The stars aligned and I made it to a semi-local schooling show today. Around an hour-and-a-half drive, which is CLOSE compared to some...
I signed up for Three 1 and a re-ride. Our changes are far from consistent, and definitely NON-existant when his back is tight. I knew that going in, but didn't feel like all the effort and $$$ was really worth it for Second.
In the grand scheme of things, it was the right decision, despite the score. My first inkling that it might be a 'challenging' day was when the forecast called for a hurricane. Huh. But the closer we got, the forecast was hurricane Sat'dy, and beautiful Sunday. Better. Though no ride or bath or anything on Sat'dy, as hurricane did hit--not directly, but sideways rain and COLD.
Clue #2 probably should've been the fact that I don't think he's EVER been as naughty about a bath as he was this morning. I'll admit, *I* wasn't crazy about the idea either. When I got home from work yest'dy he was shiverring pathetically, so actually got a medium blanket (wick the wet, breath, waterproof...) I was *hoping* he'd stay clean. Didna happen.
So bath was an uncharacteristic battle. Followed by lighter-weight-but-still-insulated blanket.
The reward for signing up for Third Level is getting to sleep late. I may never go back to Intro again. Screw it if the horse doesn't canter yet! I woke up the first time, decided there was NO WAY I was going to subject Himself to cold water and shampoo, and went back to sleep for 90 minutes. Thanks to the hurricane the show was also delayed an hour, so the first ride was an eminently reasonable 10:30 EDST.
Unfortunately due to bath antics I *did* miss one of my student's Intro Tests--which garnered her high-score for the day (! ! ) but even MORE importantly, a LOVELY comment about her soft and correct hands--something that has been a bugaboo I've pretty much *nagged* her about since our first lesson. I was SUPER proud.
The venue was gorgeous. By the time we got there, around noon:30, it was also clearing. And that golden, magnified light that comes after a storm. Just beautiful. It was relaxed, super well run, and just the perfect outing for our first venture after two... three... four? Years..
Warmup was... interesting. Himself was as on his toes as he's ever been. His disdain for lower levels was clear in his demonstrations of High School movements. We had at least one capriole (witnessed) several levades, and a few steps here and there of Spanish Walk, which he has not been taught yet, but has always had a tendency too.
There's a point where you fish or cut bait. A really pretty little redhead Ayerabby mare with lots of chrome was warming up with us... and in FLAMING heat. My stallion is never studdy... rather he acts much younger and greener than his actual age and amount of training. Everyone thinks he's an adolescent... which he is NOT. He got to calling, which I did not really reprimand enough (he KNOWS he's not allowed to 'talk' under saddle. My teacher does allow it, though refocuses him. I was not carrying a whip, so was conservative in my attempts to refocus, due to earlier airs... Lesson #1. ) He was just getting MORE up and MORE tense... so I chose to just walk on the buckle and stand and watch. I probably could have ridden him into submission/exhaustion... nothing is worth that. This was a SCHOOLING show. NOTHING mattered except a positive experience for both of us. I will admit I was subliminally aware that several of my students were there... and several people I've judged in baby CTs. To *me* it was more important to be fair, kind and consistent to what I *preach.* Which meant sucking it up and giving rein. I'm not going to override past a horse's condition just to get submission. That's false submission.
I did NOT loose my brain this time when the whistle blew--Yay! That in itself was a revelation. I think because the level was a stretch, and I *knew* Himself was stressed and tense... I just grinned and laughed. Lesson #2--you can cry, or laugh and revel in the fact that you are DOING it. Maybe far from perfect, but DOING...
Our score *will* go down in history as my lowest ever. Let's just say we had my first and only ZERO--the second flying change didn't happen, and rather than fuss about getting a correct lead canter for like four strides, I just went forward in trot to the next movement... (oh, btw, that was a COEFFICIENT... oops. ) We *got* a flying change where one wasn't asked for (oops! Hay, we GOT one though! ) and the "3" for the enter, halt, salute, levade... well... so we're a little on the over-achiever side... <shrugs> No one appreciates genius in our own lifetimes... We won't mention the "oops, I forgot the 20m circle (with give rein)" that *I* caught BEFORE the whistle... <sigh> without the error that would've been a high score in the test, an 8.
I have never, ever in my LIFE apologized to a judge before. I did upon approaching after the final halt. I knew his back was tight--I had to post the medium and the extension because there was no way on the planet to sit them... I knew what we blew. I knew he was never, once, actually THROUGH. I knew it felt like someone sprayed Pledge on the seat of the Ancient Passier... But the judge made a comment that I think I've probably turned on it's head: She said that we would've scored the same (low) at Training Level. And she's ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY right... except, we weren't. We were doing Third.
Every Single Score would've been two to three points higher if I'd had his brain. I didn't. That was MY fault, not his. In retrospect, on the way home, I asked myself why I did not warm him up in hand, as I've been taught to do. I don't know why I didn't. I guess I thought happy-happy walking on a long rein might be enough to relax him. It used to be. But I've learned the subtle and yet crucial connection between suppleness, obedience and impulsion. None can exist without the other two. And on days when his leetle testosterone brain leaks out his gorgeous curly ears... I've got to go back to the in-hand work to GET HIM. Supple him,then he can concentrate and be obedient. Get him listening, then he can go forward. I had NONE of those three. I knew it, but sort of gave up. I guess I thought he'd settle in the test. I've NO IDEA where that thought came from. It's not ANYTHING I've been taught or teach. And lesson #3 was a horse that is working at this level is way, WAY more fit, and happy-happy long rein doesn't cut it.
The judge was quite horrified. She did say 'of course I've no idea what you are doing at home.' Ain't that the truth? But "away" ISN'T home, and this was such, such, SUCH a valuable learning experience.
And she was right--the score would've been the same (low) at TL. But it wasn't. It was Third. And we DID it. Not prettily, not perfectly... but we DID it. There were moments within almost EVERY movement that I was proud-to-bursting over. The first HP was fabulous--but I got a little overzealous and hauches led for a bit, of course killing the score. The second HI-to-1/2 circle-to HP was really nice, if the pilot hadn't oversteered the center line... (not an excuse, but an explanation--I haven't ridden with LETTERS since last November, and have NEVER ridden a large court with letters on this horse... )
I scratched the re-ride. Was not going to teach either of us anything. Sure, I could've gotten him more tired, but that wasn't going to give me his back any more than being tense and fresh was. It would've given us mileage in the large court, but I didn't think that was a fair tradeoff. He had TRIED. Today wasn't his day. Wouldn't have been for Intro, not to mention anything higher.
And absolutely NO sour grapes, because I more than anyone know where we were lacking, but this judge was scoring BTV/behind the bit rather well. We are anything but. He did have many moments of beautiful self carriage... both SI's and HP's let me give the inside rein... because he was tense, when he DID step through for a stride or two, he was 'at liberty on parole'. Now, the moments will take time and mileage to string together to become a whole movement, then a whole test. But like a string of pearls, it TAKES time. And a little irritation here and there...
I got to dress my beautiful pony up. He smelled of shampoo and hair gel and clean horse in that way that takes me back to the best memories of my life. I got to enjoy a beautiful, very low key, well organized day. He GLEAMED and I *know* he raised a bit of a rukus when he showed up in the warmup--I heard the 'oohs' and 'oh, look at THAT one!' and 'how CUTE!' Beyond anything... I got to TRY.
I learned many lessons. Most of all, I can't expect miracles when we haven't BEEN anywhere but Teacher's in... how long? He wasn't studdy, he wasn't naughty, if anything, he was anticipating/trying too hard... how can one not be pleased?
The sad part is there are few photos, if any. I handed out a disposable camera and my digi to friends. Digi has none--the delay is way longer than hers. I won't know what disposable has until I develop the pics--and I've got to finish the roll. The show photographer was two rides ahead of me--on the pretty chetty mare with chrome--(and in heat) and was cooling her out during my ride. (I actually feel worse about HER mare's behaviour because of my guy's presence... ) Perhaps that's fine. Perhaps visual proof of our incompetence would ruin my impression of the day.
I'm just ridiculously pleased. Maybe I'm in denial. <shrugs> But I had a great day. I am so proud of my boy I could burst. Now if *I* can get my act together, and be a better rider/trainer... then HE'LL get a chance to really show his stuff. He proved to me today that it's a possibility well within reach, rather than just a 'someday dream.'a