I am very pleased to report that Madigan and I successfully completed our first show together without incident and with moderate success!
I spent most of Friday cleaning my tack and packing my trailer so I would have as little as possible to do before leaving at 7:00 AM for the show on Saturday morning. Since my trainer wasn’t going to this show, I roped my mom into coming and serving as my runner and extra set of hands. We pulled out more or less on time, had an uneventful drive, and got to the venue around 8:35 AM. I got hung up at the show office discussing the new show management software with the secretary, so I tacked Madigan up a little later than I wanted to. He was (for the first time in his life) an absolute twit about standing at the mounting block, so I started my warmup approximately ten minutes before my ride time.
Fortunately, he is an easy horse who doesn’t require a lot of prep. We were both a bit flustered by the 20 mile an hour wind gusts sweeping down the outdoor warmup, but I did my best to sit quietly through his silly leaps and other nonsense and managed to do some trotting before we went in for our test. The main piece of advice I received from his trainer (who is my trainer’s assistant trainer) was to be sure to walk, trot, and canter him in the dressage arena before turning down centerline. For whatever reason, his first canter in the ring is always full of head flipping and wiggling. Then he settles down and behaves civilly. I managed a 20 meter canter circle at C before the judge rang the bell, and then we were off on our First Level Test 1 adventure.
The test had some good pieces and some less good pieces, as all tests do. He was very behind the leg and crooked in the left lead canter, attempted a flying change on the diagonal, and shuffled around in the halt for what felt like five minutes. His trot work was all generally pretty good, though. We ended up with a 59%- a fair score, given how terrible the left lead was, and how behind the vertical he got at times. Ducking behind the bit is Madigan’s go-to evasion, and I am still learning how best to get him out of it. All of my other horses have been above the bit evaders, so this is a new experience for me!
We had about 45 minutes between tests, so I returned to the windy warmup to walk for a while. I chatted with about a dozen people I recognized; I think my mom is now convinced I know every horse person in the state. (Which is not true at all- I only know the english riders!)
First Level Test 2 felt much better. Madigan was still a little crooked and wiggly, but the test rode smoothly. Our leg yields were good, the canter lengthening existed, and the 15 meter circles weren’t too big (and only slightly egg-shaped). Madigan again felt the need to attempt a flying change across the diagonal (which I think he actually achieved in this test), but was overall much steadier and straighter than in Test 1. Our score improved to a 62%, which was good enough for a close second place (of five!) in the class.
Despite our relatively low scores, I feel good about the day! Madigan was pretty much the same at the show as he is at home. The problems we had at the show are the same problems we work on in our lessons (crookedness, especially on the left lead) and the same problems he has in training rides (making assumptions about when flying changes are appropriate). He was a good boy! I can’t ask much more from a five year old than to pack me safely around a couple of First Level tests.