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Highest score ever!

26 Aug

I couldn’t be more pleased with Corona, even if I tried. Our show on Saturday gave us our highest score ever and we took home two third-place ribbons!

First of all, as we were loading to go to the show Corona practically ran into the trailer himself which left me with a huge grin on my face even before we left the Boss’ property. I’m so proud of how far he has come over the last few months, especially when I consider the chaos of the first show trailer loading incident. I’m actually going to do another trailer loading session with Corona at some point in the near future to see if I can get him to load and unload without me having to go into the trailer with him; I’m pretty confident he would do it, it’s just a matter of me feeling confident enough to let him without worrying about all the things that could go wrong.

Oh – I forgot to mention – when the ride times came out for the show, I nearly had a heart attack. Since the show had so many classes and riders, they were running two rings at the same time. I had visions of Corona and I being responsible for ruining others’ show experiences if he carried on the way he did at the last show. I convinced myself that the rings wouldn’t be side-by-side and that everything would be great.

Upon pulling into the venue, all of my self-convincing turned into, “oh shit”; there was only about 10 feet separating the two rings. There was also a very small warm-up ring, tents flapping in the wind, a variety of flowerpots and garden decorations, lawn chairs, strollers, and lots of bushes.

We got our numbers at the registration desk, tacked up and took the horses to the warm-up ring before our first tests. I don’t even think the warm up ring was 20m x 40m but there were already about 8 horses in there. I just did my thing and focussed on staying calm and avoiding crashing into anyone. Corona was definitely looking at things and was hesitant at times, but he was actually quite a bit more relaxed than I had expected – I just went with it. There was a woman in there with a cute grey horse that was having a hard time calming him down, needless to say, I really felt for her as I know all too well what that feels like! Lucky for her, her coach was there so was walking her through a “calming” routine (and yes, I eavesdropped to learn a thing or two)!

Before long, I was up for Training Test 1. We had to walk past the end of the small ring (where someone was doing their test already) to the big ring where I’d be riding. I walked Corona around the outside and he spooked just before the judges booth, but carried on without too much of a fuss. The bell rang for us to start out test so I circled back to A to enter the ring. We went in and Corona felt a bit stiff, but not nearly as giraffe-like as he can be. Our halt wasn’t super, but hey, it was immobile. We continued our test and I was very pleased with how things were going! Corona was hesitating so a bit sluggish off the leg, but to be honest, I much prefer pushing him on than hanging onto his alter-ego, “Bull-in-china-shop.” He did something that is very unusual for him – we were cantering and as we were going down the long side from A to E, he broke to a trot(?!) I picked up the canter again and he picked up the wrong lead (??!!), I corrected it and we continued. We finished the test without any more indiscretions.

We had about an hour before our second test, so we parked ourselves at the end of the warm up ring so that we could watch the others in our class. There were some really excellent riders and really nice horses. There was one girl who I really felt for (a different one from the warm up ring). She was on this GORGEOUS black Hanoverian who had the floatiest movement I’ve ever seen. It was the horse’s first show and he was terrified of the judges box. He wouldn’t go near it. Aside from that, her test was mesmerizing, but due to the judges box issue, she came last in the class. On a complimentary note however – someone from the host barn offered to buy her horse right then and there!

In my opinion, my second test was on par with the first. Corona was still quite hesitant at times, but there were no major meltdowns. At one point, the judge from the other ring rang her bell for that rider, and Corona spooked and leapt forward, but to his credit, he recovered really quickly and we continued on as if nothing had happened. Our halts were much better in this test, especially our final one.

After we had untacked, we walked the horses back up to the rings to see our scores. I was shocked to see that I had come third in both classes! In my first test, I got a 57.5% which I thought was a bit low to be honest…I got a 58% in the first show of the season when Corona was a raging maniac. The girl who placed first got a 67%, the second place got a 66.4% and then there was me, and the lowest of 6 scores was a 52%. In the second test however, we got a 64.8% – the highest score we’ve ever received! The scores were all much higher in the second test, with the 1st place winner getting 67.8% and the last place out of 7 getting a score of 60.71%. I know I’m no dressage judge, but I honestly didn’t think there was THAT much of a difference between my two tests – I’m not complaining at all, it’s just interesting and I suppose, is one of the things that comes with the territory of dressage.

We let the horses graze for a while before loading up and heading home. At some point throughout the day, the Boss decided that Corona had finally figured this show thing out, and subsequently convinced me to do one more show with him. There’s one coming up this weekend, but it’s at the same venue as the last disaster so I’m not keen on going. There one the weekend after at a venue I’ve never been to, but is supposedly very nice and calm so we’ve signed up to go there on Sept 1.

Remember how I mentioned Corona broke from canter to trot in the first test and then picked up the wrong lead? Well, Murphy’s Law struck and when I rode him the other night, he was off! Not overly lame, but definitely had some head-bobbing going on a the trot. I really hope it’s nothing and all will be well. The blacksmith is coming out Monday so will be able to take a look at things if they haven’t improved by then. I didn’t feel any heat or swelling, so maybe he just was a bit sore (fingers crossed!!).

**UPDATE** – so it seems I forgot to post this blog once I wrote it – the good news is that yesterday Corona seemed MUCH better. I lunged him prior to riding to see the status and he looked fine. I tacked him up and got on and he felt 100% to the left, but still slightly off to the right. I soaked both of his front feet in an Epsom salt tub for a good half hour, then packed him hooves with poultice and wrapped them. Blacksmith is out today, I wonder if he’ll find anything?

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It’s about time for an update

14 Aug

A lot has happened in my happy horse world over the last two weeks, and just when I thought things were under control!

First up – Amber. I had been riding Amber one evening and we had a fabulous ride. After we’d finished, I went to go and see TB to give her a progress update. We got chatting a bit and she asked me how my showing was going with Corona. I mentioned to her that my show season with him was over because I just didn’t think it was doing us any good. She then said, “Well, I’m sorry to hear that…actually I’m not really that sorry because I have a proposition for you! What if you took Amber instead?” I hadn’t ever really considered doing this, mostly because I only ride her once a week at the moment due to my Corona commitments. TB mentioned that she would give me free trailering, but I’d pay the entry fees. Seems fair to me. I told her I’d look at the schedule and see if there were any shows that might work.

She then proceeded to ask me what my plans were in the fall and about the details of my lease with Corona. I mentioned to her that Corona is pretty much like my own horse as I’m the only one who rides him, and that come the fall, the plan was that CG and I would take our horses from the Boss’ and they’d live out at CG’s hobby farm. Upon hearing this, she eluded to this foiling a plan that she was mulling over for me involving something with Amber. She wouldn’t tell me the details, apparently because she didn’t want to butt-in on my Corona plans. She then proceeded to tell me that at some point she wanted to give me a lesson on her horse (who is trained to 4th level dressage) as a thankyou for my work with Amber. Sweet! I’m still wondering what that proposition was though!

Murphy’s Law – Amber has been lame since this conversation. Horses! First TB thought it was an abscess, now it looks like maybe she had some stone bruising, so she got shoes on Monday. Hopefully she’ll recover quickly as I was planning on entering us in a show on September 2.

Next up – Corona.

I cannot say anything bad about Corona, he has been a wonderful and solid equine citizen. We’re still plugging away at our training and I’ve been allowed to take him up to the back hay field to work on our “hacking”. After I told the Boss about being done with showing for the year, a remarkable thing happened. She encouraged me to do one more show. I was somewhat dumbfounded as she normally looks for any excuse to try to get me to let her get rid of Corona. Don’t get me wrong, she still told me how he is an awful horse and I’m essentially wasting my time on an arsehole that gives me little in return, but at the same time, she encouraged me to try again. What has been even more interesting is that over the last week, she has given me suggestions about things I could try in the show ring if things start to go hairy. With this in mind, we’re going to another show on Saturday at the barn where Corona was born! I’m going there and looking at it as a training opportunity and nothing more. If Corona starts to melt down in the ring, I’m just going to stop him or do some transititions instead of trying to ride through it like I’ve been doing. I’m actually pretty excited about it to be honest.

Lastly – Plans thwarted.

CG told me last week that she and her husband are going to sell the farm. There are many valid reasons for this but I don’t want to post their business on here even if I only use code names! To be honest, part of me wondered if our plan was ever going to come to fruition, as I picked up on little red flags here and there along the way. CG also has decided that Roller is not the horse for her, but will ride him until a new home can be found for him. Oh – this reminds me – I don’t think I ever mentioned that as of about 6 weeks ago, SM gave up her lease on Ember and no longer rides.

I’m not quite sure what to make of all this. On one hand, I’ve very grateful CG & husband have had these realizations now before we set up shop at their place. On the other, I was looking forward to getting rid of the drama that comes with the Boss’ including the copius negative comments about Corona! As of right now, no decisions need to be made, we can carry on status quo, but I’m definitely going to think about what I want and how best to do that. Perfect scenario? I take Corona to TBs…her board is rather expensive however and I don’t think I’d be comfortable paying that much at the moment. I’ve been wondering if I could work something out with her, but I think I’ll sit tight for the moment and weigh my options.

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Ah- ha moment?

22 Jul

I’ve just returned from a mini- vacation from New York City where, aside from being a tourist, I have come to horse-related “ah-ha!” moment with respect to Corona.

It began last Sunday (July 14th) in Corona and my 3rd show of the season. We had been to the venue the past 2 years and never had any big issues, so I took the opportunity to enter us in our normal Training Level classes, and then also enter us in our first ever First Level class. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try something new considering that all of our schooling has been going beautifully and the fact that he has been to the venue previously.

He loaded into the trailer like the little champion he is – and for the first time ever he didn’t even hesitate at all. He didn’t need any incentive, he just said, “sure mom!” That, in itself was a winning moment.

It was stinking hot – like the rest of the east coast of the States and Canada, we were in the depths of a heat wave. With the humidex, it was 39 degrees Celsius.

We arrived with plenty of time to spare as CG was riding in two classes before Corona and I even got started. Corona was a gem and stood like a gentleman under the trees and we watched the other riders compete in their classes.

I eventually tacked him up and took him to the warm up ring to prepare for our first test. Things were going well until Roller (now finished his classes) began to call for Corona. There was whinnying back-and-forth and it was getting more and more difficult to keep Corona’s attention on me. I could feel him getting more and more tense and our nice relaxed trots were turning into the runaway freight train variety with plenty of spooks thrown in for good measure. I tried to ride him through it and then tried a different approach. I walked him, I asked him to stretch long and low for me and did a lot of flexion exercises at the walk. This seemed to work wonders and I could feel him begin to come back to me. After about 10 minutes, I asked him to pick up trot again – it was beautiful. I asked for a canter – wonderful. I asked for another trot and asked him to stretch long and low on a 20 meter circle – phenomenal. We were told we were on deck so I brought him closer to the ring and we continued our relaxed walk figures.

When it was our turn to head to the ring, the runaway freight train returned instantly. The footing around the outside of the ring was horrible – despite it not having rained in about 2 weeks, one side was about 5 inches of mud. As we were going around the outside of the ring waiting for the bell to ring, Corona was not a happy horse. There was a monster at A (no idea what) that was going to eat Corona. As we approached the judges booth, I was told they were going to take a quick break because the previous rider had complained about a big rock in the ring at B. Off the stewards went into the ring to dig up this rock. They couldn’t get it. Out came a crow-bar, the rock wouldn’t budge. All of this commotion was doing nothing to help me settle freight-train-horse so I did a big circle that was between the show ring and the warm up area. He began to settle. Then out came the tractor to try and dig up this rock-turned-boulder. The tractor didn’t bother Corona but the clanging of the metal on rock was not of benefit to us. After about 10 minutes, they freed the rock and we were back in business. They didn’t move the rock away, so the judges asked me if I’d like to ride past it. I said yes. Corona didn’t care about the rock, but he definitely still had not forgotten about the monster at A.

The bell rang and we picked up our trot and as we turned into the ring at A, Corona bolted forwards, head up, like a firecracker. I was quite pleased at my ability to keep him straight, and we halted at X. Our test continued and it was the worst test I’ve ever ridden. Corona was mentally checked out for 95% of it, he wouldn’t go near A and we were doing side pass at the canter across the short side anytime we had to go by A. I had one good trot circle where he was relaxed and at the exact moment I thought to myself, “excellent!” the bull in the china shop returned. At one point, a truck with the hay delivery arrived up the lane right beside the ring. This added to the chaos in the ring and I just felt absolutely terrible for Corona because this really was the icing on the cake. We finished our test and as we passed the judge, she said to me, “you both survived – that was well ridden, but…you know”. We scored a 47.5%.

I untacked Corona since we had about an hour and a half before our next two classes. I put a fly sheet on him and we hung out by the ring again. All of a sudden, Corona began kicking out – a wasp (or something) had somehow got under his fly sheet and I’m pretty sure he was stung. I pulled his sheet off but there was no calming him. He continued kicking up at his stifle and no amount of rubbing or soothing was helping. I walked him around as that seemed to help relax him but it was of little help. Nobody could see any welt or anything, but I can’t think of anything else that would cause such a reaction. Since we had to wait for CG to ride her final class, we kept walking and I decided to scratch Corona from our last 2 classes. I felt like a complete failure but given the big picture, I don’t think it would have been a good idea to continue. I’ve been working so hard to keep him relaxed that I didn’t want to jeopardize the progress we had made even further by asking him to go into the ring again when he was so mentally checked out and clearly was uncomfortable.

We had to wait around for the final scores to be posted from CGs last class so by the time we left, Corona was back to his old self. He loaded again without issue and was perfectly relaxed when we got home. I checked again to see if I could see any welts, and there was nothing.

I was talking to my parents afterwards (they are not horse-people in the slightest) and my mom said something to me that gave me this “ah-ha” moment, she said, “I just don’t think Corona likes going to shows”.

This has made me reconsider things. The only reason I show is because it’s (normally) a fun outing and gives me something to work towards. However, this year, 2/3 shows have been absolute disasters. Last year I had 1/3 that were disastrous, same as the previous year. The disastrous label always comes as a result of the exact same issue – Corona freaking out in the ring. Could it be that he just doesn’t enjoy it? I feel like I’ve put in a good effort with him re: shows but maybe we won’t ever get to the point where he will be relaxed. I know I shouldn’t compare us to others, but you get to know other riders/horses on the circuit and I can honestly say that I’ve never noticed any others with this issue. Sure, some people have an off day here and there, but maybe they earn a score of 58% instead of their normal 65% and it’s a one-time thing, and they score lower because their halt isn’t square or they picked up the wrong lead. This isn’t the case with Corona and I.

I realize I’ve mentioned the bad footing, the whinnying from Roller, the rock, the hay truck, as factors that contributed to this, but this sort of thing has happened multiple times before when none of these things were factors. Then there are times where there are things like whinnying, wind, rain, dogs, etc where he is perfectly fine.

I’m contemplating the idea of taking the money I was going to use for shows and putting it towards lessons instead. I think it may be more beneficial to Corona and I than the shows are. Part of me feels like I’m quitting, but the other part of me wonders if I’m making things worse by taking him to these shows and putting him in an environment where he freaks out so badly. Food for thought!

Report of Show #2

18 Jun

I would have had this post up earlier, except I somehow deleted the draft copy and had to start from scratch!

I’m thrilled to say that the show on Saturday was more than I could have asked for! I am so proud of Corona that I’ve been grinning ever since!

The day started out great, with Corona loading into the trailer with only a slight hesitation. I was so relieved at this because I’ve been working with him on loading and unloading since the great trailer meltdown of Show #1. Roller also was a very good boy and loaded without causing any rope burn injuries. Both horses were rewarded with maple crunchies for their bravery.

I didn’t really know what to expect from the venue as it was brand new and we’d never been there before. They had it set up with three HUGE sand rings, the first for trailer parking, the middle for the warm up ring, and then the third as the competition ring. With the venue being brand new, there wasn’t much landscaping done so it looked a bit vast, however I think this worked to my advantage because there were no trees or bushes to hide Corona-eating monsters that seem to follow us at shows. In the show ring, there were only 2 flower pots by the judges booth and while Corona looked at them, I guess they passed his scrutiny and he didn’t seem too bothered.

Our warm up went very smoothly. At one point, Corona squealed like a pig when I asked him to work away from Roller (yes, he literally squeals when he disagrees with something), but he quickly settled again and was very responsive and attentive to what I was asking. When we were called into the show ring, I took advantage of the previous riders’ slow exit from the ring, and took Corona on a walking lap around the outside of the ring so that he could have a look at things. He was a bit hesitant in some places, but there were no huge spooks. The judge rang the bell and we were up! I picked up our trot and immediately felt Corona tense up as we headed down centreline. His head went up like a giraffe and I thought, “oh no, not again!” We managed a halt with immobility at X (more than I could say for Show #1) and proceeded to C in working trot. I decided to do sitting trot for the test because I could feel how tense Corona was, and he tends to settle more with a lot of seat. Once we tracked left at C and began our first 20m circle at E, I could feel him begin to settle. I was very conscious of my breathing and trying to stay relaxed. It seemed to pay off because Corona was amazing for the rest of the test! The only spook we had was when a bird flew over and the shadow went right in front of his feet. It was during a canter to trot transition at F and Corona jumped a bit to the right going into the corner. I managed to flex him to the inside and then get our correct bend back before turning down the centreline at C however, so it was a good recovery! I was absolutely thrilled with our performance and was grinning like a fool once we completed our final halt at X. We left the ring and even the Boss said how happy she was with us.

We ended up scoring a 61.666% in our first test, which earned us 4th place in the class. The girl who came first blew us all away with a 68.333%, and then the scores for 2nd and 3rd place were 63.531% and 62.500% respectively. The comments I received on the test were not surprising to me. We lost marks for tension, suppleness and acceptance of the bridle and the judge noted that I should push Corona more forward to an elastic contact. I definitely agree with the comments and I think that as we work through our “show nerves” these things will get better and better.

My goal for the second test was to improve my scores and see what I could do to push Corona forwards. I was hoping to be able to ride the test in posting trot to assist with this but decided I’d see how he felt going into the ring and go from there. When it was our turn to go again, I once again took Corona on a walk around the outside of the ring and noticed immediately how much more relaxed he felt compared to the first time. The bell rang and I picked up the rising trot to see how it felt. He felt wonderful! I kept it up as we approached A and decided to go for it. We entered the ring at posting trot and there were no giraffes in sight! Halted at X, hindquarters bulged to the right (my bad) but immobility was achieved! Proceeded to track right at C and things just got better and better. I was focussing on keeping a good forward rhythm and at the slightest feel of hesitation I just did a few little plays on the bit to keep him focussed. We had an incredible ride and I could feel the difference in our free walk as well as with our 20m circle where we had to ask the horse to stretch forwards and downwards. This time, I was grinning like a fool from about a third of the way in! We finished our test and left the ring and I couldn’t stop praising my wonderful Corona! I was thrilled, the Boss was thrilled, and I’m pretty sure Corona was proud of himself.

We earned ourselves a 63.928% which put us in second place! The same girl won first place again with a score of 66.607% and the other scores ranged from 56.250% to 62.142%. As if this didn’t make me happy enough, I then found out that we had just missed being the reserve AA champion by 0.04%! Not too shabby!!!

Needless to say, I’m so proud of Corona and the effort that he put in from beginning to end. He was an absolute star all day, inside and outside of the show ring. His trailer loading was more than commendable, he stayed relaxed at a strange venue with lots of other horses around (some of which were being a bit naughty!) and together we achieved our goals!

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Show #2 is on the horizon

13 Jun

Corona and I are busy prepping for our second show of the season on Saturday. The ride times have now been finalized and they are very civilized (10:42 am and 1:19pm for me), the weather is supposed to be sunny and 26 degrees and I’m looking forward to getting out there with my noble steed!

I’ve continued to work on trailer loading and unloading with Corona, and he’s been super. We’ve also been having some really good rides and I’m confident that we’re show-ring ready. We’ve had a couple of rides where there have been quite a few distractions (riding with new horses, riding in the ring while others are being ridden on the track, dogs running around, people watching, etc) and he’s stayed calm and focussed 98% of the time. I’m hoping his calmness and attentiveness will carry forward into the ring on Saturday.

We’ve had quite a bit of rain here over the last week and each time I see Corona, he is absolutely covered head-to-tail in mud. Conveniently for CG, Corona’s turnout buddy Roller is always immaculate and shiny when he comes in…since the horses are turned out at night, needless to say I’ll be arriving to the barn early on Saturday morning to allow for a substantial amount of grooming time before we have to leave.

Added to the regular nerves I have about the show, there’s a chance that Corona’s old owner (CC) may be in attendance. She teaches at the barn that’s holding the show and I know that the Boss has told her that we’ll be there. CC is a very accomplished horseperson but to be honest, she is rather scary. I wouldn’t say she is mean (although others would argue this!) but she can be intimidating and no-nonsense. CC and the Boss go way back to when CC was a kid, and the Boss considers her like a daughter. For whatever reason, I think it would be amazing to show CC what a great horse Corona has become. He wasn’t a bad horse when he arrived, but he was super high strung, and he’s just so much more relaxed and happy now. I’d love to ride a good test in general, but it would be extra rewarding to ride a good test infront of CC.

All this being said, my fingers crossed for a Zen-filled Saturday. Once again I’m aiming for scores in the 60’s, no injuries for horse or human, and good behaviour throughout!

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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