Monday, May 9, 2011

Dressage in the Sandhills

Well, my first open show of the season has come and gone....and it was a FABULOUS experience!!! To start the story a little earlier, let's begin the Saturday before the show when I threw Buddy in the trailer and trekked over to Chapel Hill for one last lesson with Lynn. It was really quiet at the farm since I was the only person having a lesson that day. We started with the usual warm up of flexing both sides and making sure I could talk to all the parts of his body. Something was just not right from the beginning, we were stopping every couple of strides and when I went to put my leg on, his sides were rock hard. He had pooped in the trailer and was eating hay when I opened the door so I doubted he was colicing, but I expressed my concern to Lynn and we took it a little easy in order to watch him. Unfortunately, easy was not really all that easy! We worked on regulating his trot, showing more in his travers, more fluidity in the turn on the haunch and then came the canter...what a disaster! He was so far behind my leg I ended getting a whip to keep him moving. We worked on collection with straightness, circles and then the simple changes. Usually, the lessons are 45 min., but on our easy work out we did an hour...jeez! Buddy and I were exhausted and I was completely disheartened. I felt unprepared for this show and honestly considered scrapping the whole thing, but it was paid for and we were going.

Over the week, my rides slowly improved. I body clipped him on Monday, had a less than pleasant ride on Tuesday (probably due to the new haircut), thunderstorms were held on Wednesday so no riding, and Thursday definitely had better moments. Friday was the big day, I packed the trailer loaded up the Boo and off we went to Southern Pines! We arrived right at the end of a pretty intense thunderstorm that had delayed the show for an hour and a half. Buddy was unloaded and settled in immediately into his new (well rather old stall, they were established in the 50's!) stall. We met Lynn and some of our new neighbors then went to the hotel to tuck in for the evening and get ready for the next day's classes. We did get to use a really cool service that I had not been exposed to at any of my other overnight shows...Overnight check-in was done by a lovely woman named Linda who during the course of the night would check in on your horses, refill water if needed, give more hay, put on/take off blankets, feed breakfast and call if your horse was acting peculiar, and all of this was $10 a night...what a wicked deal!!!

Saturday morning was rather uneventful, we said good morning to everyone, walked Buddy around the track since the show grounds at Pinehurst is actually a sulky track with a polo field in the middle. The show rings are set up along the outside of the track  and the warm-up on the other side of the track and the polo field. Buddy was also introduced to the golf course behind the barn, where there was a tee for one of the holes right behind his stall! Next was stall cleaning and then braiding for the first class at 11:11 (the wish time...I admit I did make a wish that the weekend would go well!). Buddy warmed-up like a champ and off we went to our first class Second Level Test 2. It started off a little sticky since the rings were a mucky from the rain the day before and because of the invisible ring monster in the corner near M, but other than that was a rather pleasant test. I was stoked when I saw that I had tied for first place but it was even better that I had tied with a woman who I used to board with and had taught me when I was a beginning student at Woodlawn Stables in Alexandria, VA. I lost the tie but still ended up second with a score 63%! My next test was around 2:45 and I had asked Lynn to coach since it was a GAIG qualifying class. We got out to the polo field about a half hour before my class, and she whipped my butt into shape...more collection, shorter reins, more shoulder-fore and plenty of half-halts. Buddy felt Fantastic!!! I went into the class and had a total brain fart :( The test went well but I somehow forgot most of the stuff Lynn had just worked so hard to hammer into my head, UGH! I finished and Lynn said that it went OK but to bring the camera my father had videoed my ride with to her trailer once I finished taking care of Buddy. I went back to the barn, untacked, washed Buddy down, and fed him dinner. Then Mom and I took the camera over to Lynn's trailer and plugged it up to her flat screen. We watched the test twice, the first time was for Lynn to commentate on every movement, the second was to see if I could do it to prove to her I knew what to fix. That was a great learning tool. I knew exactly what I needed to fix and had my homework to think about before doing the test again the next morning. Afterwards, we went to the office to pick up my score. I ended up in the bottom of my class but with a 64+%!!! First place had a 68% so we weren't too far off and I got my first score for the GAIGs :) We went back to the barn, tucked Buddy in for the night, set breakfast up for Linda to give and then went out into Southern Pines for a celebratory dinner!

Sunday morning came quickly since we had to pack up at the hotel and my ride time was earlier than yesterday. I had studied in the hotel room my three major bullet points and was ready at 8:30 for my warm-up ride with Lynn. Buddy felt AWESOME, unlike anything that I had ridden the week before, at the show or probably ever from him. I really felt like we belonged there! We walked into that ring and owned test 3. We showed our mediums with clear collection afterwards, shoulder-in to renvers were clear, the reinback was less tense, turn-on-the-haunches were marching, walking with done with purpose, simples were light and the counter canters were less rushed. We (me, mom, dad, and Lynn) were extremely pleased!! I couldn't wait to get my score but we went to get some breakfast and then headed to the show office. I went to the score board and my heart fell. Not only was I again at the bottom of my class but apparently this judge did not appreciate my ride at all and scored me a 59%. I felt like I had been beaten up, I read the comments and there were some good moments but overall she felt that we lacked the idea of true collection. Lynn did not think it was all that bad but could tell I was upset. Unfortunately, she had to leave right after in order to get home to teach her Sunday lessons. So I was on my own for the last class. It looked like it was going to rain so we packed everything early in order to be ready to leave after my rather late ride time of 3:42. Luckily, many competitors opted to scratch in order to get on the road early so I was able to move my ride time up. I went through the same motions from my warm-up that morning and was ready to ride test 2. Poor Buddy was exhausted and tried his best but was very slow and broke for a step in his counter canter. I praised him at the end and thanked him for being such a good boy this weekend. I ran back to the barn, cooled him off, put the tack and my show clothes in the trailer and then got Buddy on with his well earned Banana :) We parked the trailer with him in it to wait for my scores by the show office. It was only a couple minutes and I had my last score and ribbon in my hand. I came in second again just like the day before but unlike that morning, the score was much higher with a less than thrilling test (62.6%)....whatever! The comments were similar but the marks were higher. We left after that and Buddy was more than excited to see the barn when I opened the trailer door. He was such a good boy, I don't plan on getting on him until maybe Wednesday. It was a great show, with really good learning experiences, new and old friends were enjoyed, and great scores at Second level including a GAIG score. Not a bad start to the open show season...until next time!