So walking up to the top ring Phoenix decided it would be a good time to do some sight seeing. I don’t blame him, there was a car parked on the hill, kids playing with jackets and people yelling in the warm up. I also couldn’t let him do it because I knew we did not have a lot of time. If I lost his focus now I wouldn’t have enough time to get it back before my test. I thought we had dodged the sight seeing bullet as I turned into the top ring. What I wasn’t counting on was the fact that right at that moment Phoenix’s Owner was half way through her test in the ring right below us. Phoenix saw his other mom and his sister in the ring and was totally perplexed by it. I couldn’t even be mad because the look on his face was priceless. Pardon the anthropomorphizing but I swear he is saying “Hi guys…why are you down there. What are you doing. Shouldn’t you both be up here watching me? I mean, it is not like you are a show horse like me or anything”.
I laughed at my fat spotted pony and went to turn around to try the first long side again. The judge did an “ahhem” and I looked up. Clearly she wanted me to trot by her. I figured I could do that no problem and just come by the side next to the lower ring after that. I went over to see the judge. She asked for my number, which I gave her. And then she rang the bell. I was standing in front of the judges stand. I had to decide if I wanted to go by the looky side again or allow Phoenix to go once around the whole ring. I looked at the woods next to the other side of the ring and figured that I should go all the way around. No sense in letting Phoenix know now that I pay attention to where he is looking right?
So around the outside and up the centerline we went. Phoenix was starting to go on his forehand as soon as we hit the turn. So I tried to really sit up and help him rock back on his hind end before the first half. That didn’t work so well for me though because Phoenix thought it would be more fun to brace against me. He figured that if I was really going to be there for him, he didn’t really have to work and I could hold him up. The thing I love about dressage is that when you have a crappy movement, that is all it is…a movement. So I picked up my trot again trying to think about ways to subtly get him to stop hanging on me.
As we got near the first corner I figured I had my first chance. I would leg yield him over to get him off my inside leg. Sure enough my little plan worked! He took a step sideways and realized that I was indeed in charge. He started to lean again on the circle, so I tried again to bump him off. This time it didn’t really work. I could feel him getting more and more on the forehand the longer we trotted. By the time we turned to go across the diagonal I was feeling like my fat spotted pony was trying to take over. The canter to the left was ugly. I tried to tell him to do things my way, and he tried to tell me that my way sucked. Not the best horse/rider dialog during a test. I took a deep breath before our trot transition and gave myself a quick pep talk.
Phoenix was just being Phoenix. He was not trying to be bad. In fact, he was being pretty good about the show thing. We were just arguing about training at this point. When I first started showing him my only expectation was for him to stay in the ring so we could get a score. I had raised my expectations of him, but not my show ring training. Duh. And so I had a major Ah Ha moment during my test. That is not to say that the rest of my test was a thing of beauty. It wasn’t. The rest of my test was done without a fight though, and to me that is a really good thing. Watching Phoenix in the video I can see that he wanted a fight. And starting in the second half of the test I didn’t give it to him.
Phoenix and I have A LOT to work on. You can hide a lot during a ride, but not so much during a test. One of the reasons I love to show is to get other people’s opinions about my riding. I don’t ever want to be a person who only trains with one person, clinics with only the people they tell them to, and who only accept certain judges scores. I value every opinion. This judge also asked me if Phoenix was green. I guess we were just having a green horse kind of day. As I walked out of the ring I knew exactly what I wanted to go home and work on. And that is a beautiful thing to get out of a show. I knew we hadn’t done well. I figured we had not gotten the 60%s that I had wanted so I was bummed, but at the same time I was also happy to have a direction to go in with my trainer after this show. Walking out of the second ring my only worry was whether or not his owner kicked our butts on the baby horse. Everyone else in our class was a lot more experienced than us (one is even a training level eventer). I wanted to know how we stacked up agaisnt another baby horse.
To Be Continued…