I'm definitely a "the more, the merrier" sort of person so I talked a girl from our barn into going with. (It was hard. Me: "hey let's go to a show!" Her: "yes!"), then we picked up another local friend, which filled out our three horse trailer.
|also finally justified a fancy stitch bridle|
Two days before the show, I had the farrier pull Courage's hind shoes for the winter, then tried to practice "english pleasure" on a horse who had no goddamn clue what I wanted but thought his newly-bare hind feet were EXCITING and we had only dolphin leaping and no cantering and I had to get off and lunge. So that was positive?
I also realized I don't ever ride in my jump saddle anymore and that was going to be challenging. Oh, and while I was making good choices, I said this to a friend:
I mean, let's be real: Courage and I have been failalicious (it's a word. i just made it a word) at shows this year and I had zero hopes of this going anywhere, especially after the dolphin leaping ride.
I thought maybe we would practice again the next day, but completely forgot a dressage friend was in town and wanted to play ponies, and it takes like .01 seconds to talk me out of riding in jump tack these days.
Courage was ON IT for dressage.
And then we went to the show! To do not-dressage!
First things first, I took too long checking in and completely misunderstood the nice woman in the office when she explained that I needed to be in the lineup for in-hand trail. I thought she meant outside the ring.
She did not.
So when Courage and I made it down to the ring to wait our turn, I discovered that our entire class was already in the ring doing their thing and we were too late and not allowed in. Whoops. My bad. Whatever. We took the opportunity to hang out on the rail and Courage was pretty bug eyed about the experience, but he didn't kick anyone or lose his shit, so I counted it a win and stuck him back at the trailer.
I should mention, it was a super gross rainy day. And I brought the fixings of apple cider mimosas because Courage relaxing isn't the only problem I have. As I told my friends, I was going to drink until showing sounded like a good idea.
|one of many refills|
Possibly I lost count of the mimosas, but there were several hours of western and trail for us to chill out during. We needed yeah all of them.
Oh my. And then we had to tack up, at which point I started sorely regretting the chili I got from the concession stand at lunch.
|peer pressure makes it happen!|
He was up and giraffe-y, but he settled in and gave zero shits about those things. So. Don't don't get me wrong--he was still super tense and looky, but he wasn't bothered by the completely new-to-him facility. He was just being green at a show.
By the time I got on, open warm up was over. I walked some figure eights in the holding area while the class before us ran and tried to find a good place to throw up my chili. Before I settled on a spot, they called us in to the ring along with five other contestants in the W/T.
Courage was actually being reasonable--he didn't look at the ring steward, wasn't worried about the judge, and really wasn't super upset about anything I expected. I locked my demon right hand into the neckstrap of his standing martingale, basically got full tunnel vision, and would have said a rosary if I were Catholic and knew it. Time to die.
I really can't explain what happened next. Courage put his little nose down and walked like a pleasure horse. I thought I was dead for sure when they called the trot, but no. He did a lovely transition into a trot I'd say was too on the forehand and not quite tracking for dressage, but it was fine. He even stood in the line up fine and backed on cue fine. I hadn't watched anyone else in the class, so I sat there to see how it placed AND THEY CALLED US FIRST!! IN A CLASS OF SIX!!
|note death grip on martingale|
DAYUM was that unexpected.
Then we had to sit out a couple classes. We did some more figure eights at the walk and added walk/halt transitions. Not gonna lie--I was feeling a little competitive. Didn't know the little guy had it in him, but apparently he does. He even kept his back moving reasonably well and he was starting to let me put a little leg on, which was helpful for steering.
The next three classes are kind of a blur. Courage and I went out there and freaking killed it at the walk and trot.
But every time they called for canter, no matter how I went slow, set him up, asked softly, and took my time, our canter transitions looked like this:
|thank the lord for standing martingales|
I'd ask for left lead and he'd leap and bolt onto the right lead. I'd ask for right and have the opposite problem. The first class was bad, the second mildly better, the third pretty bad. The good news was that it was a schooling show with a super nice judge. The bad news was those two Equitation classes we signed up for are pattern classes with an assumption that your horse is broke. Which mine is apparently rather not.
And hey. If I'm going to use the allowed schooling equipment at a schooling show, I like to at least demonstrate to the judge why I feel the need to ride my nice horse in it... so there's that. Also fun fact--I didn't really watch any of the other riders other than trying not to hit them (we never really got close), but in several classes, we actually placed above people. I'd say they must have really screwed up, but even with his canter reactions, Courage was still ON IT walk, trot, halt and back. So. Dunno. We can go from flailing to perfect english pleasure trot, so that's cool.
|and sometimes after the flailing, the canter was ok|
I told my squad that if I had one class without bolting, C was done. It was our last rail class with just one other rider on a nice broke horse.I REALLY REALLY REALLY didn't want to do the pattern classes under those conditions, but I also can't end on a bolty note.
Off we went.
W/T were of course fantastic. Left lead actually also went great. C picked it up and cantered around about half the arena before the judge called a walk transition. We changed direction. You open show folks know the drill--walk and reverse, then canter again. All day, I'd been ignoring the walk/canter transition and just picking it up through the trot. I did that again. C'mon horse--ONE decent-ish transition and our day is over.
And as a friend described it, "I heard the crowd react and thought 'I hope Aimee is ok'".
Yeah. Saved the best for last apparently. We went BARRELING and LEAPING across the arena. The positive here is I totally got my new most favorite flail pic.
I mean, this is not my first rodeo with C and he's not a dirty horse, so I was never in danger of falling off. Despite how it looks, I really wasn't in danger of having my face bashed in either. It was just frustrating because we have these problems conquered at home, but the show environment brings it out in him. Which is why we're there.
Again, it's a two person class that I'm clearly not winning. The judge looks at me once I have C more or less contained and goes, "let's just try that one again". He was a Ray Hunt/Tom Dorrance natural horsemanship dude with a good head on his shoulders and he talked us through another transition and C kept his little brain in his little head and it was totally reasonable. YAY JUDGE. YAY COURAGE. YAY AIMEE.
|finally justified this super attractive cooler I bought last year|
We made it out of the ring, I slid off, and the tendons in my lower leg promptly seized up from that much abuse. Courage was steaming and covered in sweat, but dammit, we had a class with two good canter transitions. I'll take it.
|our barn buddy cleaned up (top row), but we didn't do too bad either (bottom row)|
The judge had some nice things to say about Courage and I. We even chatted with another competitor on a super cute, super broke horse and she assured me she'd ridden him through worse before it got nice and that Courage would get there too.
|pretending he's a fancy show horse with Alyssa|
So. All in all, it was an excellent learning experience. Courage and I both really need the outings and the ability to just keep going back into classes. Usually this is the sort of thing you can do at jumper shows, but jumps are kinda not our thing and I don't want to go there anymore, haha. We will definitely be looking for more opportunities like this.
Oh and that rash vow? We not only won a class with more than three horses, we also placed above other competitors in more than one class.
Apparently there's a craft project on my horizon.