The Rebecca Cowden Clinic

*Can I just say that I have the best readers EVER! I was a little worried about yesterday’s post, but I had no need to be. You all are WONDERFUL. Thank you for being supportive and understanding!*

So when the signs came up at Gen’s barn for the Rebecca Cowden Clinic at the barn I was a little hesitant to sign up. You see, last time we had a clinic at the barn with a trainer I had never heard of I had a good time, but I did not feel like a learned a ton. At the time I thought I was going to be dropping $2,000 on shows this year, so a clinic was just not high on my priority last. That was until I started asking around. Everyone had really good things to say about Rebecca Cowden. The more I heard the more excited I got to sign up. She sounded like the perfect mix of support and toughness, which is just what Phoenix and I need right now.

After I signed up I thought about PJsMom and decided that she should come to. It didn’t take a whole lot of convincing for her to decide that it was time for her baby horses first field trip. Gen’s farm is super low key and this clinic was shaping up to be the perfect place for her to go out and try something with him. I showed up at the barn bright and early on Saturday morning to find that my sweet Phoenix had decided to take a nappy in his poop over night so even though it was cold the poor thing got another bath. Once he was all clean it was time to go.

Phoenix had a little trouble with the trailer (which is unusual for him) because he was not used to getting on the right side. Seeing his pasture mate hop up gave PJ the confidence he needed to get right on as well. We had loaded a 6 year old and a 4 year old on to the trailer in about 3 minutes flat. I pointed out that even if nothing else went well, we still had already had a really good day! We were the first people at the clinic so we got a chance to unload the boys and let them look around the ring. They were both a little up, but nothing to be worried about. Once I let Phoenix hand graze (a treat he is NEVER allowed have when we travel) I had a very happy pony on my hands.

By the time the first rider showed up PjsMom and I decided to turn them out for a few minutes and watch a little bit so we would know what we were in for. Since it was Gens barn (so obviously they know me) and Phoenix and PJ are buds they got to go out in the dog field instead of having to hang out in a trailer all day. (Are they not the most adorable pair).

I left the decision of time slots up to PJsMom and her comfort level. One of us was scheduled to be the 2nd ride of the day. It didn’t take long for her to decide that she needed a few more minutes to gather herself so I went and got ready to ride. Phoenix was still feeling up and was totally cold backed getting his saddle on, but with the help of PJsMom I was ready to go in no time. I had only seen a few minutes of the first ride, but I was already excited to get on. Rebecca Cowden had been really good with the first horse who was very hot. I could not wait to see what she made of my Fat Spotted Pony.

I got on and he felt tense right away. In fact, he felt almost exactly as tense as he does before he starts his bucking fits. Rebecca could tell and right away we got to work. After a little while at the walk she told me I could trot when ready, so like the obedient student that I am, I trotted right away. Rebecca grilled me on why I had asked for the transition upward when my horse was not over the back at the walk yet. I told her the truth, because I never really thought about it. I just assumed that I could not get him over the back until after I canter. I was in for a treat! She got us to focus and me to steady my hand.

She could spot my HUGE issue of inconsistent rein contact right away. She explained it to me in a way that no one else has. We are always told to ride a horse back to front right? Well, I had decided that meant 80% back and 20% front. Instead, I should start thinking of it more as closing gates on both ends. The most amazing thing in the world happened once I got steady. Phoenix came over the back at the walk!! It is just a really cooling feeling when a horse comes underneath you, so to get it at my warm up walk was fantastic.

She then gave us permission to trot and reinforced the idea that a slower, but steadier trot over the back is much better then an out of control, yet impressive looking party trot. That was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. She also got after me for my nagging, and even kicking leg. It is not something I even consciously do so to have someone notice it and really get after me about it was just what I needed. Then it was time to focus on my arch nemisis. My hands. I do NOT have steady hands. If I did not get what she was talking about she would come back and say it in another way. She worked on getting to understand what I should be feeling all the time, praising me when I got it right, and making me think about things when I got it wrong.

She also reminded me that if I stay consistent it is impossible for Phoenix to pick a fight with me. He threw his face in the air after a walk break, which normally signals a battle of wills. Rebecca was able to diffuse the situation quickly and after that moment it was THE BEST RIDE EVER! She made me think of things that I know in a whole new way. By the time we cantered I had Phoenix constant and over the back. It was a wonderful feeling. Look at that picture at the top. The best part is, we were so consistant I have about 5 more pictures that look almost exactly like that at the canter! I felt like I was floating on air by the time we were done! I cannot say enough good things about the ride. I swear that I made a ton of progress in that short ride. I know everyone else agreed. PJsMom said she ahd never seen Phoenix and I look better…EVER.

It was like little light bulbs going off in my head the whole time I was riding. She really tied together everything that my trainer and PO tell me. I had the background knowedge of what, but I clearly was not understanding the why or the how. Rebecca, in a very short amount of time, was able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together with me during the ride. She even said that I was a very good rider! Many times! She also pointed out that I needed to think of myself as a trainer, not just a rider. She really gave my confidence a boost.

Do we not look like the happiest horse and rider pair ever! We were both exhausted, but it was an amazing ride. Look at the drool coming out of my Fat Spotted Pony’s mouth! I was on cloud 9 as I untacked Phoenix and put him back out in the field. I only saw bits of PJsMom’s ride, but she looked fantastic as well. By the time lunch came around all the morning riders were smiling with that post good ride glow! I am so glad that I went to that clinic! It was the perfect bump I needed to remind myself that I have a lot to learn. Even though my time with Phoenix is coming to end, I still need to keep riding and learning. Prior to this clinic I thought I needed to take a break after Phoenix. After this ride (which words cannot do it justice) I called up my trainer and set up a lesson already for the first weekend in June. That was how good this ride was. If anyone out there gets a chance to ride with Rebecca Cowden, do it! Not all Grand Prix riders can teach, but she is one of the few that can! I hope to get to ride with her again someday. Maybe with Gennyral next time (just teasing).

All good things must come to an end…

It is with very mixed emotions that I am now writing that I am no longer going to be involved with Phoenix. What does that mean? That means that after next week’s show I will no longer be riding my fat spotted pony.

My last ride will be at the Memorial Day Show. Shocked by this news?

Well, so was I! As you all know, this winter I spent a ton of money to get my saddle perfectly fitted to Phoenix (not that it was, but it is the principle of the matter). I also spent a lot of time and money getting Phoenix registered with the USDF, the USEF, the local show grounds and Appaloosa Sport Horse Association. I even just got his feet done three weeks ago.

I have spent a lot of time trying to write this post in the most honest way. The reality of the situation though is that I cannot post the reason for this end. I have 100 reasons why I could have ended it (yes, this was my choice). Maybe someday I can share the reason, but for now I will spare the intimate details. This was my decision and I think everyone involved can agree that it was a good one.

I will say this, though…I am going to miss Phoenix a lot! It took me several days to decide that it was time to move on, but when I gave my notice I knew right away I had done the right thing. Is it hard to know that I am giving up my show pony when all I needed was a few more scores, but I do not regret my decision for one second. I finally found something that is more important than ribbons. I pride myself knowing when to walk away, and the fat lady was singing.

I apologize to my long time readers. I have always hated it when you read a blog and they are all “I love this horse” and then with no warning the horse is sold or something else big happens and you are left thinking what happened. I am now that blog and it sucks. I am really sorry about that. I have no regrets about Phoenix, but I do have some about not sharing everything on the blog. Hopefully something like this will never happen again.

It has been two and a half since it was just Gennyral and I. I think that this is the perfect time to just focus on my special pony. I am sure Gennyral would agree!

Yes, I really am that shallow…

Yesterday they put up the preliminary times for Memorial day. I was so nervous to open them up. Class sizes at this show tend to be HUGE. You all know that I love my ribbons, so I was worried that I just spent $255 on a show to come home empty-handed (Ammys and Pros are pinned together). Well, I am happy to report that while two of classes are bigger, one on each day is under 6! Yay!! That means that as long as Phoenix and I do the test we are coming home with something. I am so happy right now! The show is under 2 weeks away. It will be my last show and last ride on Phoenix. I am so happy I get to come home with a ribbon each day. YAY!!!!!!

The Windy Horse Show – Part 4

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

With the goal of a 60% dangling over my head I let Phoenix walk around on a loose rein for a while. The game plan was to get him to be relaxed and through the back before we started to put him together. Well that game plan FAILED and failed big time when after just a few laps around the ring we were already getting called to the show ring. I had not even trotted! I was not sure if I made the mistake and my time was 1:25 or 1:35 or if the judge was just running early again. Not wanting to push my luck either way I did a few quick trot transitions before I headed up.

While trying to put him together, Phoenix was throwing his face in the air like a mad man. It was really getting me frustrated. All I needed was a stupid 60% and here he was being a jerk! I wanted to scream. PO reminded me that Phoenix is 6 and I need to not be mad at him right now. There were 65 mph wind gusts whipping around him at a strange place and he was being such a good boy. So what if he was not the most submissive horse at the moment. He is 6. I am asking a lot of him. As I walked up to the show ring the thought “he is 6” became my mantra. He really was exceptionally well behaved for a 6 year old all things considered. I needed to relax and just have us do our best.

As the judge signaled for us to go in for the last time I was in a much better head space, so of course that helped Phoenix be in a better head space as well. My center line was dead straight and my halt was clean. I still felt like I had my rushy trot, but that was the trot PO had us warm up with so it was what I was going with. When it came time for my first loop I really focused. The stupid loop has been my nemesis. I don’t think I had ever gotten above a 4 on it before. I knew Phoenix and I could do it as long as I planned for it…and plan I did! Phoenix’s nose might be up in the air, but we were at least accurate on this movement for the first time.

My canter transition was…rough. But that was to be expected because he was not on the aids so I had to run him into it. When it was finally time to ask for my downward back to trot it was like Phoenix suddenly clicked. I lost it in the free walk though. That was my bad though, not his. He was starting to try to be a good boy. I just couldn’t maintain it, and because of that we just had a very inconsistent test, which is like the kiss of death at training level. As I halted for the second time I knew I had done worse. Walking out of the ring though every else seemed to think I had done better. I just sat there hoping that they were right and that I broke a 60%, but I also wasn’t counting on it.

As I untacked Phoenix everyone started to leave. By the time my parents waved good bye I was feeling a little lonely. It is one thing to be able to do the horse show thing on your own, it is another to realize that just because you can does not mean that you WANT to go to shows alone. I had hoped that they would score this test fast and that I would not be left on my own for too long. Poor Phoenix had run out of hay between tests so I didn’t want him to get bored and play the “lets see how I can destroy the trailer” game. After 20 minutes of putting away everything in the right place and making sure my trailer was packed perfectly I went to see if they had posted my score.

No such luck.

I went for a walk around the show grounds, watched a few tests, checked on Phoenix and went back 20 minutes after that…Still no such luck. At this point my poor tired baby horse was in a bad mood. I didn’t want to leave him so instead I tried to take a picture of him and the ribbons he had already won earlier in the day while I was waiting for the last score. He looks thrilled doesn’t he!

After an HOUR of waiting they FINALLY posted my class!! I could tell because all the other people who had been looking bored standing around the score board started to look excited and alive. I got out of my truck and made the long way up. I looked at the board and saw a big 3 next to my name. I was happy with third place. It was when I looked down the line and saw my score that I really smiled. I BROKE A 60%!!!! I got a 61.6% at training 4!!! I was now only 1 score away from getting my bronze medal from one of my GMOs and the local show grounds. I was thrilled. As I went back to the trailer I gave Phoenix about 100 kisses. He was such a good boy! The wind was still horrible, but for some reason I stopped being able to feel it. I finally did it…I broke a 60% at training 4! You could not wipe the smile off my face for days after that!

The End.

The Windy Horse Show – Part 3

Part 1

Part 2

So below is a video of my training 3 test. As you can see, it did not start off as a wonderful test. To start off with a canter on your center ling in a training level test…that is just never a good thing. Right in front of the judge too! I remember sitting there thinking “Seriously Phoenix, now is when you get the correct lead?!?!?!” Riding the test I thought that my geometry was very accurate, but watching the video I can see…not so much.

I was thrilled when Phoenix got his lead no problem going left. It was in that moment that I finally started to enjoy myself. I wanted Phoenix to be perfect. Clearly, Phoenix did not know how to be perfect. We got our lead and that was good enough. If nothing else went right in the test, at least we FINALLY got a canter lead! As you can see things started to look up from there. I had a decent transition and got a nice trot after that. And look at my free walk. Not a lot of stretching, but look at that floppy eared relaxation! Our transition back to canter was ugly but…we got the right lead again!!! YAY!!!!! Who knew I would be so happy to get canter leads!?!?!

Our stretch in our stretch circle was nonexistent, which sucks because that is the kind thing that is a coefficient (counts for double) and that we can totally get an 8 on that movement. All well. By the time I went up the center line for my second salute I was comfortable with the job we did on the test. Yes, there was ugly moments, but there were nice moments also. I knew we hadn’t broken a 60%, but overall it was a solid training level test, and that was all I could ask for. I left the ring feeling satisfied. We had done out best, and that is all I can ask Phoenix and I to do.

As I walked out of the ring I was all smiles. I told everyone that I was fine with the test, we had done our best. I was also a little bummed because I knew we had not broken a 60%. Everyone laughed at me for my lack of geometry and salutes (I would do them before Phoenix was halted) but overall we agreed that was a test that was pretty represntative of where Phoenix and I are right now in our training. When I got back to the trailer for my hour break between classes I trailer tied Phoenix again and noticed that the hay situation was not good. Even though I had packed 8 flakes (half a bale) Phoenix had already scarfed down most of it. As the wind picked up I was mad at myself for not packing more because now Phoenix was going to be bored for an hour instead of eating for an hour.

After PJsMom left and PO went to the ring to chat with some friends it was just my Mom and I hanging out with Phoenix. With the wind whiping around and the sun trying to come out it was just a very relaxing moment. During my hour I just enjoying being at the horse show. I had planned ahead and packed myself a healthy pasta salad filled with good things like chicken and veggies that I had for lunch. I have terrible eating habits, so it was a running joke that the only healthy meal I was planning on eating all week was at a horse show. After relaxing for a while it was time to retack Phoenix up. I was worried abotu putting the saddle on after last time, but clearly he was getting tired because I was able to do it while he was trailer tied without an issue.

Just as I was finishing getting ready to get back on PO came back down with my test and a 4th place ribbon. Considering there were only 5 in the class I saw her coming and was bummed I had done so poorly. When she got there my mood perked up a bit though…I had gotten…a 63.2%!!!!! I was thrilled with that score! I felt a lot better after seeing that. My test was all 6s and 7s. I really, really wanted to break a 60% at training 4 and knowing I could do it at training 3 was a big confidence booster. It was 1:00 at this point and I was all ready to get back on. PO told me I was jumping the gun though so Phoenix and I hung out for a few more minutes before heading up to the warm up. I really wanted to break a 60% on the next test.

To Be Continued…

The Windy Horse Show – Part 2

Part 1

So the thing about dressage times is that even if the show is running early, you always have the option to stick to your original time. The only problem with that is it can make the judge a little annoyed when they are sitting there for 10 minutes with NOTHING to do. PjsMom saw me panic and did a good job of refocusing me. I went to the top warm up ring and did another few canter transitions and headed in about 5 minutes ahead of my scheduled time. I have not done a dressage eq class in about 5 years, and clearly things have changed since I last did it! When I last did it, it was treated like a hunter eq class. I am not sure if it was different this time because I was alone or what, but instead of just going around, the judge would call movements out to me and I would have to do them.

As someone who already has issues planning for transitions and movements in tests, this was not good for me. Phoenix was also feeling a little up so if you see him being a little looky, there was a very scary banner in the ring. Luckily, my Dad video taped the class so here it is if you want to watch it.

What I notice with the video, which I did not feel while I was riding it was that I have a total chair seat! Yikes! I thought the eq class went pretty horrible. When the judge asked me for a sitting trot, well, let us just say that many expletives went swirling through my head. As you can see in the video, it was not so good. I have a really hard time riding Phoenix’s gaits. That is why I laugh when people say he is perfect for me. I know he is not perfect for me. Gennyral’s gaits are perfect for me. When I rode him I would just melt into him. He was so comfy! Phoenix and I just don’t have matching movements, which can make things like sitting the trot a little tricky. And it us not like I am a great rider who can just sit to anything.

By the time he got the wrong lead at the canter (TWICE) I was already done with my little equitation experiment! I would happily have left the ring at that time if the judge would have let me. Knowing I had to earn my blue (obviously, no one else was in the class) I sucked it up and just tried not to further make a fool of myself . When he trantered during our trot up the long side I had just about given up hope for any nice moments. And then he proceeded to pick up the wrong lead in the new direction I had to laugh. This class was a DISASTER! It was so bad I almost didn’t even youtube the video.

Luckily, I still have a sense of humor so I figured I could put up my demo of how NOT to ride in a dressage seat equitation class! By the time she yelled out for me to sitting trot up the center I was feeling bad for my poor pony because my big butt was bouncing around all over his back! It felt like the longest class EVER. And seeing the video time marked at almost 6 minutes…it really was the longest test ever! I was happy to have gotten it over with and walked out of the ring already knowing I did not come anywhere near my 65% goal. By that time PO had shown up and I had 3 riders in front of me before I had to do my training level test 3.

I left the ring with the resolve. I could and would do better next time I entered at A. Phoenix and I went back to the warm up, walked a lap and went back to work. We HAD to do better then that in a real test. PO’s big gripe with Phoenix and I is ALWAYS “MORE TROT”. I have nightmares of her screaming “MORE TROT” and clicking at us with her tongue. Phoenix was not being submissive and POs yelling was not helping. I was starting to have a melt down. All I wanted was for Phoenix to listen to me and relax his jaw. All PO wanted was for me to go FORWARD so Phoenix would have the momentum to go into the bridle. All Phoenix wanted was to be safely back at the trailer. I could feel my emotions starting to overtake me as they called for my time.

I walked up to the show ring trying not to be angry. This was supposed to be fun right? When Phoenix spooked at the damn banner again while I was warming up outside the ring, well, I didn’t hold a lot of hope for a nice test.

To Be Continued…

The Windy Horse Show – Part 1

So I woke up on Saturday morning long before my alarm was supposed to go off. It was good because I could do things like pack my truck and eat breakfast at a leisurely pace. I was running so early that I decided I would just go to the barn ahead of schedule because I was going NUTS sitting at home. I went to get my trailer and the barn owners were both teasing me that I had actually giving myself enough time on show day for once. I laughed right along with them, gave Gen a kiss and changed his boots (he is getting such rubs!) and headed to the barn to wait for my Farrier to come and do Phoenix’s trim.

Normally I would not recommend messing with a horses feet on show day, but Phoenix took out a big chunk of one of his hind feet so it really needed to be done. I had a little time to kill so I took off Phoenix’s sleezy (man I love that thing…how did I show last year without it?!?) and re-did some braids. I could hear the rumblings of thunder as I set about getting Phoenix show ring ready. I was still running early so I even had time to give Phoenix a second bath. My poor tired Phoenix sleeps lying down every night. Since his stall is so small that means he ends up lying down in poop every night. I was just drying Phoenix off when my Farrier showed up for the trim. I tossed in Phoenix’s forelock braid while he was getting set up so we would be ready to go whenever he was done.

A view of the storm as it was coming in...

Luckily, the part that broke off Phoenix’s foot making it look so dramatic was just a flair, so what I thought was going to be along trimming only took about 20 minutes. We were again running ahead of schedule by about half an hour! It was a good thing too because those rumblings of thunder had gotten closer and closer and those lightning strikes were getting kind of close. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. Should I wait the storm out or just load Phoenix up early. After going back and forth my Farrier told me to just load him up because you never know how long a storm will last. And load him up I did. My Farrier hung around just in case I needed help, but my little trailering pro marched right on like it was nothing.

As you can see from the picture, the storm was coming, but not yet on top of us as I ran around loading up my gear.

We hit the road and passed both PJsMom and PO (who was coming home from the same show with her young horse) on the way there. I got there so early I literally had an hour to kill before I could start getting ready! I watch the show for a little bit and noticed that people didn’t seem to care about this show at all. I was literally the ONLY PERSON who braided! Worse still some people (with grey or pinto horses) had not even bothered to give their horses a bath! I think my jaw physically dropped when I saw someone go into the ring with a black hoodie on! They showed in a sweatshirt! It was in that moment I realized that my days of showing at the local show ground were numbered. I care a lot about showing. It is horrible to be around people who clearly do not!

I took my time getting all my gear out of the trailer before I got Phoenix out. I decided that this show would be as good chance as any to teach Phoenix how to trailer tie. PJsMom would be there soon if I needed help, so I figured I had nothing to lose so why not? I unloaded him by myself (much to the admiration of the people parked in the trailer behind me and tied Phoenix with an emergency knot to the side of my trailer. It took him a few minutes to get that he was attached to the side (he kept trying to follow me and not being able to to) but once he figured it out he was fine.

Here he is hanging out ready to be tacked up.

My only issue with him came when it was time to tack up. My cold backed pulled back hard as I brought the saddle pad over to him. I quickly released the emergency knot. I am glad I did because when I tried to put the saddle on him (while holding him) he literally ran backwards and the saddles pads and girth came off him with a heap. I felt VERY alone as I was figuring out how to tack him up. I tried my ground tie command and it worked enough that I could at least get the saddle on. I was starting to freak out about getting it on correctly when PJsMom showed back up and helped me out. Talk about a life saver. Phoenix and I are so close to being able to show on our own, but we are just not there yet. I have a fix a test thing on the 20th I am hoping to give it another go at.

Anyway, with help from PjsMom I was ready in no time. I was walking to the ring when my parents showed up. I just think it is the coolest thing that they come and watch my shows! I did not even have time to warm up before they called me into the ring for my eq class! The show was running 10 min early!!!!!

To Be Continued…

Goals For My Show Today…

So I know my blog has turned into a total show diary. Sorry! Poor Gennyral is feeling like he is not getting anywhere near enough attention on the blog these days. I know that I have lost some readers over it as well. My long time readers know that my show plans this year are NUTS and totally unlike me! I tend to show maybe 5-7 times a year, but this year I am stepping up my game…a lot! I want to be one of those people who can just grab her horse and go anywhere and do anything. I am also trying to get all my year end award requirements in early this year which is why my show schedule is so front loaded! As crazy as I think my show schedule is, I am really proud of myself for doing. I know I am getting more relaxed about showing, and that is a good thing.

I have a schooling show at the Local Show Grounds today. After doing so well at my USDF show last weekend, and doing so poorly at the show the week before that, I have giving the show today a lot of thought. I could feel myself starting to put a lot of unneeded pressure on this show. I don’t really know why. There was no reason. In order to organize my thoughts, and hopefully take away some of my nerves about the show, I decided to make a list of goals!

1) Break a 65% in the dressage seat equitation class (doable, but it is not going to be easy).

2) Stop freaking out about training 4 (I am developing a total mental block about that test for NO REASON).

3) Break a 58% in training 4 (then it will be a usable score for the local show grounds bronze medal).

4) Try to teach Phoenix how to trailer tie (I bought a hay net and everything, but it is all going to depend on the weather)

5) Remember my tests (stupid walk movements are killing me for some reason).

6) Be smart about time (DUH. It will be tricky though because Phoenix is getting his toes trimmed THIS MORNING! Like before the show. My farrier knows what time I have to leave by so we should be okay, but with all my time issues this year…)

7) Be smart about weather (they are predicting sever thunderstorms all morning and into the afternoon. and after that it is supposed to be VERY windy. No need to hurt/kill myself of Phoenix for a ribbon)

Okay, that is all of them that I can think of. I really want to do well today!

Phoenix’s First USDF Show – Part 3

Part 1

Part 2

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 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…