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After shows that ended up not happening due to divisions not filling or an EHV scare, finally, finally we got to go show in Our Division, Ladies Sidesaddle Hunter.  We’d done a couple of pleasure classes and a dressage class aside, so I figured we’d be good to go.  Perhaps, just perhaps, I should have done our Monday lesson sidesaddle, or at least jumped a line or something.  But I was feeling pretty good, other than pondering my driving options.

Because sidesaddle at Rose Mount runs on a Wednesday, which is just super awkward from both a needing-a-random-weekday-off-work perspective, and from a traffic perspective.  It is about an hour south of DC, and I’m about 30 minutes east of DC.  Which means one major thing stands between us: The Beltway.  I decided I’d try to avoid it, and take the somewhat longer route down the MD side of the Potomac, and come in from the east.  Which seemed like a fine idea as I loaded up my questionably braided horse–the mane looked totally fine, but her tail looked like it had been done by a 4Her doing their first braiding project–and headed out on a beautiful spring morning.

All went well until we got to the bridge across the Potomac, which was both a toll bridge at a ridiculous $18 for my 4-axle rig.  Eeek, there goes any show spending money except for lunch!  And it’s a two-lane bridge.  With one lane closed for construction.  So we sat and sat, and I could feel her getting fussy in the trailer, which she’s normally quite good about.  Then the bridge was super scary to drive across with a trailer, pretty narrow, so I don’t think we’ll be going that route again for anything.  Eventually we got near where we were going, and I could see the showgrounds on the other side of the highway as we went past, Siri sending my on by and making a left farther down, so I assumed it was sending me into the property from the other side.  NOPE.  I ended up going through downtown Spotsylvania Courthouse with my trailer, directed to basically the local elementary school.  Um, no, this won’t work at all.  I ended up calling the show office, and turns out I’m not the only person that morning who was led astray by GPS, and eventually got back to the highway, made a right, and ended up on the showgrounds.  Possibly via the wrong entrance, but I got in there.  I thought I spotted a familiar face as I was making my way cautiously through what I was feeling sure was the Wrong Way In, but ended up parked on a gorgeous grassy hill overlooking both rings.

The office staff were super friendly when I went to check in, happy I’d managed to get there despite getting lost and being very kind about the fact that my Horseshowsonline entries had my old address on them, and everything go straightened out and orderly, and I was told sidesaddle was not before 3, so I had about 3 hours to relax, eat, and get ready.  Perfect!

Then as I was heading back past Ring 2, I heard the announcement of the horse on course, and sure enough, that possibly familiar face as I’d driven in was who I thought it was–the barn manager from my alma mater, the fabulous Hollins University.  Big pluggity plug plug for them, their wonderful academics and abroad programs, and the immensely educational riding program.  If you/your friends/barnmates/kids are college hunting, check them out.  I said hello, got a big hug, and chatted with her while watching her guy’s two nice trips in the 3′ division.

Since I had time, I actually got lunch, and sat on the beautiful hill by the trailer, and watched the other divisions going in the rings.  It was such a lovely, laid back place, definitely very Old Virginia Horse Show, in the very best way possible.  Adjacent rings surrounded by trees, grassy areas to warm up in addition to the schooling rings, friendly management, and so scenic.  I offloaded Cally to do some hand grazing while we waited, and had decided I was already coming back next year, before we even headed in to the ring.  It just had one of those vibes that makes you feel like it’s an enjoyable place.

We managed to luck out while hand grazing, as I noticed a fellow competitor having her horse braided, and managed to jog over to the braider and ask if she had time to possibly fix (er, totally rebraid!) a tail.  Yes, hallelujah!  So I did what I always do and paid a competent professional to do the tail for me, and it looked world’s better.

Took our time getting ready and tacked up, and then took advantage of the beautiful grassy hill to do some warming up out there.  Since Cally’s been in season, which for her isn’t so much mareishness as a tight back, I decided to dispense with a lot of trotting (also, in a sidesaddle, so trotting less than awesome) and just did a bit of walking then did some big happy canter circles out there.  Honestly, I had to restrain myself because it felt so perfect to be cantering aside out on a big buttercuppy grassy sunny hillside that I’d have just done that all day and worn out the horse.  So we did a couple big circles, then headed back over to the trailers to check on everyone else’s readiness status, and headed over to the show ring.

Then because Horse Show, we waited a while as the 2’6 division before us finished up.  They gave us some time to hack around in the ring first, and even told us which line we’d be jumping and offered us the chance to jump it.  I did not want to revv her up too much, since she was nicely in sunshine nap mode, and did not jump the line.  In retrospect, this was probably my biggest mistake of the day.

I thought our first class went really well, as she flatted really nicely for her.  It was a class with several horses who are consistently top finishers in the undersaddle, so I knew even if she went her best we weren’t winning, because she’s not that fancy of a mover, but for her, she did her best.  I was really happy with her, and we ended up 4th, which was fine by me, as I was just happy with my horse.  One of the other competitors kindly let me put my hunt whip and ribbon in her ringside bucket, and we headed back in to the ring for the hack, walking around on a loose rein while everyone else was swapping tack and getting set.  Since Cally jumps in a pelham anyway, we just keep the same bridle for everything, and it makes life easier.  Til the flat portion of the hack started, she was feeling very relaxed and swingy, and the judge seemed to like a classic loopy-reined hunter, so I decided to let the reins out a little and see what happened.  I knew  weren’t the winner anyway, so I figured I had nothing to loose if she got a little silly.  Turns out she stretched right down in some of the nicest hack work she’s ever done, going on a slightly loopy rein at both the trot and canter, and me grinning like a fool the whole time, so happy that even if we didn’t pin at all I’d have been over the moon at how she was going.

When we lined up to hack, I ended up going second.  I’d been watching people jump the line all day, a nice outside six vertical to oxer, and it should have been very simple.  Except Cally was a little surprised by it when we came out of the corner to it, and looked hard the stride before takeoff, and I also looked down, since when given the choice of what to do I always do the wrong thing, and we got over in sort of a crookedy heap, drifting left.  I managed to salvage it and get down the line in something like a bending 7, jumping out crookedly over the oxer, but getting through.  GOOD PONY!  Despite that effort, we managed to finish 3rd, so I was super proud of her.

Had we been in slightly better shape, or had done any courses at a show astride this year, I probably would have tried the over fences, since they left it at 2’6 and it was pretty inviting.  But we were way out of shape, obviously not jumping at full competence, and I decided to end on a good note.

It was a great day of showing, and a show I’m definitely planning to put on my calendar again next year, despite the bit of a haul it took to get there and back.  Looking forward, we’re entered for our first Musical Freestyle on the 23rd, back at our old barn at Southwind, so that should be a lot of fun.  I’m also looking at both St. Christopher’s and Keswick for sidesaddle, so hopefully the year is back on track for us.

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