With the footing being so bad my trainer and I decided that it was in our best interest to be conservative in the warm up. What did that entail? Lots of walking :P. It was good because the more we walked the more warmed up his back got, but in the same breath what we both needed was to keep our confidence up and walking around gave us both time to look…and time to think…
Seeing our wondering attention span my trainer figured that crappy for or not, we needed to WORK so she started barking out orders. It is not like her to be that demanding, but in the same breath it was exactly what we needed at that moment in time. My biggest problem at that moment was my long, droopy reins. For some reason I had decided in my head that long reins=confidence….not such a good thing at a DRESSAGE show :P. I tried to remember all I had learned at the Becky Cowden clinic, but for some reason it was just clicking as well in the full warm up ring.
I was really trying to get it, I swear I was. We had some good moments in the warm up, but for some reason it was just not all coming together. I could get Phoenix for a stride, sometimes even a few strides, but looking around at the caliber of horses and riders here a few strides was just not going to make the cut. You couldn’t even tell the difference between the training, first, and second level horses. All were impeccably trained, well moving bays or chestnuts.
My trainer could see me getting frustrated about not being able to get the connection and decided to pull me to the ittsy bittsy warm up outside the ring I was going to show in. It is only a 40×20 and it can have up to 5 other horses in it at the same time. This turned out not to be a good decision because for some reason Phoenix was infatuated by a grey mare in this warm up. To the point where he would even try to change rein, etc to follow her and was totally ignoring me. Instead of this small warm up relaxing me, I started to get tense. Phoenix was way worse about listening! My trainer got down to work and did everything we could to get Phoenix to focus. We did tons of figures and transitions. He was actually marginally better by the time we went over to the ring.
So here is the weird thing… The test actually felt a lot better than it looked! I was so proud of us when we saluted for the second time because I thought we had put in a solid test. That it would be close to 60%! When I walked back to the truck to get ready to take a break before the second test my trainer seemed a little surprised I thought it went so well. When I asked her about it she diplomatically said that judges scored a little tougher at big shows like this one so I should not get my hopes up.
We had an hour between tests, which meant that we had 30 minutes to chill. Phoenix was very grateful for the break and took the time to eat some hay and drink some water. He was already starting to feel at home in this big/intimidating show environment. I smiled at how good my baby horse was doing while watching other horses drag their owners around. It was a bitter sweet moment sitting down with my trainer, friend, and trainers baby watching Phoenix. We all knew that that I had dreamed about showing at Memorial Day for years and now the moment was here and I would be loosing Phoenix after the show.
After some encouraging words, muffins, and Gatorade it was time to get dressed again and head back to the warm up. Phoenix was getting sleeping so retacking went easily. He was a little reluctant when I got back on, but at least this time he didn’t spook at anything as he was heading to the warm up. We walked in and sure enough there were a good 30 horses all warming up at the same time. This time most of them were in double bridles and top hats. If there were ever a time to feel out classed at a show this would have been the time. My fat self with my Appy stood out like a sore thumb in the sea of upper level horses and 6 foot tall thin riders.
To Be Continued…