoe was missing.  Bell boot still on, foot in great shape, like someone had just disapparated it off her foot.

I texted Holly, who was off at a family gathering (side note: I feel so bad for professionals who are basically on call 24/7 for this kind of stuff, and I really do hate to bug someone when I know they’re on family time, but by the same token, if I wasn’t going to be showing the next day, the trainer/transportation should know), and headed out to the field, Daisy following along, to try to find the missing shoe.  I believe Daisy had the most fun any living being has ever had while looking for a missing horseshoe.

By the time I gave up shoe hunting as futile, Holly got in touch with both Cally’s normal farrier and another who works at our barn, and let me know someone would be out Monday to get a shoe back on her.  In the meantime, I was welcome to try her EasyBoot on Cally and see how she did, and also offered another alternative: ride Sophie!

Sophie is totally my kind of ride, a TB mare who is forward and fun, and also does a mix of sidesaddle and eq and jumper stuff.  But I’d ridden her once, in April.  But we got along well, and since sadly the EasyBoot didn’t fit, it looked like I’d be touching base with the show about swapping my mount, and doing my rides in regular dressage tack, on a horse I’d ridden once.  Definitely also a challenge, but in a totally different way than I’d planned!

I got to the barn a bit earlier than I’d originally planned to on Sunday morning, and hopped on Sophie quickly in my jump saddle, and just did a quick walk-trot-canter to make sure I had at least a vague feeling for where all the buttons were and the sensitivity level I was working with.  Things felt pretty good, but I knew that my challenge would be that rather than getting all Angry Giraffe when tense like Cally, Sophie goes the other way and Curls.  So I knew I’d have to work to keep her from getting behind the bit and my leg in what I knew was a spooky indoor.

Sophie and her friend Toppy, Holly’s project pony who was coming to do two Intro tests with Liz and get her first ever indoor arena experience, loaded up and we headed around the corner to the show.  It’s got a big grass outdoor dressage ring I wish we’d shown in, because it’s so pretty, but we warmed up well, and holy cow, was riding Sophie in the dressage saddle comfortable!  Her canter really just encourages you to sit and open your hip right up like you should, and Holly’s advice to “be like Charlotte!” felt totally plausible riding that canter.  So I felt pretty good as we headed over to get a look in the indoor during the break before my ride.

Indoor was a little dark and spooky, and Sophie felt a little sticky/looky at spots, but nothing bad.  We had a while to warm up, and also enjoy Toppy’s fascination with her reflection in the arena mirrors, which was the most adorable thing ever.  Then the ring was cleared out, and it was our turn for Training 1.  I have video, but it’s unwatchably dark.  It was probably not my best-ever test, as we got a little stuck behind the bit a few times, and I made an Error and freewalked H to B, then medium walked to F.  Instead, I was supposed to medium walk H to E, then freewalk to F.  Ooops.  Also not the first time I’ve made this mistake–I did it at the spring show at Morven last year too.  Training 1 was a big class, so with that error I figured we were out of the ribbons there.  But overall, I was pleased to get around solidly on a horse I’d ridden once before, and felt pretty good doing it!

Then we went in for Training 2. That test felt so much better, and we had maybe the best stretchy trot circle I’ve ever done. Sophie loves a stretchy trot circle.  And it just felt so much more consistent than the first test.  I was thrilled with that as a note to end on, and was thoroughly impressed by Sophie’s stepping up to the plate in possibly her first-ever dressage show!

We left not knowing how we did, because the divisions weren’t running in any kind of order, and the last person in T2 wasn’t going til late afternoon. Not wanting to wait around all day, given that we managed to go home, bathe, unpack, clean the trailer, clean tack, and sit around a bit, all with over an hour til the divisions would finish up, I just headed home. Holly went over this morning to find out our results, and they were even better than expected!

We finished 5th in T1, even with our error, and won our T2 class!  And Toppy won both her classes!  So overall a fabulous outing for all of us.  And a good lesson in the value of being able to get on a variety of horses and get along with them, because you never know when being able to do that is going to come in handy.

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