Alternate title: Stephanie and Moe’s Unmitigated Disaster Show!
Before I left for Dressage At Devon
an eternity a month ago, I dropped an entry in the mail for the local dressage club’s schooling show championships. Moe and I have been doing just fine at First Level all year with scores in the 60s. We needed a few more points to qualify for year end awards, and this was the last opportunity to get them.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to ride Moe much before the show. I was out of town for two weeks with work, and the day after I got home my mom arrived for her annual visit. Between my mom’s long list of activities to do, a lot of rain, and a natural horsemanship trainer commandeering my neighbor’s indoor arena, I had no opportunity to ride last week. Still, I wasn’t terribly worried. Moe’s a been-there, done-that, reliable horse. Right?
I hauled out to the venue on Friday night since I had an early ride time on Saturday. My mom came with me; she planned to volunteer at the show the next day. I settled Moe into a stall, retrieved my number for the morning, and cleaned him up as best I could. It wasn’t too late when I finished, so I decided to hop on him for a quick spin around the ring. This venue was one he hasn’t been to before, and the indoor ring features a big mirror on the short side at A. I didn’t think the mirror would bother him much, but I wanted him to see it.
If you assumed Moe was completely fine with the mirror because he is a 23 year old horse who has been to umpteen shows since he was 8 years old and has surely seen a mirror before, you would be wrong. He caught sight of the mirror, MARCHED up to it, and firmly stuck his nose onto it to sniff this new horse. Moe was deeply suspicious and kept an eye on that strange horse every time we walked past the mirror. I rode for about half an hour; Moe alternated between counterbending to watch the mirror horse and llama-ing.
I eventually got some okay work from him and called it a night. My mom and I grabbed dinner, checked into our hotel, and promptly went to bed. The next morning, we got to the show in plenty of time for my first ride. My mom was whisked away to scribe, and I got Moe ready for First 2.
Moe warmed up in the venue’s outdoor arena fine, even with a steady drizzle of rain and cold temperatures. I felt fairly confident trotting down centerline, and the first half of our test was lovely. Moe’s trot work was good, and we scored mostly 7’s. It all went to hell at the canter. Our lengthenings were more like bolts. Moe broke to the trot a couple of times on the 15-meter canter circle to the right. He remained suspicious of the mirror, but not as looky as the night before. I left the arena feeling vaguely optimistic that he’d be better in the next test. Surely he’d gotten all the sillies about the mirror out and would be a little more tired for the second test. Right?
I unsaddled him and left him to eat hay in the two hours between our tests. When I got back on to warm up for First 3, our championship ride, Moe felt good. We had a good warmup, and I entered the ring feeling like we might actually beat our competitor! Like First 2, the early part of this test went fairly well. Moe was convinced there was a horse-eating monster in the corner by H-C, but was otherwise fine. Unfortunately, also like First 2, the canter was a mess. Our first upward transition was more like a leap. He kept it together for the 15-meter circle, but decided the lengthening down the long side was the perfect time to demonstrate his ability to hand gallop.
The entrance to the arena is on the long side; something about it made Moe spook hard at E. (Maybe the change in light?) During the canter lengthening, he teleported sideways to X. I kicked him with my left leg and somehow managed to get back to the rail in time to turn the corner. The gerbils in his head had well and truly gone off the rails at this point, but I refused to let one bad movement ruin the whole test. Moe did not share my philosophy. He performed a flying lead change at X where the test called for a simple change. (I’d like to note that he has NEVER performed a flying lead change in his life.) He flailed through the downward transition from canter to trot. His final trot lengthening was the only good thing about the second half of that test.
The judges were not generous, and we had a well-deserved 54% from one and 52% from the other. Both judges seemed to understand that Moe was just having a bad day- one even wrote “nice horse that seems to be having an off day”. Because there were only two people in my division, we ended up as Reserve Champion.
This certainly isn’t how I envisioned show season ending! (Well, I did envision the Reserve Champion part, but not the terrible tests part.) I’m not too upset about it, though. Moe went to a new venue after having weeks off in newly cold weather and was a spooky weirdo. I can’t blame him!
Moe remains sound and happy. I’m glad we’re still going to shows together! Moe can take the winter off and I can take a break from dressage to foxhunt. Maybe next year we’ll really dedicate ourselves to dressage- or maybe we’ll just work on earning our 25-hour patch for TRRIP!