Secret, the super-star good girl, for the two weeks before the BLMs, well, simply wasn’t. The rides would start out well. Then tension would creep in. She’s half Arabian, so she can do tension. Tension in Arab-speak means quickness. The other half is Friesian. Tension in Friesian-speak means a chess-piece neck and a hollow back. Then I’d get strong (big show coming – gotta get it right RIGHT NOW). Secret’s good-girl nature would kick in, and she’d start over-reacting to every aid. Then she’d hit overload, and run away with me. With her neck in already in my lap, I didn’t have brakes. Great.
On that note, let’s toss her in the trailer and compete with the best horses on the east coast. Just to add to the fun, let’s take the 4-year-old along. I figured, if I’m going to be embarrassed in public, I’m going to do it right.
Tuesday, as Secret and I are dashing around the arena in a ball of frustration, Ed, who will forever be known as Amazing Shoer Ed, dropped by to reset a couple horses. I dismounted in a storm cloud. I did my usual “Ed, fix this horse.” He, of course, offered me a lesson, and did his standard line about how he can’t fix training problems with a horse shoe, and then proceeded to do just that.
Guess the mare wanted bigger hind shoes.
Of course, she’s a mare, so this didn’t make her perfect by Wednesday. She still had to trust that I would be trustworthy, which frankly, I hadn’t been. The 45-mph winds on Thursday didn’t help, but even with the wind, she kept getting better and better in all of her reactions. Her scores on Thursday at second level were low 60’s, but as she became more ride-able with every passing moment, she showed me that the trust was returning. That was much more important to me than high scores.
Friday was our second level championship class, so I asked Scott for warm-up help. Within moments he had us sorted out. He had me focus more on the rolling feel of her gaits, instead of the engagement, and she just floated into her championship class. She was amazing. She read my thoughts and we danced through second level test three.
Championship classes have two judges, one at C and one at E. The C judge agreed with me. The other, well, not-so-much.
Ah, the fun of horse shows.
The C judge awarded her a 65 and change, placing her third in the class. The E judge gave her a low 57%, placing her near the bottom. I’ve seen spreads before, but this particular spread really bothered me. A 65% means your horse is on the right track and all is good. A 57% means either something bad happened, or you and your horse are insecure at the level. With these thoughts churning in my mind, I headed out to ride in the second level test three open class. When I sent in entries, I hoped to use it as the warm-up for the Championship class, but the schedule hadn’t worked out that way. As I looked around warm up, I noticed that most of the other second level championship competitors had the same idea.
I went down the centerline, rolled into the medium, and my mind was churning with thoughts of “Am I messing up this super-fun horse???”, and then into the first shoulder-in, with “no, that friggin’ judge needs her eyes examined,” and on and on it went, rolling between cursing the judge in my mind and wondering if I owed Secret’s mom, Linda, a huge refund. Meanwhile, Secret is going along under me doing her job, with frankly, very little help from me.
Secret seems to know her job. She earned a 64% and placed third.
So we decided the judge at C was right.
Saturday we had scheduled a lesson with Scott—between their building project and WEG effecting the show schedule this year, lessons down at Hasslerville have been slim pickings. If we know he’s going to be at a multi-day show, we try to reserve a day for training instead of competing. Lately, the left half-pass in canter seemed to jump-start our tension/runaway cycle. With Scott’s help, we were able to sort out what is physical tension and what is emotional tension, and work out a plan to help Secret through both. She was super. I can’t wait for next year; third level is going to suit her well.
Sunday was our first level championship class. I had low expectations for the class, as at first level she gets dinged a lot for her upright, Friesian neck.
She warmed up well. Cara was my eyes on the ground, making sure I had the ideal tempo and neck as long as she could balance. The class started really well, with Secret right with me, but as we got further into the test, I could feel the fatigue of a long show. She tried really hard, and did all of her work right with my aids, but her neck got shorter as her gas tank ran low, and I was giving her a lot of help with my seat.
The judges saw the fatigue, but they also saw the obedience. Her combined score was a 66%--with both judges being within .5 of each other.
She went at 11:50, and it was a huge class, ending at 4:08, and awards were at 4:20. At lunchtime, her 66% stood her sixth with ribbons to tenth, so we went to lunch in Lexington, hit their awesome bookstore, and then took our time packing.
When we got back to the showgrounds, she was hanging on to ninth place. At about 3:45, she was bumped out of the ribbons, so we debated leaving or hanging out for the test sheets. By the time Linda had done the Arab paperwork and I had crammed the last things into the trailer, we loaded the horses and pulled around to the office and just as our test sheets were available.
Holy crap the little black mare gave me a 10 and two 9’s.
The halt at A earned a 10 from one judge at C and the 9 from the judge at E. The other 9 was on the leg yield on her harder side from the C judge, who could really see her crossing, and rewarded her lateral suppleness.
SIing, of course, was a star schooling with the big boys all weekend. He and I had two lessons with Scott. He handled the distractions much better than at Devon, and by the end of the week he was letting me re-engage his brain when he lost focus, no small feat for a young mind. In his second lesson he gave me glimpses of the big-boy canter to come. Wow, this horse is going to be amazing.
Now I’m home and back to reality. This week we move into our new home at Journeys’ End Farm in Glenmoore, Pa. The week after we have one more show – the OVCTA Big Fall Show, then the season is completely over. This last show has me really excited about the winter’s training.
Pictures to come, I promise!