This weekend fall finally arrived here in Maryland, though it felt much more like winter when I woke up on Saturday morning. I was really glad I’d preloaded most of the stuff in the trailer, and Cally was clean and blanketed and just needed a few braids before we got on the road. But alas, things did not go that smoothly.
First, the “low tire pressure” light came on while I was on the way out of the neighborhood, which isn’t a big deal, because it’s a Ford, and that happens with my car too if the air temp changes more than 10-15 degrees. But then as I was heading to the barn a bunch of other lights came on, but then as I was turning off the main road back on to the road to the barn, all of the lights on the dash went off, and all the gauges went dead–no speedometer, no gas level, nothing. Thankfully, breaks and gas still worked, and I was less than two miles from the barn, and figured my best bet was to get there and see what was up. Because I work with technology and generally the first approach is to try turning things off and back on again, I decided to try that with the Exp. I was at least smart enough to park it in a reasonable spot before doing that, because it would not turn on again, just clicky clicky nothing. Holly’s husband very kindly helped me try to jump it, but that didn’t seem to do anything, so I headed down to their house to thaw out a second before making calls to scratch. But because my trainer is awesome, her response was, “Take my truck!” She was coaching kids at IEA shows all weekend and wouldn’t be using it, so with a great deal of relief I agreed. Hooked up, got ready to roll.
It was so cold that I could barely feel my fingers to braid, and to say it was not my best braiding work, especially as Cally had a minor freakout as her own forelock tickled her ears. But she was braided, got tucked back into her hooded blanket, and onto the trailer. We were down to PGEC by 8:30 ahead of a 9:45 test, and it was COLD. Like, even the fancy fiber footing there was frozen like cement. There was one ring that they’d sort of been able to drag, so everyone was warming up there. Totally across the showgrounds from the ring I was showing in. I was also trying to wrangle her cooler, and my puffy vest (thank goodness for down, and the fact that I still own wool show coats!). It was definitely a difficult balancing act, trying to warm up enough and then get over to the ring and not cool down too much, but not being able to do much more than walk before going in there.
Thankfully, Cally Is A Good Egg has basically been the theme of our year. Despite other horses being a bit frisky, she was calm and listening. Because it was cold, and I felt like we weren’t really able to warm up the way I’d have liked to, I didn’t quite ride up to the level, and really put in a Training level performance in a First level test. But it was accurate and steady and Cally was listening, so I’m happy with our performance there. Could I have asked for a little more? Maybe, but I also felt that was unfair given the conditions, so I rode more conservatively that I know we’re capable of. Given the day, I’m OK with the 58% that left us in a losing tiebreak for 5th place there.
I debated busting out the sidesaddle for the Freestyle, given how very very good she’d been for the First level test (and how nice all that wool would be!), but figured the whole point of this was to get into the indoor at PGEC and get her used to that ahead of MAEF next weekend. And going in astride would give me a bit more control over her if she was a little spooky or squirrelly going in there. So with icy trembling fingers, I tacked her up and headed over to do a little warmup again, where she felt great.
There was some spookiness heading into the indoor, where a lump that you have to walk over was cause for Serious Concern, but we got in OK after making a few circles. She watched the prior test with great focus, then we went in ourselves to walk around the ring. She didn’t do anything bad, but didn’t feel too relaxed either. Just a little tense and on alert. It had been a while since I’d ridden the freestyle, and I’d never done it in my dressage saddle, only in the sidesaddle. So I found it interesting that something was different about our tempo, because the music cues didn’t quite line up the way they usually did, so I had to do a bit of improvising along with the music. It worked out OK though, and I wasn’t unhappy with the test, just knew it could have been better.
We ended up with a very pretty pair of ribbons, 4th and 5th for the day, and I was feeling optimistic about the next day. I did scratch my early morning Training test, since it was at 8:30, and my Freestyle wasn’t til 2:15, and I didn’t want to have to haul back and forth with Holly’s truck, and it was freezing. Have I mentioned that? I touched base with WBBF and asked him to meet me at the barn to see if he could poke around the truck and see what was up, and potentially give me a ride home while we left it there if we couldn’t get it started. But I hopped in, and turned the key, and it started right up without an issue. Not even the Low Tire Pressure light on. Liam followed me on the way home, and there were no issues at all, but I still didn’t feel safe hauling with it until I get it in to get looked at. WBBF drove it around a bit the next morning, and had no weird lights or problems, so not sure if it was just the first super cold morning, or something else like the voltage regulator; I don’t necessarily need it soon, since I can get a ride to MAEF with the barn, so I think we’ll keep an eye on it and drive it a bit and see if anything crops up and get it in to be looked at after Thanksgiving.
It wasn’t as cold on Sunday morning, and I feel like the braids worked out better and the footing wasn’t frozen, so that was a big plus.
Cally seemed much happier about the 15 degree temperature increase, and Liam came down to watch and help out, which was great, because I was determined to go aside, and that is so so so much easier with a second set of hands to help out. She warmed up great, mostly did a lot of cantering around, fielded a few questions from fellow competitors, and struggled with the fact that there didn’t seem to be a warmup steward to let us know when we needed to head to the ring, or whether things were running on time, or anything. Fortunately, I had WBBF, and he kept time for me, and I decided to head down to the indoor at 2, since I hadn’t seen anyone go down in a while and it looked empty from what I could see. There was someone down at the ring, who let us go on in to walk around, since they’d been in a break, and said if the judge was fine with it, I was welcome to go early.
Cally was much more relaxed walking in than she’d been the day prior, and I could feel her take a deep breath and settle down to walk around on a loose rein. Judge seemed perfectly happy with us going early, so I trotted around once, and cued the music!
Not quite perfect, but aside from the jiggy walk, I was actually pretty happy with it. More relaxed than the day prior, and the music cues were working for us again. I really wish I had videos from both tests to compare. But I was really quite pleased, as it felt like an exponentially better test to me.
I untacked and packed up and took out her braids, and sort of puttered around killing time, since I was the first person to go for the freestyles. When I headed over, I ran into a former barnmate from Southwind, who’d seen both our freestyles and noted how much happier she seemed today, and how cool the sidesaddle was. I was kind of surprised to see our score was exactly the same as the day prior, but different judge, slightly different scoring. I was happy with it either way, and our pretty 3rd place ribbon, so we at least moved up a placing if not in score.
Showing both days of the dressage show really did what I’d hoped it would do for us, which was mainly remind us How to Horse Show, and get Cally in to the somewhat scary indoor at PGEC. By Sunday Cally was definitely back in Show Horse mode, and acting like the pro I know she is at horse showing. So I think that bodes well for us next weekend. Hopefully I’ll have a lot of fun updates and video from that, but as you can see from the video above, the indoor there kind of sucks for video and pictures, which I think is a function of the phosphorescent lighting.