Thursday, September 25, 2014

The (Show) Hangover

What an amazing (and exhausting) weekend. I am glad we "only" showed in walk/trot classes, and only three each day. That kicked my ass. Totally worth it, though. Another lesson in trainer-knows-best. Listen to your trainer, people!

Things got off to a hectic start, with us leaving late from the barn to get to the show, and with my work travel before the show, I was not packed and ready to go like I have been the rest of the summer when I wasn't even showing. Add to that only three hours of sleep on Thursday night because I was finishing stuff for a deadline on Friday (not helpful when you are not planning to work on Friday). My mom's flights from Tallahassee to Michigan were all jacked up - thanks Delta - and we finally made it home around 11:30 PM instead of 6:00 PM as planned. Ugh.

Adrenaline kept me going strong for Friday, and we managed to lunge in the bombed out beach of a warm-up pen outside, but it sure didn't help Abbey settle in to feel like she was being sucked into the Swamp of Sadness like poor Artax in the Neverending Story. Seriously not sure why this show management never pays for dragging or watering, but when they have a barn of 300 horses you would think they could spring the extra cash to make sure no one pulls a suspensory or breaks a leg. Overall it was a great show, but the lack of ring maintenance was annoying.

artex dying2
Don't let the sadness overwhelm you!
Abbey and I finished up outside and she got her two hour bath (all that white and all that mane). She was really good in the frigid water and tolerated it without being stupid, but we did break hose we borrowed from our new barn-mates. Way to go, twinkle toes. My fault for not keeping it out of hoof's reach. I breathed a sigh of relief as we walked back to the stall. We survived the beach lunging and scary wash rack, what could go wrong? Silly human. This is a horse we are talking about!

Abbey took the opportunity to shake like a dog as she was walking and I watched in horror as her little hooves crumpled underneath her as she slipped and stumbled to regain her footing, which she did. I stood there in shock for a second, and then continued back to the stall. Upon further inspection, she was fine except for a big goose egg on her right rear fetlock from where she caught herself on the cement. She bled a little, but nothing serious. I wrapped her well all around with her standing bandages and Back on Tracks on the rear legs and tucked her in to her sleazy and sheet. Top that off with a tail bag and what we have is a fancy pants show pony.

I finally made it back to the hotel around 2:00 AM Saturday morning for a few hours of sleep before my mom's alarm went off at 6:00 AM. My brain sprung to life with images of a lame horse on three legs with a grapefruit on her fetlock from the slip the night before. I talked myself off the mental ledge and stumbled around the hotel room, showered, did my hair and we headed out to the barn.

My trainer had three other people there with our barn, and they show all day starting with showmanship, so we went and lunged (they must have dragged in the middle of the morning?) and the footing was better, still not great. Saturday greeted us with sandstorms of dust from the unwatered outdoor as we lunged and then warmed up, and Abbey was just fresh as a daisy from the sudden drop in temperature. It went from 80 degrees and sunny to 60 and chilly and windy, followed by torrential rain and wind all night and all day Sunday. What a doozy.

I was signed up for trail, horsemanship, and pleasure, and I thought I would get to end on trail after getting my feet wet in the other "easier" classes. Well the schedule ended up with me barely making it out to trail, and it was down to the wire to fit it in and I hadn't ever ridden a full course, or had time to mentally prepare for getting thrown to it. Luckily I got to watch one of the best riders in the barn go ahead of me.

Horse Show Princess!
I don't think I have ever been that nervous in my life. Ever. I have been married twice, divorced once, in lots of other performance situations, driven a manual car through the streets of Italy, and nothing has come close to the terror that seized me sitting there in my rhinestones waiting our turn. Abbey was looking around with her ears pricked forward, but cool as a cucumber compared to me.

Trail Class
OMG. It's our turn! AHHHHHHH!!!! Deep breaths. We walked calmly to the right-hand gate, worked that with one clunk (I think) on the upright, and turned to trot through the cones - set close together so the turns were wide and loopy, through the first two and around the bottom and back through the center... here is a drawing since this is a lot to write...

We handled the gate well, a little less fluid than it should have been, and I think we clunked once (deduction). The cones were good (trainer said could have been less loopy). The back through the L was okay, but I only looked back on one side (panicked a little) and was crooked, and didn't back up far enough (front feet should have been at the edge of the logs). Jogged the poles perfectly, and then the evil side pass L gave me a near-heart attack, but we made it after bumping more than a few times. The bridge was excellent, as was the 360 and poles. Abbey was a star.
We exited to cheers from my barn mates, their moms, my trainer, and my own mom who flew up just to be here with me. I immediately did what every cowgirl isn't supposed to do. I cried. It was like the damn that had been holding back months and years of fears, self-doubt, insecurities, and hopes and dreams burst and they all came out at once. I like to think that I was stoically teary-eyed, but I may have been ugly Kim Kardashian crying... not really sure.
Poor Kim...
Horsemanship Class
I went into my horsemanship class after a quick wardrobe change into my other jacket. I was just as nervous, if not more so walking in and lining up on the rail. I quickly asked my trainer how I would know when to go... she said after you feel ready, or before you get too nervous... OMGOMGOMG...!!!!
We walked in, chin up, eyes ahead, slow and steady. Found our spot on the rail, and waited our turn. After the first few patterns, I started to feel better about our abilities to not look like walruses roller-skating. We lined up before A. Waited our turn. Looked at the judge. Nodded, and off we went. We jogged beautifully, with just one hiccup in the middle of the line, I think I was still nervous. As soon as we started our circle to the right, I feel more relaxed and so did Abbey. We got to B and started the circle to the left and I felt amazing! We halted, paused, and backed. Exited, chin raised high, to more clapping and cheers. I cried again.
Here is my terrible drawing that looks a little phallic...
Walk/Trot Horsemanship
September 21, 2104
Abbey was incredible! She listened to my leg and guided around with ease. It was like a dream sequence in slow motion, like being on a magic carpet and all I had to do was think about what I wanted and it happened. We placed second out of seventeen in the class, and this is the ribbon that I am most proud of from the whole weekend. We placed in all our classes, but this one means the most because to me it shows that we are truly a team and that we are in-sync with each other. It proves to me that she is broke and on her way to being a finished horse. We still have a ways to go, but that is part of the fun. What would make this journey exciting if everything came together at once and without struggle?

Pleasure Class
This was by far the most difficult class of the show for me. Abbey is used to our much smaller indoor, and I think with her brain she gets bored going slow on the rail. She wants to DO something, damnit! This is all about how the horse goes, but the rider has to not fuck it up with a lot of moving around or corrections. We almost broke from the trot a few times because I was trying to slow her down, and used my spur stop a little too much. There was only one judge, and I am not sure he saw, but I think so. The walk is the hardest part. Excruciating. We did make a pretty picture, though. I am waiting to get some photos emailed to me from the show photographer. We placed third out of eleven here, so again, exciting! I have ordered photos from this class and I can't wait to get them - we look purdy.

Little Things
Some of my favorite moments have nothing to do with actually showing. My horse was calm. She trailered like a champ. She let me bathe her without acting like the world was ending. She handled everything in stride. I never thought we would be able to ride through the barn on the cement, ride in to the show pen, or walk outside down the road without having a disaster happen. Each of these little moments of success is burned into my mind. And I hope that when I get down and feel like something will never, ever happen in a million years, I remember how it felt to stand there calmly when chaos was happening around us, or to ride in a warm-up pen with literally one hundred other horses in a sea of ears, butts, and tails without batting an eye. These moments are my true trophies.

Things to Work On
I am looking forward to working on all of these things more now that I have a taste for the bigger picture of showing. I want to learn showmanship, and really would love to add hunt seat, but I may be putting the cart before the horse on that. I think to be realistic, we should work on finishing the lope this year, and maybe adding showmanship to that. I can leave hunt seat for the year after that :) For now I will keep working on my side pass, especially over logs, backing around things, being precise on my logs, and working the gate. I will also keep learning how to read patterns, as interpreting them correctly is key to doing well. I need to add some blue to the color scheme, so that is in the works for next year :)

I have a lot more to write about the show, but this is already a book, so I am signing off for now. Thanks to all of you out there in the blogosphere who have sent me warm fuzzies in the comments here. Each one of our ribbons belongs to you, too. Your encouragement kept me going though some tough stuff, and I thought of each of you as I cried my happy tears. Thank you.

The Spoils of War


  1. Sounds like an excellent outing! It's always so nice to stop and realize that your horse was a perfect champion away from home :D

    1. It was a great weekend - exhausting, but great :)