Sometimes all the signs are there, but your determined self pushes forward anyway. You have already paid your horse show fees. You have to take your daughter anyway, so you should probably just go, right? Move forward and ignore all the little clews that tell you this isn’t going to be your day.
I got my ride times a few days before the show. They came along with a little surprise…. the facility was not using the regulation dressage court because they were in the middle of replacing the footing. Instead of running the show in 2 arenas, they would host all classes in a single court built in the middle of the jumping arena. This meant 2 things to me:
1. A Very Long Day: Kelsey would be showing in the early am, and Dino and I were showing in the afternoon. Up at 5:30am. Arrive at show grounds by 7am. My first class isn’t until 2pm. Add some 90+ degree heat and the day just seems longer. How would Dino deal with hanging out at the trailer ALL day? He had only traveled with Akira 1 time and he pitched a major fit when she was out of view.
2. A Nervous Horse: The regulation dressage court where we had previously shown is tucked in the quiet back corner of the facility. The jumping arena is up front by the road, by the snack bar, and by the bleachers. This arena would also be stocked with every young dressage horse’s biggest fear…a judge’s tent. Well, you have to school this stuff sometime and that sometime was going to be now!
The days leading up to Dino’s 3rd ever dressage show proved to be the most variable rides ever. We just weren’t in sync. Could it be because I was avoiding BIG turnouts since Dino had pulled his front left shoe 3x in a row? Who knows? So I gave him a turnout with a little encouragement to try and take the edge off….enough to get a few bucks out but not enough to pull a shoe. It’s a fine balance.
Sign #3…and this is the worst
The night before the show, my back went out. It was one of those painful, feel like you are going to be sick kind of events. It hasn’t happened in quite a long time, so I just wasn’t even thinking this was an option. Kelsey finished up the barn chores for me, and we headed for home. I worked on my back and got it to be “serviceably sound,” and by that I mean it didn’t hurt, but I wasn’t engaging my right obliques (stomach muscles) at all. Now dressage is about symmetry and balance. How am I supposed to guide a horse when I can’t use my right “core” muscles? That could have been a contributing factor to our lackluster performance leading up to the show (I was out of balance and hadn’t even noticed, but Dino did!). Add to this that Dino was going to be a bit nervous, and I was starting to have some doubts.
Of course that night I got little sleep. Our house alarm notifies us when the internet connection goes down, and it went down at 2:30 am. Someone’s phone alarm went off at 4am. I was up at 5:30am.
I can’t even make this stuff up. It was like the entire universe was telling me not to go to the show. I even woke up feeling a little sick the next morning (I blamed it on little sleep and continued on). You think I would have backed out, but warning signs are for wimps….
We arrived dreadfully early. It was Akira and Kelsey’s first show together. I wanted to give them ample time to work the kinks out. Both were rock stars and had a great morning of showing. As expected, Dino pitched a fit when Kelsey took Akira out of his sight to go lunge her. Thankfully our trailer parking spot had a clear line of site to the warm up arena and the show arena, so Akira was in Dino’s sight most of the day.
After Kelsey’s classes, I had 3 full hours of nothing to do before I needed to think about tacking up. I had already lunged Dino, so I thought I’d take him on a walk. I ended up sitting on a bench under a shade tree by the arena. Dino was calmer here than at the trailer. He seemed to really enjoy just looking around and hanging out, so that’s what we did….for hours.
I was feeling pretty good when I tacked up. Dino seemed calm enough. I felt OK. Things were going to be fine. But my warm up started with a big spook followed by a little spook. Dino was tense.
When we entered the arena, Dino immediately bristled at the judge’s tent, but I expected that and used my warm up time to show him the tent was not a worry. Worked like a charm, so I headed off toward the entrance of the arena. That’s when I heard a strange screeching sound from a nearby gate. Dino froze and wouldn’t move. The bell rang. It’s officially show time. Lovely. This was going to be fun. I told Dino it was going to be OK, took a deep breath and asked him again.
And, to my surprise, nothing crazy happened during the test at all! No quadrangles. No bolting. No sitting on carrots. Nothing much to report. Dino only flicked an ear at the judge’s tent. He was a bit more forward than usual (a good thing), but less responsive (not great). He was a little hurried and lacked bend. But he was overall fine. No blow ups. No major mistakes. I rode him very conservatively, but he probably would have been fine if I asked for more. My little dinosaur is growing up!
The second class was fine too. Dino rode about the same, he was forward and a bit hurried and a little tense, but he came back to me even after the extended trot and canter without too much fuss. I was so proud of him!!
Dino won both classes and received the second highest score of the day. So happy! Still tons to work on. We aren’t smooth or elegant, but things are coming together. Maybe it is better sometimes when I just ignore all the signs and push through it 🙂