Despite getting up at 4:30 AM on Saturday morning, I had a pretty great weekend.
I spent a misty Saturday morning at a dressage schooling show with some of my best barn friends. Let me tell you, there’s nothing quite like going to a show with your girlfriends- the mutual sympathy for an ill-fitting sports bra, the eye-rolling at one of your horses’ antics in the ring, the shared Solo cups of prosecco. I sincerely enjoy having Johnny come to shows with me, and I always appreciate his help and support, but it’s really, really fun going to a show with your barn gal-pals!
Gina was suspiciously pleasant at the show. I hand-walked her while watching my friends warm up and ride. She let a little girl pet her nose. She grazed. She quietly stood under a tree with me when a sudden downpour drenched all of us. She didn’t appear to even consider pulling back and breaking anything.
Under saddle, she wasn’t bad, really…she just wasn’t good, either. Gina is usually totally on or totally off- laser-focused and listening well or completely distracted and acting like a nut. On Saturday, she was listening fairly well, but she was very tense. I tried walking, encouraging her to stretch, and staying steady with my aids. She just couldn’t relax. (Perhaps it was the firing range going on the adjacent property.) Our 1-2 test was ugly, lots of losing the connection, lots of mincing steps, and some very rushed leg yields (which are usually one of our strengths)! The next test, 1-3, wasn’t much better. Gina remained tense and swapped leads on the second canter loop. In her defense, I made the loop too deep, which I think made her a bit confused. Or angry. Who knows.
There were a few positives in each test: our canter lengthenings are improving, our downward transitions are pretty good, our 15 meter canter circles are definitely improved, and our trot lengthenings continue to be a strong point even when I don’t ride them particularly well. Plus, Gina is no longer performing flying lead changes across the diagonal, and we made it through one of the shallow loops without swapping the lead!
Our scores reflected Gina’s tension (as did just about every comment), so while we now have the 5 scores required for year end awards, I’ll probably take her at least one more show to try and improve them.
On Sunday, I headed west to meet up with Andrea and O of The Reeling! When one of your favorite bloggers is in your state, you clear your calendar to go visit. (This is meant I didn’t spend the morning drywalling the master bathroom.) Earlier in the week, Andrea told me that if I brought my helmet, she’d let me ride around on the carriage while she warmed up O. I may or may not have squealed like a small child.
A few days ago, Andrea asked if I’d be interested in being her navigator for the marathon because her usual navigator was unable to make it. I may or may not have jumped up and down. I immediately told her that I would absolutely love to be her navigator. Then I asked her what, exactly, does a navigator need to do? She kindly explained that normally a navigator helps the driver navigate the course, but since I couldn’t come up to walk it on Saturday, I’d basically be acting as a ballast to keep the carriage’s wheels on the ground throughout the course. Andrea assured me that it was very intuitive and I would be fine. I spent the rest of the week obsessively reading articles on combined driving and watching YouTube videos of Chester Weber whizzing around courses. I was going to be the best damn ballast I could be!
Once I arrived at the show grounds, Andrea greeted me with a big hug and escorted me to the office to sign a waiver. Then it was on to the barn to meet O! O is a stunning mare. She’s compact and very obviously well cared for and in excellent condition; she practically radiates power just standing in her stall. She has a delicate face and a very kind eye.
Watching Andrea tack up O in all her driving gear was fascinating; I know next to nothing about driving, so watching Andrea expertly fasten straps and buckles and listening to her explain what each piece of equipment was for was super neat. With about 20 minutes until our start time, I hopped up on the back of the carriage and off we went to warm up! Andrea gave me plenty of time to get used to the feeling of bouncing on the carriage and leaning into turns. She assured me she’d warn me when especially rough terrain was coming up and advised me not to get off or fall off.
We then set off on one of the best 20 minutes I’ve ever had in my life! Riding on the back of a carriage was an entirely new experience; even though we spent most of the course at a trot, it felt like we were flying. Some of the trails were very narrow, and I thought we would hit a tree once or twice. O was quick and careful through the tight turns of the obstacles- she whipped through narrow gates and sharp changes of direction like it was nothing. In between obstacles, she ate up the ground in an enormous trot, ears pricked and obviously happy. She’s an agile and clever horse, too; when the footing was especially muddy, she adjusted her pace accordingly with minimal input from Andrea. I did my best to help, shifting my weight through turns and hills. We approached the last 300 meters (of 4+ kilometers!) having only taken 15 minutes to do the course…so we walked the last 300 meters and narrowly escaped speed penalties!
I am so, so glad Andrea invited me to come out and I’m grateful she let me participate! If you have a chance to meet Andrea and/or O, you absolutely should. Andrea is funny and nice and an excellent horsewoman!
I can’t remember the last time a weekend was this fun!