The first show of the season

22 May

The first show of the year has come and gone, and while there were some issues, there were also quite a few triumphs. Here’s a breakdown of the good, the great, the bad and the ugly! Warning – long post…

After I hit up the walk-in clinic on Saturday morning (no strep, no bronchitis, thank goodness!), I headed out to the barn. Corona, once again, was a gem to ride and I was really pleased with him. He got a nice bath, followed by more turnout as I got our stuff loaded in the trailer for the next day. I braided his mane, told him to be good and not rub it on anything and that was that.

Sunday morning I arrived at the barn by 6:45am, fed the horses and turned out the horses with the exception of Corona and Roller. Luckily the braids still looked good and I only had to pick out a few pieces of wood shavings. My first test was at 10:17am, so I wanted to leave the Boss’ by 8am to allow plenty of travel time and warm up time. Once we did a final check that everything was packed, we decided to load the horses. At this point the Boss tells us that we should load Corona first because Roller was not fond of her trailer the last time he had to ride in it (i.e.: when she brought him from his old home back in the fall). Corona isn’t a bad loader, but he can take some coaxing, and in the past we have always loaded him last because it helps to have another horse on board to coax him in. I brought him out on a long cotton line and up the ramp we went…and then stopped, and then pulled back. We did a small circle and tried again, same thing, except this time the bugger turned away from me on the ramp and decided to trot 180 degrees away from me, I held on as long as I could and had to let go…and he was off…galloping full tilt around the track, lead line trailing behind him. He did a lap, then was on his way back to our end when he cut through the space between the outfield and the grass ring so that we couldn’t catch him, then turned right so that he was coming towards us. Luckily he had slowed down at this point, but quickly dodged between CG, myself and the Boss on his way over to his field…only to find the gate was closed. Off he came towards us again and stopped. I caught him. The Boss was fuming and decreed, “Put the chain over his nose!” which I don’t like doing but decided to keep my mouth shut. We tried again and I didn’t realize that the Boss had tied the lunge line to the trailer so that they could rope it around his butt once he was part way in…had I known this I would have told her not to as I knew it would spook him….I was right…as soon as he stepped halfway into the trailer the 3rd time, they put the lunge around his butt. He was off the trailer like a shot, this time with the chain over his nose (hence why I don’t like having a chain over their nose!). Thank goodness he stopped about 20 ft. away and let me approach him. Fourth time was the charm and he loaded like a star. I stayed with him in the trailer while CG got Roller. After a bit of coaxing, Roller got in the trailer, but the Boss is unable to get the ramp up herself, so as I handed Corona’s lead to CG so that I could help her, Roller decided he was done and he started backing out. Roller is built like a tank. He pulled back and CG has the sliced up hand and rope burn to prove it. I think it was 2 more times before he loaded…at least Corona wasn’t the only naughty one…

It was now 8:25am and my Zen outlook of the day was starting to fade. I hate being rushed in horse-related things and I was determined to set myself up for success. Luckily, it didn’t take us as long as we thought to get to the show, and we arrived just after 9am. Zen outlook returned! CG and I checked in, unloaded our tack and then unloaded the horses. We were a bit worried that the horses were going to rush off the trailer after the loading experience, but they were nice and calm and we couldn’t have asked for more from either of them.

We got tacked up and headed to the warm-up ring. Corona was amazing again! There were about 4 horses in the ring at that time, along with their respective coaches/handlers/onlookers. I took my time and focussed on warming up using the same exercises we’d do at home and letting him have a good look around. He was responding willingly and only had a few minor spooks. 10:17 came and went but nobody came to tell me I was up, so I just kept riding. Then, a woman came over to me and said I was up…10 minutes ago! I think the people around me were equally as confused because normally there’s a whipper-in at shows who tells riders when to go to the ring / who is on standby etc. Regardless, I went to the ring, began walking around the outside and said hello to the judges. And here’s where it got ugly – Corona apparently did not like anything about that ring. I think we had at least 3 spooks just going around the outside then the judges rang the bell for us to enter and it all went to hell in a hand-basket. Our halt at X was non-existent, it was more of a halt-turned-backup-turned-side pass. Trotting towards C and turning left turned into a side pass down the long-side. Our 20 meter circles were more crescent-shaped than anything, our flexion was to the outside for 50% of the test because it was all I could do to keep Corona from veering into the middle of the ring. At one point as we were doing a canter to trot transition at K, I was certain we were going to jump the little white fence. Once the test was done, I actually felt the need to apologize to the judge for having to witness the atrocity, and luckily she laughed it off and said, “don’t worry about it, I see you have two more tests today.”

As if I didn’t feel shitty enough, the Boss made it worse. She asked me where my spurs were and I told her they were in the trailer. I haven’t been riding with spurs all year because I haven’t felt the need for them. The only reason I brought them to the show was because I knew the Boss would tell me to wear them. I told her that I haven’t been wearing them and the look on her face was that of disgust and disbelief, but all she said was, “you need them, you’ve tried being nice and now it’s time to get serious.” Me putting on spurs would not have remedied the issues of this test, and frankly why on earth would I put spurs on when I haven’t been riding him in spurs at all for the last year. She then told me that she’s never quite seen anything so terrible. Awesome, thanks Boss. I was biting my lip at this point because I thought I was going to burst into tears…I’m not stupid, I obviously knew the test wasn’t good, but I really didn’t appreciate anything about that conversation. In particular, and to add to my rant, I really don’t think the Boss should be telling me how to ride this horse considering that she’s watched me ride him all of 20 minutes in the last year.

My next test was at 11:10am so I went back into the warm-up ring. Once again, Corona was a dream. He didn’t spook at all, and he was going really well for me. Surprisingly, a whipper-in was now in attendance (where was she before?!) and I was told I was on-deck. The second test essentially went the same way as the first, but to less of an extreme. Corona was still spooky at the entire ring, but he was more attentive and I was able to get him back quicker after each spook. I noticed an improvement in his flexion and his response to my aids and we got our halts in this test. Definitely an improvement, which is really all I could have asked for after the first test.

There was a 2 hour break before my last test, so we let the horses graze by the trailer. The results from the first two tests were out so CG and I headed to the tents to see the damage. Not surprisingly, I ended up with a 52.92% in the first test and then a 56.25% in the second. Being a small schooling show, my 52% earned me 3rd place (out of 3), but my 56% earned me 3rd place out of 4! At least we improved from the first to the second test.

After our break, I tacked up Corona again but CG decided to wait a bit longer before getting Roller ready. I decided to venture to the warm-up ring solo and my lovely Corona didn’t put up a fuss at all. I was very proud of him, because this is the sort of silly thing that he would normally take issue with. We warmed up again and he was going the best he’d gone all day. He was relaxed and attentive, responsive and willingly did everything I asked of him. I was very happy to see that the Boss, and her ex-husband PM, were watching and they actually commented on how good he looked.

It was time for us to head to the ring for our last test and I was feeling really good about things. I wish I could say that we had a stellar performance, but unfortunately the same issues arose as the first two tests. Spook after spook after spook! Running around like a giraffe! The test called for a 20 meter canter circle at B, followed by a change of rein from HXF with a trot transition at X. Well, the circle was ok, but as we cantered by the judges booth at C, Corona had the biggest spook of the day (I have no idea what he saw), swerved to the inside, and I lost my left stirrup. At this point we had already crossed the centreline so I decided to track left again at M to set myself up for the change of rein at H. This lost me 2 points as I technically went off course. Funnily enough, as this was happening, I literally had a mental picture of being on the Canadian Equestrian Show Jumping Team in the gold medal Olympic jump-off, where the success of my team depended on me fixing this…I guess it worked because I kept him cantering the entire time while scrambling for my stirrup and I felt super secure in the saddle and ready for the next move.

We ended up getting a 51.6% in the last test…earning me 5th place out of 5! At least I improved from Test 1 to Test 2…

We packed up our things and loaded the horses, without incident, and headed home.

Overall I have mixed feelings about the day. I know that I was as prepared as I could have been for the riding portion of the day. I am at a loss as to what else I could have done, or what else I can do in the future, to remedy these freak-outs in the ring that Corona seems to have. I’ve considered bringing him as a spectator to shows, but it’s not a matter of him being nervous at shows in general because he’s cool as a cucumber everywhere except the show ring. At one point we were standing about 50 ft. away from the ring and he was having a snooze! The way I see it, the best thing I can do is to keep doing what I’m doing in hopes that eventually things will click and he’ll relax. We’ve had some good shows in the past, but there’s always been a bit of an issue with the rings. I’ve tried making the ring at the Boss’ more “show-like” but that doesn’t seem to make a difference either. As for the trailer issue – I’m going to work on loading so that it becomes a non-issue. Keeping in mind that this was the first time we’ve gone anywhere since last summer, I feel like some grace has to be allowed in these areas and we’ll see what happens at our next show on June 15th.

Suggestions are welcome…I’ve included a couple of photos from the day, including our super pimpin’ ribbons that make it look like we won some provincial championships or something!

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4 Responses to “The first show of the season”

  1. FromtheHorsesMouth May 22, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    I think you are doing the right thing! He definitely just needs more experience to understand the ring isn’t going to eat him ;). You guys still looked great in all the pictures!

    • pacesandtails May 22, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

      Thanks so much for the kind words 🙂 I’m confident we can work through the issues, onwards and upwards!

  2. finlaym1 May 22, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    Get him out to competitions as much as possible. He could feel a little insecure in the actual dressage arena, away from other horses and therefore more sensitive to his surroundings. I’ve had problems with one particular competition venue where my horse is amazing in the warm up arena but tense and spooky in the main ring (this is an indoor venue though)
    Corona is a lovely horse and as for your Boss?! ……. Ignore!! lol 🙂

    • pacesandtails May 22, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

      Those are good points, I’m definitely going to keep at it. And Lol! I’m in agreement with ignoring!

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