Carter and I ready to go

I’m still full of excitement from the show this weekend. There is so much to share, that I know I’ll forget to include some of it. It is a whirlwind of recollections. Snapshots of the energy that encompasses, I’d imagine, every show.  I guess I’ll start at pre-day and take you through the eyes of a first-time show participant. Hang on!

Pre-day.

Since this was a weekend of firsts, I had no idea how long things would take – braiding, preparing, packing, hauling… so much on a list! I arrived at the barn four hours before our “leave” time with seemingly plenty of time to bathe the beast (affectionately, this is one of my names for Carter), get my show tack all arranged…and enough time to try my hand at braiding.

Thank goodness I had practice with braiding. Carter was a trooper! He stood like a stoic horse through the braiding exercise. Only at the end of what seemed forever, did he get a little antsy. Phew… pre-day preparation complete… now the frenetic pace of deciding between shipping boots, wrapping and getting them into the trailer. This is where time seemed to run out. We were moving so quickly I don’t know what end was up! Count another on the “first” tally. Wraps on, tack in trailer, and miraculously, the three horses loaded without too much fuss. We’re on our way!

 Thank goodness my trainer decided we should bring the horses in the night before the show. With anticipated “weather” we made the trek… okay, not really a trek… we made the thirty minute drive to the show barn without issue. (I could go into the calamity of the show truck, but we made it, that’s the important part).  We settled into the barn and whoops… I forgot to buy shavings. Really?! Yep! Thank goodness the show organizers are used to newbies like me… and had enough on hand to make my boy comfy cozy in his temporary home.

Carter settled in easily and it was time to make our way to the practice ring. All good in the indoor. No issues. Mounted quickly. Made our way at a walk around the arena… my barnmates  were outside working around the competition ring so I decided to join them. They must have been hiding all the SCARY stuff outside. Carter and I took three steps outside, his head came up, his ears perked and he decided to turn around and go back to the safety of the indoor!

Evil flower pots!

It was hysterical, like he was saying “um, no way, there is scary stuff that is going to eat me out there. I’m not going!” Come to find out that just beyond the doors was a tractor, a pile of stones, and the scariest of all – FLOWERS in POTS! Can you believe it? Flowers in pots would be my demise of making it to the outdoor.

After a little “schooling” session (that’s where we were …and so it began), I put my leg on Carter and created his cradle and off we went. Woohoo. Small victories! We spent a while trotting, walking, and taking it all in. The excitement and anxiety continued to build. Carter seemed calm. Me? Well, not so much.

Fast forward to show day (that’s what it felt like… with little sleep!). The energy in the barn was contagious. We arrived and jumped right into the frenzy. Feeding, tacking, checking the schedules and the practice arena.

Now, mind you, I had NO idea that the practice arena was also a horse mosh-pit. Goodness! I also didn’t realize (until reading one of my show peers blogs) that at Intro level you practice with the Green as Grass participants… yep, that means green horses and/or green riders.

And, the game was on. The practice arena was a madhouse! Some horses weren’t having any of it either! Some lunging, some being trained, some just carefully making their way around the arena.

Show time!

Green tests complete, it was the Intro level class to begin. Carter and I were second in the class and as my trainer put it, I was in “Sue” mode… which means I wasn’t focusing, I wasn’t breathing, I was caught up in the anxiety of facing the judge for the first time. After all, I didn’t know what to expect out there… was I supposed to practice outside the ring… did I need to stop by the judges stand…and, what was that bell?!

Luckily, I read enough and my trainer told me enough of what to expect that I could use it as an excuse to feel helpless but I truly knew…whistle blows means 45 seconds to enter and begin.

What I didn’t know is when that bell rings, 45 seconds apparently turns to milliseconds.  I was comfortably reversing direction and “tweeeettt” the BELL… oh no! What do I do… where do I go? I quickly looked for confirmation from my trainer and she motioned turn around and go for it. So, we were off!

Test B up first. Trotting into the arena, I know I was tight. I thought I was focused. Then… it started raining. Seriously?! Couldn’t Mother Nature hold off for a few minutes? Three…Four… Please. But no. We trotted, we crossed the diagonal, things were going okay. We were rounding the corner to come down the centerline to halt… at X I put on the brakes, but Carter wasn’t having any of it. He apparently wanted to dance or jig… so I was the one being schooled.

Our first ribbons!

After a few uncomfortable seconds… again, I looked for my trainer and she motioned,  SALUTE… so at the next possible moment of immobility, I saluted like never before. UGH… the worst thing I knew happened… we backed up, we moved sideways, I’m surprised we didn’t pirouette! BUT… we finished the test! We did it! Next up Test A… and after another practice round, more bending, more impulsion, we entered the arena again. This time, much more relaxed. We even had moments of greatness. And…the best part. We halted and saluted, without delay, without jigging all over the arena! WOOHOO!

So… my first show wasn’t the star performance I’d envisioned … with scores 60+… but, we did well with a 50+ for Test B (the jiggy ending, the unfocused, forgetting to breathe test) and a 58+ for Test A. We placed in both tests and now have our baseline to beat next show – three short weeks away.

I’m pleased with our performance.  I learned a ton…and I know, now, what to expect and can turn that anxiety into energy, impulsion and bend. We start tonight.

Thanks for coming on the journey with me… it’s only just begun.

Sue