Saturday’s schooling show was total madness and possibly the longest day of my life. I’d gotten stuck managing the show, which I was not thrilled about. I spent 11 hours working at a local Arabian show with The Horse of Course’s mobile unit on Friday, so when my alarm went off at 5:45 AM on Saturday morning, I might have cried a little.
I’ll spare you the boring details of managing the show (or save them for another post, haha). It was as exhausting and stressful as you’d imagine it to be.
I’d decided to wait as long as possible to haul Gina and my friend’s horse Roscoe over to the show grounds. I wasn’t scheduled to ride until 2:20 PM and thought the horses might appreciate not having to stand around at the trailer all day long. I got to the barn, hooked up, and loaded both horses without any real problems. When I got back to the show grounds, I hung up their haynets, filled their water buckets, and went back into the show office to see how things were going.
Upon my arrival, I was confronted with several complaints about the arena footing; there were apparently several large, sandy deep spots throughout the arena. There wasn’t much I could do about this- I let the facility owners know, they dragged it during the lunch break (which didn’t help), and I assured people that we wouldn’t be having more events here.
I hurried back to my trailer before anyone else could corner me. I tacked up Gina, who was having A Time at the trailer. She was bug-eyed and nervous, refusing to eat or drink, and pacing back and forth. Roscoe, on the other hand, was reasonably calm, happily eating hay and knocking over his water bucket while keeping an eye on Gina. Roscoe’s previous career as a police horse has obviously served him well.
Gina felt explosive when I got on. I avoided the outdoor warm-up ring that was filled with jumps and opted to warm up in the smaller covered arena. We all know how Gina feels about brightly colored poles and standards, and I’m pretty sure she could just sense their presence. She didn’t warm up very well. She was unfocused and jumpy. I tried to be calm and relaxed and encourage her to do the same; it definitely didn’t work. After about 15 minutes of trotting, she finally stretched over her back a little and let out a small sigh. I cantered briefly to the right (our better direction) and headed up to the arena to use the last of the lunch break to let Gina walk in the ring.
The ring was outdoors and flanked by a road and two paddocks with horses in them. This is not Gina’s ideal show environment. (Gina’s ideal show environment is a cramped indoor arena with zero mirrors, zero other horses, and zero people.) As we walked around in the arena, I discovered that people were not, in fact, being prissypants DQs about the footing as I’d assumed; there were enormous quicksand-like pits in the ring. There was a large one at E and an even larger one in the corner between C and M. My first thought was “Oh good, maybe this deep footing will get Gina to slow the fuck down.” My second thought was “Ugh, I hope this doesn’t make her fat hind leg even fatter.” (It didn’t.)
I felt like First 1 was going pretty well until our first 15-meter canter circle. Gina flipped me the bird and was like “NOPE CAN’T TOO HARD”; I very briefly thought she might actually buck. Our second 15-meter canter circle was similarly awful. I thought there were very few bright spots to this test:
- Very straight down centerline both times
- Halts were straight and square
- Free walk was very good
- NO flying change attempt at the canter to trot transition on the diagonal
We ended up with a 61.851%, which was an improvement from last month’s score of a 59 & change, so yay?
First 2 felt a bit better than First 1; I don’t think I’ll do First 1 again this year. I don’t like the sequence of canter-lengthen-circle. First 2’s canter-circle-lengthen is much more doable for Gina and me. Anyway, Gina remembered the sand pit at E during the second canter lengthening and wasn’t having any part of it. She did a perfectly nice serpentine to avoid E, which unfortunately, is not part of the test. I also couldn’t hear my reader thanks to the wind and had an error right at the end of the test. That cost me nearly an entire percentage point, but I was basically happy with our score of 60.937%. That’s a 5 percentage point improvement from last month’s show. High points on this test:
- Straight down centerline
- Square/straight halts
- Good free walk
- Change shown for canter lengthenings
- No flying change attempt!
- Good leg yields
Obviously, we have lots of room for improvement and Gina was acting like a fruitcake, but there were a couple of things I was very pleased with during the test. Our recent work on the across-the-diagonal downward transition has paid off: Gina held the lead until X-ish and on First 2 she had a very quiet downward transition. While I don’t think she’d hold the lead all the way across and I’m like 95% sure she won’t counter canter, I was proud of our progress on this. I was also glad we were straight down centerline and halted well; this is something else we’ve been working on.
After Gina’s test was over, I helped set up the jumps for the Prix Caprilli test. If you’re not familiar with Prix Caprilli, don’t feel bad. I wasn’t either until maybe four months ago! It’s a dressage test with small jumps. At this show, there were two entrants in the walk/trot PC class (you can read the test here): a ten year old with a pony named Bubbles, and Roscoe and me.
Roscoe belongs to my friend Holly, who bought him from the therapeutic riding center where I used to work. Roscoe wasn’t a great therapy horse- he liked to charge around the arena at a speed inappropriate for most volunteers and fling his head violently when kids were dismounting. Before his stint in therapy work, he was a part of the City of Tulsa’s mounted patrol. Roscoe and Holly are a good match; he’s challenging without being mean about it and she loves him very much. They’re planning to make their dressage show debut this year, but Holly thought it might be best if Roscoe had an experienced rider for his very first show.
Holly helpfully tacked him up and had him waiting for me when I arrived back at the trailer. I hopped on him and headed to the warm-up ring. Roscoe spent our walk to the warm-up whinnying plaintively; he didn’t seem particularly concerned about anything- he just whinnied this sad little baby whinny every couple of strides. We had a very brief warm-up (which Roscoe whinnied throughout) before we headed into the arena for our test.
Roscoe’s test went pretty well- the only major hiccup was that he knocked over one of the 12″ crossrails and whinnied every couple of strides. Roscoe was calm and as lazy as ever. I was happy about that- he’s basically calm and lazy at home! He had some really nice points on his test:
- Straight, square halts
- Decent free walk (although I pushed him too hard and he broke into a trot for a step)
- Accurate turns
- Maintained same rhythm before and after jumps
We ended up with a 64.318% (which would have been a little higher if he hadn’t knocked over a jump). I’d say that’s pretty good for his first time out!
The rest of the show was uneventful; once Roscoe was settled, I headed back into the office to score tests for the rest of the day. I finished up around 7:15 PM. I cleaned up the show office, repacked all the boxes, and gathered the 6 leftover pizzas from lunch. (Hey, that’s breakfast and lunch for a week or so!)
It was dusk when I loaded Gina into my trailer. I was exhausted, tired, and alone save for one competitor who was visiting with a friend. Gina loaded quietly, but completely lost her shit when I asked her to step over so I could fasten the butt bar. She pulled back, broke her lead rope (which had survived half a dozen pull-back-sit-downs up until now), and tore off at high speed toward some paddocks. She galloped wildly down a lane between pastures at the far end of the farm until she encountered a fence, at which point she mercifully stopped. I grabbed what was left of her lead rope, quietly led her back to the trailer, and grabbed a dressage whip. She loaded quietly again, and I stood at her head and tapped her gently with the whip to ask her to move over. She obliged, but as soon as I ducked under the other chest bar to go fasten the butt bar, she flew out backwards and galloped off again.
At this point, I considered just leaving her at this farm. I also considered beating her with the dressage whip. But I just trudged off into the night to retrieve my errant horse from the far corner of the farm. Again. (At this point, I have to give some snaps to Roscoe, who stood like a champion at the trailer the entire time Gina was acting like an idiot.) The lone competitor who remained offered to help me load Gina. Gina was completely fine with this woman at her head while I scooted her over and fastened the butt bar. Roscoe hesitantly loaded up, as if he were deeply suspicious that Gina might do something dumb, and we drove back to our barn.
I got home around 10:30 PM and slept like the dead until Sunday morning.
TL;DR: We improved our scores from the last show, we did some things really well, there were giant sand pits in the arena, Roscoe was a good boy, Gina was a very naughty horse about loading to go home.