Sunday, September 18, 2011

NCDCTA Labor of Love...A Real Labor of Love

The NCDCTA Labor of Love show marked the end of this year's show season. With lack of money and schedule conflicts from my paralegal class at UNC, I don't really have time for another show. With that being said, I had to make this one count and boy did I work my tail off to do so!

This horse show was meant for experience since Buddy and I have already qualified for Sport Horse Nationals and GAIG/USDF Region 1 Championships. There was just one more goal to be obtained...the elusive USDF/Dover Saddlery AA Medal! All Season, I have come in 2nd in the Medal classes, narrowly missing this achievement each time. I wanted that Medal BAD!!! But I planned to make this a productive training weekend as well as a successful showing.

We arrived Friday around 2 and set-up pretty quickly because Lynn got a tack stall which most of her students ended up sharing. After settling in and checking-in at the show office, I decided to take Buddy for a hack/school in the covered and indoor arenas since that is where we would be competing. My light and stress-free ride did not really go as planned...Buddy was EXTREMELY tense and a little spooky in the indoor which lead to very difficult canter work including a concrete neck/mouth and dropping out of the canter regularly. With that came frustration, stopping, backing and head swinging, ugh!! I ended up getting off and checking his bridle just to make sure that nothing was majorly wrong.  Nothing was, so I worked on getting him soft on the ground then remounted and tried again. He seemed to relax enough to get through some canter work without fussing and did some nice counter canter loops as well, unfortunately the simples were still lacking but better than when we started. I decided to end it on a good note seeing as how we had early ride times on Saturday. Back to the stalls we went to get dinner and a bath for Buddy. Home was the next destination since ride times were mid-morning and Bud needed braiding.

I'm not gonna lie, the next morning I was a little nervous. I was praying that we would not go through the same warm-up we had had in the coliseum last night during the test. But I gathered my nerves trudged down to the barn and started the normal morning chores trying to be positive. I just have to add that I love showing in NC for many reasons but one of my favorites is that at most shows, you can get a nightwatch for your horse. Which means someone checks him multiple times a night, leaves little notes on the report card stapled to his stall and gives breakfast! But, I digress, the first class I was on my own for warm-up since it was 2-2. Warm-up was MUCH better, he was calm and soft and adjustable. We went into the test and completed a nice test with forward impulsion and some minor tweaks like softening his neck in the canter, 10m circles were a hair large and centerlines...ugh! But anyways, it was a successful test and the judge thought so too, a 65+% with a  1st place ribbon. I was stoked! What a great way to start the day! The 2-3 test was about an hour later and this time I had help from Lynn. Apparently, when I go into the warm-up I tend to forget how to ride my horse but I am quickly reminded what my purpose in the saddle is again (especially when Lynn is on the other end of the microphones!). We had the BEST warm-up I have EVER had on Buddy. He actually felt like a true 3rd level horse, eek! I went into the test feeling confident of our amazing work. Too bad Buddy had some other ideas. The ring that our second test was in was by the road and of course this weekend happened to be the first NC State game of the season, so the road was filled with game-goers, tail-gaters and "pre-gamers". Buddy immediately became super tight and lost all of the good juices we had gotten in the warm-up. The judge saw it and gave us a 61% with a 4th place. Not bad but not really what I was hoping for. Buddy was unbraided, bathed and put back in his stall in front of his fan...he was a happy camper. I spent the rest of the day with the other members of NSTC cheering on rides and listening to Lynn coach. Overall it was a fulfilling day. Everyone went to the barn party that evening and had a good time with some good laughs :)

The next day was the crucial day...Dover Medal class at 1PM! I was nervous, excited and focused...maybe too focused. I (Me! Can you believe it?) was very tight because of the pressure I was putting on myself and it showed in my riding. I had trouble keep him soft and loose and swinging. But Lynn kept trying to get me to get him to relax. She had to leave me early because she had another student in the ring at the same time who needed her more than I did. We went into the indoor to do our test (where we had had the bad warm-up on Friday) and started off pretty well, all until we got to the halt. Next was the back-up...I said back-up.....oh, for the love of pearl, I said BACK-UP!!!! That was what it looked like and there was no, zip, nadda back-up. I tried walking a few steps forward and tried again but it just was not happening and it kinda went downhill from there. The simples were done through the trot, the canter was tense and boy was he strong! I came out of the test very disappointed but the judge did stop me at the end of my test to tell me that "those things happen, just keep going and make up the points in the rest of the test". What a nice guy! Dad waited around for the score since I was the second to last one (and he loves to surprise me with my score/ribbon, always has!). I was not hopeful at all and became a tad mopey since I blew my chance at the Dover Medal but I was already planning ahead for my last test (at 4PM...UGH!). My dad came back with the test, I took the test from him and noticed the paper was funny. I opened the test and inside this is what I found:

HALLELUJAH! I actually managed to best my field of other amateurs to get this beauty!!! Granted the score was a 61% but Mr. Schmutz, the judge, was very positive and said overall the test wasn't bad except for the halt and to keep working! I was so excited I marched the test down to the warm-up where Lynn was schooling another student to show her. Needless to say, there was lots of smiling, hugging and squeeling :) I stayed to watch my barn-mates do their last rides but had to head back to get Buddy ready for his last ride. I went into this warm-up with confidence renewed that we could get through this. The warm-up was short and sweet to conserve the last bit of Buddy's energy and off we went into the the ring beside the road. If I thought the first test was tight, boy was I going to be surprised at this one! Buddy managed to find a water drain next to the ring that he managed to miss in the  first test. Let's just say that was all he could think about and he was CONVINCED it was going to suck him up... 
Giraffe and Camel are what come to mind for that test! It makes me laugh now but I was just exhausted after the ride and I really couldn't be mad at him since we did get the medal. It was the end of the show and he was genuinely scared. On a good note, Kay Meredith LOVED him! She gave him some really super marks and comments, not so bad all in all even though the score was a 59%. Overall, not a bad way to end the show season!