There were so many reasons for stress. Ashke and I weren't able to practice together as much as I would have liked and our over all riding time has been reduced. I didn't have the correct clothes, which wouldn't have mattered except this was a recognized show and clothes count. My saddle is an Alta Escuela and it would cost me about $600 to buy an outfit to go with it. I understand it would cost more if I were to buy a second saddle, if I could even find one that fit his back, but $600 is out of my reach. (The hundred I spent to get new paddock boots and half-chaps was cost enough). So, I made do with new boots, new chaps (which I needed any way), black breeches and a navy polo shirt. I also took the caged stirrups Saiph sent me (I loves her!!) to trail ride in off my saddle and replaced them with the white, quick release stirrups I first bought three years ago. This was a huge mistake. I should have just ridden in the wide stirrups I was riding in before I got the caged stirrups. Either the stirrups or the boots were super slick and I was not well balanced in my saddle.
After our blow up/smack down on Tuesday, I was feeling less happy about how well we might do and just really wishing I could withdraw. Weds was better, but I still wasn't incredibly confident. Then life got really busy and I had no time to think or worry about the show any more.
Friday night, T had a x-country race. He wasn't feeling good, but wasn't running a fever, so we made him go. He ran and had the best race time he has had up to this point. He beat his old PR by about 30 seconds, but ended up in shock at the end of the race. He was shivering so hard he couldn't stand, with goosebumps all over his body. We got sugar into him and some electrolytes, plus wrapped him in some warm blankets. (The look on the coach's face when I realized how badly he was shivering, turned to J and told her to take off her shirt was priceless. J had on two and I wanted her long sleeve for T.) We stopped for food after the meet, then drove home (over an hour one direction), threw him into a hot bath and then gave him a massage with Rider's Rescue Rub. He was asleep five minutes later. We got up bright and early the next morning to drive another hour for a second meet. At that race, T had another PR. He took a full minute off of his time.
The movement of his arms is called a Jellyfish.
That was Saturday morning. Saturday late afternoon, J and I went to the barn. We cleaned and packed all of the tack in the trailer, got the water ready, and his hay. J did most of that while I bathed the horse. He was gleaming white in the sun when I finished. Although, he is losing his mane. Huge chunks of mane washed out in the bath. I'm not sure why. All I can figure is that he is playing with the horse next to him and they are managing to tear it out. We hung out and talked to the BO while Ashke dried in the sun. She agreed he is at a great weight to go into winter. Then I wrapped him in a turn out blanket, added shavings to his clean stall and left him for the night. (He actually was pretty clean the next morning.)
After talking to J and endless, numerous texts to Saiph (thank you so much my friend) I had one goal going into the show. I wanted to ride connected to my horse, with him calm and willing. I told myself that nothing else would matter. I knew we weren't going to be perfect, but I had hoped to be better. I don't know if it's my inability to show him what I want him to do, his physical limitations that make it hard for him (remember when we first started sidepassing over the pole and his right leg twisted and crumpled under him, especially going to the right?) or a combination of all things. I just know this is incredibly hard for us, we worked on it a lot, and I was hoping it would show.
Ashke trotted onto the trailer, snorting softly. He had no idea what he was in for. We had to take surface streets for a bit, since there was an accident and stalled traffic on the highway, but that was negotiated pretty quickly. We pulled in between 8:15 and 8:30. I pulled Ashke out, got him set up with food while J went to check in. She was volunteering for the day. Ashke tucked into his grain (3 lbs TC Senior and 2 Quarts of Oats) while I hung fresh water and hay for him to snack on. I went to watch some of the dressage tests for Intro, since I have NEVER even been to a dressage show before and I was feeling lost. After the first one, I got so nervous I had to leave the arena and go get my horse. Although, I did get to meet and greet all of the wonderful people who make up this incredible club (and thanks Leslie for being such a great support for the day.)
I changed into my most attractive and obviously not-really-appropriate attire, sweet talked and treated my magnificent horse, saddled him and walked him out to the dressage court to warm up. We walked around the dressage arena, looking at all of the stuff and the other horses. Then we did a little trotting, and I asked him for contact, which I thought he was giving me very nicely. There were several horses warming up in the same area, including a woman who was riding tempi changes on her very well schooled horse. Oh, and walk pirouettes. Not sure why she thought she should be showing Novice, but whatever. (She was told after the show that she would not be allowed to show that horse at Novice again:they should have been showing Intermediate.) After we had trotted for a bit, I asked for a little bit of canter along the straight side of the dressage court. He was wonderful. The canter was soft and slow and balanced. I was very pleased. Then we just wandered around in the field behind the arena while we waited our turn.
In retrospect, I probably should have practiced some bends and turns with him before riding in. I was just more focused on keeping him calm and myself calm that actually doing anything more didn't occur to me. I also should have ditched the stirrups.
The test was in the indoor arena, with the doors opened on both ends, and a table set at the far end for the judge. Behind the table was a horse trailer to help block the view behind the barn (cows possibly - although I didn't see any all day), which provided a nice white background. A lot of horses found the judge's table terrifying, which I agreed with. CS had told me to be sure to walk Ashke past the table a couple of times before my ride (after I was let into the arena) so when the final salute happened with the rider before me, Ashke and I walked into the arena. K, who was volunteering, told me to smile and have fun. (She had been told by J to say that to me - since J was at the far end of the arena behind the judge - and J was told to do that from Saiph!) I smiled as we rode in.
Ashke was immediately up looking at the judge's table. Then behind the table J started doing the jellyfish with her arms and I began to laugh, but Ashke went "WTF????" and thought about exiting the arena. J noticed and stopped, giving me a big grin instead. Ashke and I walked past the table several times in both directions, but he was still pretty unhappy with it being there. I didn't really have enough time to completely ease his apprehension. The bell rang and we started the test.
Next time, I ride in from the outside. Making a right turn down center line requires geometry, which I suck at, and there was no way to have a straight cadenced entry on the center line without having to try and straighten him out. The second thing is to never ride in those boots and stirrups again. I struggled to keep his impulsion in part because the footing was deeper than we were accustomed to and in part due to my boots slipping around in the stirrups. I did not need any more hindrances to my riding performance and the boots/stirrup combination were a huge hindrance. I lost my stirrups several times. I flailed. It was special.
So, without further ado, here is the ride video.
And here is the score sheet:
The only really positive thing was that Tarrin turned to J after the test and told her that whatever I was doing with Ashke was working and that we looked so much better together. I am disappointed that we didn't score better, but overall, I'm just happy that we completed our ride without any problems. Ashke did break on the final serpentine, but that was in direct reaction to the table and not inability on his part.
That's enough for now. Next post will be the Ease of Handling part of the show.