So everyone knows that we’ve been rather unfortunate with our off-the-farm experiences lately. Every time we try to go somewhere, it rains, and rains, and rains. Well, the curse has been lifted! This past Friday, Ike and I headed to Hill Top Stables to ride in their Friday afternoon fun show. The show included command classes, hunter flat classes, hunter over fences, western pleasure, and games. There was something for everyone. I perused their prize list and determined that there were three classes that we could enter. No, pole bending and barrel racing were not one of our selections.
We arrived right after the gates opened to provide Ike a good hour to walk around, calm down, and giraffe his neck. Turns out, we needed all that time. You were allowed to warm up in the competition arena. The jumps for the hunter over fences classes were already set. Each was creatively decorated: Halloween ghosts and garland on one, beach toys and a boogie board on another. Let’s just say that Ike was a bit worried about these obstacles. “Um, Mom, why are there things in the arena? We don’t have stuff like this at the other shows.” My Hackney giraffe huffed and puffed as we walked by each one. Shoulder in was my best friend to help guide Ike past each one.
It was a good thing that I’d asked Ms. C to meet us at the show. Just about the time she arrived was the time that the other riders started jumping…”OMG, Mom, why are these horses flying???!!!” And if one of the horses happened to rub a rail or knock one down? Ike would panic. In his panic, we almost took down one of the standards. Poor sheltered dressage horse. Ms. C helped tame the fears with Mrs. Pastures cookies and reassuring words. She also gave me some pointers on how to ride Ike like a hunter horse. I must sadly admit that I’ve never ridden the hunters and have no idea what they want. Ike and I tried our best to follow Ms. C’s instructions, but every time I’d give Ike a little more rein, someone would rub a rail and off we’d go. We finally decided to be done with warm up and let Ike stand and watch until it was time for our first class.
First up, the Senior Command Class. Basically Simon Says on Horseback. The judge had the class walk, next rising trot, then extend your trot, and then back to walk. What came next? Canter. Thank goodness we’d been schooling our walk-canter transitions and trot lengthening at home. Then it was back to trot, then walk and reverse. The next command caught me off guard. There we were walking and we heard, “Hand gallop, please, hand gallop.” Uh, okay. Ike took a few steps of trot into our “gallop.” Thankfully I remembered to ride in two point which is rather challenging in a dressage saddle. And even more thankfully, the judge asked for trot rather than walk. We then had to halt, perform a rein-back, and then trot and line up. As the announcer called the placings, our number was called for second place. Go Ike!
We had a short break before our second class- Green Rider/Horse Under Saddle. This was a class for adult amateurs and juniors in their first or second year of showing over fences. Since we have never shown over fences, we were allowed to enter. It was a class of 7-8 riders. Again, the judge asked for walk-canter transitions. Ike nailed his transitions in both directions. The canter-walk transitions were not quite perfect, but were okay. We almost had a collision during the left lead canter since there were two riders walking on the rail and there was a jump just off the rail. There luckily was a narrow opening between them and the jump and my very loud half halt kept Ike out of the tail of the Thoroughbred. Of course, this all happened in the direct line of the judge’s view. We lined up and waited for the judge’s decisions. “First place goes to number 14, Commanders Eisenhower…” What?! No way. So very proud of my big man.
Our third and final class was Open Hunter. Pretty much the same riders as the second class. Dare I say that Ike was getting tired. His trot was choppy and we missed our walk-canter transition to the right. This young dressage horse is not used to cantering laps around the arena – lots of respect for those well conditioned hunter horses that have that stamina and can do it in multiple classes. When the placings were called, Ike politely received his fourth place ribbon and gave the ribbon lady a nudge with his nose. I think he was hoping for a candy for all his efforts. Luckily, Ms. C greeted him with a cookie so all was well in Ike’s world.
It was a great outing that I consider a success. The sun was out, Ike overcame his fear of flying horses, and he was his usual stellar self when asked to perform. I think everyone should consider going outside their comfort zone and try something new with their mounts. Don’t worry that you are the only dressage rider on the biggest horse. Just do it. You just might find that you have a blast when you take all the performance expectations out of the equation. When you just relax and enjoy yourself, you will surprise yourself at how well you can do. Now if I can just remember my own words of wisdom next weekend at our dressage show and get that last qualifying score!