See, I was riding a wave of excitement and accomplishment from Tarrin's comment to J that we looked so much better and that whatever I was doing, I should keep going, because you could see a huge difference. That translated in my mind to a better score than the last one Tarrin had given me, even though the prior score was just for practice and not at a recognized show. All of the compliments I had received on how Ashke looked went out the window, stormed under by a wave of disgust and despair. I totally felt like I absolutely could not do this sport, that I should never have tried and I shouldn't ever try it again.
Yeah. That. Right before my Ease of Handling ride.
I did shorten my stirrups. I really should have replaced them, since my feet were still slipping all over the place during my ride. We walked a little in the warm up arena, and I worked some of the obstacles in the warm up pen. We mostly went over the jump, which was three or so straw bales covered with a pole. After several tries, I got Ashke to go over them without balking/ponyclub kicking him over it, but he was still deer leaping. Straw bales are more serious than jumps with poles, which is what we've been practicing.
We also had an incident with some kind of bee or wasp. It got him on his nose and he was head flipping and snorting and rubbing a lot the rest of the day. One other horse also got stung and he ended up freaking out so bad his rider withdrew. Horses were striking and stomping trying to kill the damn thing. There was nothing we could do but try to keep away from where it seemed to want to hang out. I felt bad for Ashke and it didn't help us settle any before our ride.
Finally, we were called into the arena:
There were fourteen obstacles. They were pretty damn decorated too. Ashke was not sure he was really interested in being in that arena and we used our warm up to trot around the outside. I wasn't allowed to show him anything, but I could ride past them and let him look at them out of the corner of his eye. I think he did okay. The only one he really balked at was the jump, but we managed to go over. Two riders were DQ'd for going off course.
Score sheet from the Ease of Handling
Plenty of stuff to work on. When the score sheet talks about position and seat of the rider that includes our movement between obstacles and our approach. We could have done better over the jump if I had taken a better line on it. It was so close to the livestock pen (which Ashke has never done prior to this test) that our momentum was hindered and he was able to almost stop on me. (We fixed that in the speed round.) It would have been better to turn around the outside of the livestock pen and taken a different angle to the jump. Would have set us up better, overall. I also need to remember that we have to clear the entrance and exit cones before moving to the next gait. I have a tendency to want to hurry him back into the trot. Ease of Handling is a show case and should be ridden in a way to make you look pretty.
Not really something I'm good at.
I hurried the turn on the haunches before going back into the livestock pen. We didn't really find our rhythm going through the double slalom, although we did take the line taught to us by Tarrin. I thought it was a decent ride, even though I was still feeling down about my earlier score.
All we had left to do at that point was wait for the final event of the day. The Speed Trial.
As Tarrin said, the Speed Trial can be the great equalizer.