As I walked out of the indoor I felt bad for the show organizer than anything else. Looking at all those people who were ready show had me doing some mental math and she was definitely loosing lots of money. I do not show hunters so I have no idea if it is normal for a judge to not show up or not, but I did know that meant I did not have to squeeze in my super tight hunt coat and I had just saved myself $120 in entry fees so even though I lamented the lack of ribbons, I was pretty happy overall. Phoenix was still a little up when he got out of the trailer so we figured it was bet to lunge him before I got on (not something I usually do).
The one thing that was very clear was that my stupid hunt saddle was not helping the situation. It was all padded up and still not even close to fitting Phoenix. I was kicking myself for trying to play the part of a Hunter and not bringing my dressage tack along! Seeing that although Phoenix was looky, he was okay, I decided to head over to the indoor unmounted first and let him look around. One thing I noticed right away about this show was that people were either super friendly, or not nice at all. I was keeping my eyes and ears open for Susan trying to figure out who she might be. It was when I saw a car pull up the drive way and stop every 10 feet talking to one person or another and a woman behind the wheel with a big smile on her face that I turned to the Young Rider and said “That has to be her” the Young Rider answered back asking how I could tell just as the smiling woman called out my name. Hahaha…I answered back that I could tell because she was just like me!
Susan went to park while I walked with Phoenix into the dark indoor. I could tell that inside Phoenix was having a heart attack. The good thing was that he was totally internalizing his feelings so besides the fact that his eyes were saucers and his back was tight he was okay. I made sure to fuss over him and tell him he was a good boy for not being stupid. After chatting my way around the ring several times I figured that he was being good enough that I just needed to get on. All I wanted was for him to relax and we would call it a day.
As I went to get on, I eyed my hunt seat saddle suspiciously. I had not touched it in almost a year and it was looking like it fit him even worse than the last time. I pushed those negative thoughts aside and put my foot in the stirrup. That was right about the same time that the saddle started to slide left. I had the choice of trying to climb on or jumping back down and hope that my foot would come out of the stirrup. I decided to try and get on. As soon as Phoenix felt the saddle going and my weight coming he skooched forward. In the past that would lead to a quick turn, followed by a bolt and of course some leaping. I was scrambling (rather unsuccessfully I might add) to get on before he took off. The strangest thing happened though…Phoenix stopped. He didn’t do ANYTHING bad. He put his nose to the wall. That second of still was all I needed to actually get on him.
The Young Rider looked like she saw a ghost and I just started laughing. No one else had any idea how close that was to being a bad accident! I don’t know when Phoenix grew up, but he did. The weirdest part was that my saddle which had just slipped at least 6 inches sideways had come back almost to dead center. Still laughing at my close call (can you imagine if I got myself killed trying to MOUNT at a HUNTER SHOW…I would never have been able to live it down) I started to ride around. Phoenix was tense so I worked extra hard to use what I learned from the clinic the day before. Sure enough it worked and in no time flat we were trotting around on a nice light contact. Phoenix still did not feel 100% relaxed, but he was so much better that when we got the boot because the lead line class was coming in (you don’t need a “real” judge for that class) I decided to call it a day.
I quickly untacked Phoenix and turned my trailer around and reloaded him (it took two tries to get him on…not normal) and set about getting to know Susan’s ADORABLE horse Jupiter. Phoenix got TONS of compliments for good behavior both when I was riding him and when he was hanging out in the trailer. Everyone was so impressed at how good he was. It made me laugh because while Phoenix has always been good, the fact that I take him all over and that I have taught him out and about is fun and not scary has really turned him into an easy horse. I give all the credit to Lexi on that one. He taught me how it should be so I could teach Phoenix.
After a little more socializing I could see that the Young Rider was fading so I hastily said good-bye to Susan and got ready to head home. I carefully pulled back out through the cars (I learned after I checked in that horse trailers can pull around the barn and park on dirt instead of grass and cars…all well) trying not to hit the BMW that was close to my exit turn. I left the farm with a HUGE smile on my face. It was without a doubt a good experience. Not only was I able to go to two horsey events in two days and not have a problem, I was able to work with Phoenix through his nerves making sure he had a positive experience as well. We also had NO ISSUES in the indoor! Plus I made a friend in Susan (who promises she will come down and meet Gen someday now). That day turned out NOTHING like I thought it would, but I still had fun and learned a lot. I swear both Phoenix and I walked out of there with giant egos because we got so many compliments. It was a good reminder that life might not always turn out the way you want it, but it will turn out the way you need it to.