SATURDAY Early Evening:
After putting Mr. Moon back in his stall I was able to enjoy some spare time with friends and family just watching the show. I have to say, I really, really love watching horse shows, and it's so different when you actually have a hot clue what's going on.
Sadly they were sooo far behind at this point, that we opted to bail rather then stick around for the BBQ...considering the patties were defrosting in a big pile for awhile and the BBQ wasn't even started up, it was better then risking an encounter with an enteric...
Instead we headed home, I grabbed some burgers from the local store and we fired up our own grill. The rest of the evening was spent in the backyard just having fun and joking around with friends and family. When night fell, the BF and I headed up town with my bestie and her fiance, and we enjoyed the "Hi Neighbor" festival that's put on every year in our neighbourhood. So we had ice cream, walked through the carnival rides, and then saw the start of the fireworks. But by then, it was time for bed.
Sunday I slept in until 6 am, and then raced down to the barn. I REALLY like the location of the PREP barn, as it's closer to me and therefore a shorter drive. The barns are in need of some upkeeping, but for a facility that large I imagine it's difficult to bring in enough funds. And those funds probably go towards the boarding barns and not these infrequently used "show barns".
Moon's braids were still in (if a little fuzzy) and he was happy to see me. I really, really love how much of a bond we're developing. If I ever thought before that he was "my" horse, I know for certain now. He's so my buddy.
I had bought a bag of beet pulp the day before as Mr. Moon hadn't drank anything (even after all that hot weather) and W suggested Beet Pulp with water or electrolytes. I had just stuck 2 cups of beet pulp in with his regular feed and added a couple cups of water. I had zero clue about beet pulp, but knew people soaked it. Made sense, right?
So Sunday morning I did the same thing, and then went about my regular prep. W showed up and I noticed that HER beet pulp had been sitting there all night in the water soaking...
"Um, W, how long do you soak beet pulp for?"
"8 or 9 hours," W replied.
My heart skipped a beat. I had soaked mine for all of 5 or 10 minutes for the last two days! What if it's now expanding within his gut, and in the next couple hours he'd colic severely from a major beet-induced impaction?! I suddenly thought about that nearly empty pail of water in his stall, how he downed another 1/4 bucket when I refilled it this morning, and the foam sitting on the top of it. A vague memory of "frothy bloat" came to mind from my cattle days, and I was nearly sick to my stomach. What if I just killed my horse? Would I pay for colic surgery? Could I get colic surgery? Is THIS how it all ends? At our 2nd show? After yesterday's awesome dressage test?
I desperately wanted internet access to google the best method for saving my horse. Instead, I silently prayed he'd live through it (it was only 2 cups of pulp!), and kept my mouth shut. And refilled his water again.
Since no-one from our group rode until lunch time, we headed over to watch the jumper rounds.
As someone who'd LOVE to learn to jump Moon, and who has never felt confident jumping despite having coaching in hunters and been over 2'6" without dying, it was a real, much needed wake-up call.
Yes, Saturday morning I could get away with trot x-rails. Yes, I'm keenly aware that I need improvement to my form and Moon's confidence and accuracy as we progress. But what we really, really need, is to focus on the basics. K was sitting beside me and speaking of the ol'school training where you had to ride at least a summer circuit of hunters before your coach would even CONSIDER letting you start training jumpers. That's some 11 or 13 shows over the summer, plus the whole winter of training. And that regardless of the height of the fence, the ride should look and feel the same. 2' should be ridden the same as 2'6". And when you progress to jumpers, yes, there's a bit more speed, some tighter corners, but still that look of control, counted strides and pacing.
THIS show was NOT like that.
Riders were flying around the ring like it was a barrel class, cutting sharp corners, approaching the jumps at terrible angles, chipping in, missing strides, losing stirrups left right and centre.
At one point, a rider's saddle slipped, she was dumped and the horse ran around with his saddle half under him, the stirrup dangerously close to his hooves...and he cantered and jumped a good three jumps before being convinced to stop. SCARY.
Riders were checking their horses in the mouth while spurring them to the fence, yanking their faces and failing to crest release. I've watched a lot of jumpers over the years, and I'm not sure if it's been that I've become more educated with time, or if I just finally woke up, but the whole morning made me realise how dangerous, abusive and moronic it is to focus more on height and speed then riding well. So when a rider told me she thought I'd be riding the jumpers with my boy and asked why not, I simply replied "We need to work on our form first.". It's true. Moon and I will stick to our x-rails, trot poles and tiny verticals until I'm capable of riding him calmly and carefully over those fences. And yes, that means we get some coaching.
Finally we left to start getting ready for our afternoon classes. We were all starting with the English Walk-Trot Equitation, and I decided to take the time to experiment and see if Mr. Moon did better with a long or short warm-up. So we used the equitation class for that warm-up.
Let me say, I NEVER plan on becoming an equitation rider. YUCK, with a capital Y.
Of course, it all went bad before I was even out at the ring...
Dressed and tacked, I pulled on my tall boots and started to zip them up...
There's my zipper pull in my hand.
AURGH!! 10 minutes before I'm supposed to be in the class.
A team mate Dee tried looping some braiding wire through the zipper to get it up, and the wire just snapped. My legs are too fat!!!
In the end, it took Dee, T who was visiting and K who was in the 2nd class together to stuff my calf into the boot, squeeze it and pull it up! By some miracle, they made it!!! And I had enough time to grab horse, mount and rush to the ring. I got in the building just as they were closing the gate, and thankfully they let me sneak in.
I could no longer feel my right leg, the one with the broken zipper pull.
Moon was high as a kite. Our walk was speedy, we had to keep circling and passing people, and I have to ask, are you docked marks for pushing your glasses back up your face?! I REALLY need to do something about that!!!
They started the class, we walked and were asked to trot, and as I got a nice transition and was coming up the long side, I saw W standing on the rail watching us. I could see she was trying to signal something, but had no clue what. Of course, Moon then shakes the reins out of my hands, and I get flustered and we turn the corner. Hmmmm...what could W have been trying to say???
They then ask for an extended trot and I send Mr. Moon out...
Who thinks this is now a foot race, and surges forward. I half-halt, he throws his head up, and proceeds to give me a Moon-sized buck (much of the audience I spoke to saw nothing, but I swear it was there!). He continues to surge past everyone, desperately asking me if he could PLEASE canter or perhaps gallop around, as I keep half halting and praying we don't try to kick approaching riders.
I'm thrilled when we're asked to come back to a walk, and since I still can't feel my feet (Heels down? What heels?), I just want this to be over. No surprise, I'm not in the group of riders they keep back for ribboning. ; )
As we walk back to the barn (I still can't remove my boots because I won't get them back up for the dressage tests), W catches me, "You needed to change posting diagonals! I tried telling you!", she says, clearly concerned that she had somehow failed me as a coach.
I start laughing "OHHH!! Yeah, no, W, I don't know those." We both laugh, as this has been a very, very long ongoing issue with my riding. Some horses, I can tell just by the feel. Sometimes on Moon, I can tell. But 9 times out of 10, his wrong and his right diagonals feel the same. Probably because he's so inverted EVERYTHING feels like "bouncy-bounce". : P
It WAS awesome though that K took away 6th place in the class, as she's got very nice form and well deserving of it! And SHE knows her diagonals...
For our freestyle that afternoon, she said "We're going to look funny because we'll be on the same diagonal a lot...", and I assured her that since I always have them wrong, it'll work out right... ; )
We had a short break and then it was off to the Freestyle. Moon felt awesome riding up the alley and around the outdoor ring, and I was revved. THIS was the same test I rode two weeks ago, and I KNEW it. We'd rock it...wouldn't we?
The announcer called our name and we headed into the indoor arena...
As we came through the gate and passed C, the judge pushed back her metal legged chair on the plywood floored judging booth, mounted just above us...
Moon spooked off to the side at the grating sound!
"Sorry! Bad timing!" the judge called down to us as I stared up at her and the offending chair.
I just smiled and carried on. My friends in the audience said it looked like Moon had spooked at the dressage letter like he'd never seen them before...oh dear.
Again like Saturday, we had a ton of time between riders. I always want to be facing a certain way for the test so we enter with the correct bend for our first turn (in theory of course), so I was staying to the one corner. Moon refused to stand, was jigging and pulling some of his worst evil-rabbit faces to date. I was embarrassed, frustrated and tense. I can't think of the last time his head was THAT high above the vertical. Lips pulled full back. Ignoring me completely. Finally they rang the bell and we rode in. Halted crooked and waited for the music to start.
...Off we went...
Somehow, despite all of our practice where the timing was bang on (was at the last show), we were behind. I started to panic. Why was I not where I needed to be? How do I catch up? What do I cut out??
I did my best, cut and added and modified as we went, making 10 m circles on a very tight and tense horse (genius idea there!) and somehow made a short change of direction in time to come down the center line for our final halt.
I was bummed.
That was NOT how it should have gone. He was NOT how he should have been. Not after Saturday's test of wonder. Where'd my awesome dressage pony go? Who was this crazy horse in his place?
We walked out of the ring and outdoors to the warm-up. J.Z. met us and took pictures while we rode around and around. He wouldn't stand. He was tense. I was frustrated. J.Z. gave me some advice, I assured myself it wasn't all bad and then went back to meet K for our Pas a Deux.
The Pas a Deux that I was freaking out about. I just was sooo determined to not screw it up for K that I couldn't remember anything. Over and over and over I tried to memorise it, but couldn't. I was freaking out. Then one of the competitors ahead of us came out of the ring and told us that the arena was larger then standard. So none of their times worked out because the ring was larger then they'd planned for. And larger then the one we'd all been riding in outdoors the day previous!
THAT was why my freestyle times didn't work despite the fact Moon was rushing! I felt a little better. At least we were all on the same page.
K and I headed in and awaited again for the judges to signal us. And waited. Moon paced. Got tense. Braced. Threw his head up. We were disconnected and I couldn't find our connection again. I was panicked. I could see K over at the other end of the ring, her horse standing beautifully. I was gonna cost her the 1st place...
We entered the ring and halted. Headed off and began our movements. Moon wasn't perfect, but we were doing it. At some point, K and I ended up on the wrong sides, and had to swap spots on the fly. It worked. We nearly crashed on our first circle, and I was so focused on staying in "my spot" that I stuffed Moon against the rail and we passed with inches to spare. Our extended trot across the diagonal somehow turned into a canter, and my head was going "I'm CANTERING IN THE DRESSAGE RING!" and pretty much turned off. I could hear her calling directions to me, but couldn't hear them. Most people are learning (I threatened our poor groom with a beating the day previous when he said he'd call my test for me!), that I can not focus on what someone is saying to me AND my riding. If the test isn't memorized before going into the ring, calling it won't save me. I just can't multitask like that. When I ride the pattern, I just ride it from some subconscious flow stemming from memorising the pattern, not from thinking about where I'm headed.
That sounds bad, but that's my only way.
Needless to say, I didn't manage any of her suggestions, and we had a few "interesting" moments as I was riding without thinking and cutting movements out of the ride. Or missing movements. Or going off in the wrong direction. It was bad. And it was my fault. With every failed move, I became more distraught and feared K would never speak to me again.
Somehow we managed a REALLY nice synchronized trot serpentine both lengths of the ring, to the point where my little 14.2 hh QH on the outside kept pace with this big 17hh boy on the inside and vice versa. It was pretty cool, even to me. Especially since THIS was what K and I were most worried about. : P Go figure it'd be the only thing to work out!
Except as we were doing our serpentine back, I headed to the right turn and heard K yell "Halt".
My head was thinking "But we've still got moves left!" I mean, we had 6 minutes of music!
Sure enough, the music ended, and K was over at V, I was a couple paces away off center. It was over.
As we walked out of the ring, our boys were side by side. Happily. We walked out on a loose rein and THERE we looked like a beautiful Pas a Deux Riders!!! : P wtf?! Why do these things never happen when you WANT THEM?!
We walked back to the barn together, each convinced that THEY were the root cause of all problems. Each of us apologised profusely to the other until it became obvious that it was truly, no one's fault. It was. And we did our best, did well enough and heck, WANT TO DO IT AGAIN!. Yup, we had survived and both knew that we could do a better job, given the chance. And we were pumped to find that opportunity.
At that point I was done for the day. I chose to scratch Moon from the costume class, since our "Graduates" costume was too much hassle to actually put on after such a long day of classes. Besides, the kids would enjoy it, and enjoy it they did. Probably for the best too, as no one in the class was over 14 and everyone got "1st place" ribbons.
Yeah, THAT would have been embarrassing!!
So Mr. Moon went back in his stall, and I went out to cheer on my team mates. Took pictures of everyone, watched the adventure and enjoyed being part of such a great team.
Finally it was getting late and we all started packing up. There is no sweeter moment then packing in and knowing you had a great weekend with friends. The tack stall became disassembled and everything seemed to dissolve. We were all called back to the indoor ring for the presentation of the "champion" awards, and to collect the last of our ribbons.
I was THRILLED with my 5th place in the Freestyle (I mean, I'll never beat extended canter and half-pass with my little walk-trot performance!) and since it was a ribbon color I never had before, was doubly pleased (5 of 7 or so competitors)! It sounds silly, but it's nice to get at least one ribbon from each show as a souvenir if nothing else.
Which was great when K and I found we got 2nd place (of 3) for our Freestyle! Mainly due to her awesome choreography and song choices! Of course, many comments were made about my tense and inverted horse, and we were both stumped by the "Watch your diagonals" comment that was directed at her, not me. Um...judge get the numbers confused?! Probably not the right time to announce that I didn't even know we were judged on being on the correct diagonal for dressage tests....no wonder I'm so bad at these!!!
I maintain the judge was a little over zealous with the scores all weekend, as while I probably deserved something along the 58.1% on Saturday's walk-trot, my freestyle which was WAY WORSE ridden did NOT deserve the 58.8% it received. Which kinda irritated me, since it then made my Saturday score seem less accurate. Granted, I did get a "What movement was that supposed to be? Leg Yield?" on my Freestyle! NICE!
And when K told me we scored something like 70% on our Pas a Deux...well, the judge was nuts.
I was thrilled to see that our junior riders came away with a boat load of ribbons and were very proud overall. The entire barn, both regular and satellite did fantastic and despite the fact we won no championship prizes, no barn mention and well, nothing at the final ceremony at all, I couldn't help but be thrilled to be part of this team. From the riders, grooms, to the cheering squad and bundle of friends who cheered us on.
We packed the last of the gear and then W and I loaded up to take the first half of the horses home.
...until W's horse seemed to go toddler on her and refused to get in the trailer. At one point I was closing the bum gate because she was in, and she backed out. I felt terrible because I'm sure that it was me closing it that made her back, but it's so hard to judge when you should or shouldn't close it. Oh well. W gave her toddler some firm lessons on loading properly and we thought maybe putting Moon in first would help if it was nerves. I will admit, I was pretty nervous myself, since ground handling makes me want to wet myself on a good day! Never mind loading into a small-ish trailer after a 18hh horse backed out looking more then a little worried...
Of course, Mr. Moon does the ONE thing I want him to do with my own trailer but won't, and saunters right in. Friggen 'ell.
Unfortunately, W's horse was in fact having a toddler moment, as she didn't find Moon in the trailer any more reassuring. She felt she should be grazing on the lawn, and W got to spend a couple moments teaching her that she's a big girl now. Finally they were loaded and we were off for home.
The unload was uneventful, minus the toddler throwing a small fit when suddenly alone in the trailer. W was off quickly, trying to get her settled again while Mr. Moon and I headed over to the tie post.
I think the long day and longer weekend had gotten to most of us, as Mr. Moon wouldn't stand still and I was losing patience with trying to get his braids out. I kept impaling myself in the fingers while he tossed his head, and then realised he was eating the grass that was sprayed with the broad-leaf killer Round-Up! Which is poisonous.
I tried every kind of bribery to get him to behave and stand still, lost my patience once, got frustrated for not being able to do it without bribery and irritated that I kept snipping parts of his mane when trying to cut the braiding wool. I was soo determined to do it because I didn't want him rubbing out any of his mane between now and when I'd next be out.
Finally I finished and tossed him out in the pasture, which was converted to a single group pasture on the weekend. So 4 horses (his 2 old buddies plus 2 new ones) to visit with, and I was pleased (?) to find that it was all pretty boring. Moon was chased off twice, wandered the fence line, sniffed the paddock poo, had a sip of water and then rolled. When he finished, he trotted over to me, said hi, and then wandered off alone in the field.
I was still pretty worried about him since I didn't know if he was still going to die of colic, and since I had now added consumption of Round-Up to the list, left a message for H to let me know how he was when she got home.
When I was in the tack room I was surprised by a lovely note, a bouquet of flowers and a Mars Bar. I felt like I had just won the Rolex! And after a long day, no lunch and a lot of stress, let me say that good friends KNOW you need a chocolate bar!!!
So home I went.
The rest was history. Hanging the new set of ribbons up, unpacking the car and showering. Flipping through the weekend's pictures, putting our lovely flowers out where we could see them, and placing Moon's "consolation" carrots in the fridge. I finally checked online about the beet pulp and learned that the need to pre-soak for hours to prevent it from expanding in the gut was actually an old wives tail, and H texted me to say he was still alive. I fell asleep almost instantly, after one or two emails with W about how incredible the weekend was.
Sunday afternoon, I would have told you I'd be happy never competing again. Plain and simple.
Sunday night, I would have told you that I'd like to compete again, just not for awhile.
Monday morning, I awoke and wondered when our next show would be!
W, K and I are making plans already to do the July 1-day Sanctioned Dressage Show at the PREP facility again. We know the location now, it gives us 6 weeks of practice (vs. going to the June show in 2 weeks) and it would be slightly less costly and all consuming.
I'm bound and determined to finish that horse trailer, and despite the 28 degree C weather (that's hot) was out bolting down my floorboards. I was obsessed with getting the gaps even so the horses wouldn't be spooked by the road rushing beneath their feet and managed to burn myself with the drill. 2 hours later, the job was complete and I realised it didn't even matter since they'd be covered with rubber mats.
I'm feeling like I came out of this show with SO much experience and lessons learned. Things like the fact you need a feed tub for your horse! That Mr. Moon eats about a 1/2 bale of hay a day. That Beet Pulp is an excellent way of getting some water into him when he's not drinking, and that Slinkies aren't there to keep the mane from being rubbed out, but rather to keep you from having to pick shavings out of them! That I need some blanket surcingles for his show cooler, and that we need some tack hooks for our gear. I learned that braiding takes me at least an hour and a half, and that Moon MUST be properly warmed up if we have ANY hope of coming together in the dressage ring.
THAT was my biggest lesson. Riding him about for an hour and a half on Saturday left me with a much better horse then I had Sunday with no warm up. Which explains why he was awesome at the last show where I was wandering around with him all day. Moon is NOT tired after these things. He needs the chance to loosen up and relax, and that takes time.
Pictures will come in the next day or two...J.Z. was enjoying the camera on burst mode, so I have a few hundred awesome photos to sort through and upload! : )
Sometimes, the best value you get out of a show, is not in the ribbons or rewards, but in those lessons you learn, and the people (and horses) you get to share the experience with.