Ike contemplating his First Level debut.

Ike contemplating his First Level debut.

Show season is now officially over.  Our last schooling show this past weekend was a mixed bag of results.  I naturally assumed that we’d kick butt at Training Level and have our bobbles during our first attempt at First Level.  Well, as the saying goes, never assume anything, especially when it comes to your animals.

Ike made sure that I will never again assume anything as far as his performance.  I had two tests to ride and two completely different horses to ride.  A Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde skit played out in the dressage ring.

Prelude – The Week Before the Show

Getting a horrible cold the week before the show is not the best way to prepare for your First Level debut.  Fever, light-headedness, fatigue, and a stuffy nose are not conducive to time in the saddle.  Ike resorted to doing wind sprints in his paddock and play fighting with his brother.  Having all the together time with his brother might explain part of his performance at the show.  I did have a pathetic attempt at a schooling session the day before the show which ended with me coughing uncontrollably.  Raised the white flag, packed the trailer, and went home to rest.

Act One – Mr. Hyde’s performance.

Warm up was stellar.  Ms. C was there to school us and I felt confident that we could go out and hit the high 60′s or perhaps even clear that 70 percentile mark to end the season.  Our trot loop was too loopy, but the real trouble started once I asked for the left lead canter.  There was a lot of horse under me and I did my best to tame the wild beast.  Well, once we completed the circle, Ike shifted into a higher gear.  Pretty certain that the judge and scribe were fearful of Ike ending up in their laps as we headed toward the short end.  We careened around past C and Ike’s hind end skidded out from under us and took down part of the dressage arena.  That then sent him into a blind panic and he bolted down the long diagonal.  The fifth movement of the test calls for a trot transition at X.  Ike performed a canter-walk transition at A.  We somehow managed an average (6) free walk, but once we transitioned to trot and then to canter, surprise, the jets were turned back to high and we blasted through the remainder of the test.

The judge’s oral comments included the phrases “Scooby Doo” and “white knuckles.”  Hmm, not the comments one expects to hear.  She also commented that she feared that we’d not slow down before reaching the fencing of the adjoining paddocks.  Little did she know that while I was less than amused with Ike’s behavior, I was not fearful at all.  Many years of riding my whack-a-doodle Thoroughbred had prepared me well for any antics of my young horse.  While Ike can be very powerful in his spooks, they lack the feline quick spin/buck/bolts of Ike’s predecessor.  We gladly accepted our sixth place ribbon for the class.  My husband dubbed the ride the day’s comic relief.

Intermission

Sir Ike then had to face Ms. C to explain his behavior.  He just batted his big brown eyes and begged for a peppermint.  Sorry, big boy, there is a lesson you must learn before your next ride with canter lengthenings…you must be patient, wait for your rider’s instructions, and then listen to the aids rather than blow through them.  You are expected to respond when Mom half halts.  Ike spent 40 minutes working on: Trot, more trot, halt.  Walk, canter, halt, reverse, trot, halt.  Trot, extend, halt.  Walk, canter, lengthen, halt.  The boy was a bit sweaty, but was listening well and on the aids when our next ride time arrived.

Act Two – Dr. Jekyll’s Turn.

Finally time for the long awaited First Level debut.  Deep breath or as deep as I could with my cold.  As I gave my number to the scribe, I also said, “Round Two.”  The judge responded by asking that we not make her knuckles turn white again.  That might be a tall order, but we’d try our best.  The two 10 meter half circles were not great, but big boy still isn’t stellar with bending all 86 inches of his body.  Managed a 7 on our first trot lengthening and an 8 for our stretchy trot circle at the judge.  Phew, a third of the test down, and we were still in control.  Next up was the dreaded walk-trot-canter transition…squirrel pulled off a 7.  The canter circle was too big for a 5 and the lengthening show no clear comeback so that earned us a 5.5.  Stinker pulled a 7 for his left lead canter transition and a remarkable 8 on the left lead lengthening and comeback.  Best of all, we were still in control and the ring was still standing!  Our final halt found me beaming and giving Ike’s next a huge hug before we left the ring.  Thank you for that Ike.  Mom truly appreciates that effort.

Finale

The final score was a 63.793% (getting high marks for the movements with a coefficient helped the bottom line).  It still put us fourth of four, but that wasn’t the concern.  We survived our first First Level test, cleared 60% which was my goal, and best of all, we recovered from the disastrous first ride.  I think that last achievement was our greatest feat for the day.  It is how you weather the bumps and the rough rides that truly mark your progress as a rider.  No rider and no horse is perfect.  Just keep putting your foot in the stirrup and keep riding.

Alison