Phoenix was a little nervous getting off the trailer, but not too bad. I wanted a good 20 minute warm up in, so in no time at all it was time to tack up and get dressed. There were two warm up areas. One was an indoor and the other was part of the show ring which was outside. Considering the temperature was already in the low 80s and climbing I thought getting on inside might be the best way to beat the heat. Phoenix, however, decided that the indoor was a scary place to be. Instead of picking a fight, I just made sure he stopped spooking and then headed outside.
Being that I was the first ride of the day the warm up was empty. It was good to get our walk work out of the way while no one was around. Phoenix felt tight but he was at least listening to my half halts. About halfway through my warm up I started to get frustrated because that was about all Phoenix was listening too. The Young Rider reminded me to stay calm and stay focused. When it came time to canter and Phoenix did not pick up the correct lead…let us just say I was not happy camper. Phoenix and I do not usually have lead issues. We had some issues in my lesson the day before, but that was the first time since last year we had a problem.
With 5 minutes to go before we entered at A, the Young Rider gave me a pep talk and reminded me that fighting with Phoenix was not going to result in anything good. She tried to get me to focus on the good things, which I will admit I was not fully paying attention to. I felt marginally better as I got ready to enter the show ring. As I did my lap around the outside before the judge blew the whistle I tried to focus on only the good things about our ride. My horse was not spooking, he was sort of listening to me, and even more surprisingly, he was using his hind end. As the judge signaled for our test to start, I really focused on riding each and every stride.
My centerline was…iffy. I had over shot it (totally my fault, not Phoenix’s) so instead of starting with an impressive straight line to a square halt we sort of looked like a wet noodle. Not a good omen for the rest of my test. I let my unhappiness with the centerline carry over into my trot circle, where Phoenix and I had a mini fight. I thought I had him from my inside leg to outside rein when I asked for the canter, but I could not have because Phoenix picked up the wrong lead. Here is the worst part..it was such a rocking horse canter I could not tell it was the wrong lead until AFTER I started my canter circle. And when I went to change it…we got the wrong lead again!
By the time our free walk came I was happy for something I knew we could do well. Considering I knew I blew my whole canter to the left I decided to go for the 7 on the free walk and really make it nice. I was feeling better about everything as I picked up my reins. I did my old self thing of not picking up my reins enough, so my trot circle to the right could have been better. By the time the canter came around I figured that things could not get any worse. I really sat into Phoenix and made sure we got the correct lead. We did and it was lovely, until the canter circle when I almost fell off because my saddle started to slip. By the time my test was over I was not a happy camper.
In the same breath I also realized that my worst fear about showing USDF had come true. Phoenix and I had just made asses of ourselves. I actually was okay with that because it took all the pressure off now. The worst had happened and we were still okay. With 40 minutes to go until my secont test, I hopped off Phoenix so we both could relax and get a drink for a few minutes before it was time to warm up again. I also used the time to mentally put the first test behind us. Regardless of my score, I knew since I was the only one in the class I would get a blue ribbon. I stayed on for my whole test and Phoenix stayed in the ring. That was actually pretty good all things considered. As I downed a bottle of gatoraid (with Phoenix’s help of course) I had actually started to be proud of what we had done instead of ashamed.
To Be Continued…