Carter and Sue – photo by husband Greg

My horse, Carter, and I have our first-ever dressage show together this coming weekend. Doesn’t seem that uncommon, right? Well, here’s the catch. I’m 47. I had never been on a horse until last July (unless you count the pony ride that I had when I was seven).

I caught the horse bug in November and bought Carter, a three-year-old TB (not off-track), who I spent four months trying to train to ride Western because I didn’t know better. He did. He was already training at Training Level when I bought him. I had my ah-ha moment (meaning switching to the dark side of Dressage) and my first lesson riding English this March.

Carter is now bending freely, and not stuck most of the time. So, are we ready? Yes, I think we are. Our trainer thinks we are, too, which is a good sign. We’re going to perform Intro Test A and Intro Test B. I think we both know them well enough, but we haven’t practiced too much that he’s able to anticipate and get it done too early.

My breeches are under protective guard. My coat is pressed. My nerves are skyrocketing. Breathe. Breathe. Come back to center. I’ll probably be doing this… oh… 1,000 times between now and Saturday. Now and Thursday – when ride times are posted. Goodness! I’ve performed many, many times in front of crowds, just never on the back of a horse. Tennis, ballet, plays, cheerleading, singing… everything BUT horseback (well, not EVERYTHING).

Stitches under his eye

I read an article recently from SmartPak – De-stress Yourself for a Calm Horse. According to the article, my mantra is supposed to be “I am a quiet, confident rider and my horse is supple and focused.” Right now it is “I am a quiet (AHHHHHHH), confident… rider (OMG… I RIDE horses!?!) and my horse is supple (except when I have to lift through his belly to get through a turn) and focused (unless that rock, flag, fly, kitty, butterfly, etc. is threatening to eat him).”

It probably doesn’t help that I just removed six stitches from under his eye today, too, (he is not quite four…remember…and a little accident waiting to happen) so I’m a little on edge about the next “surprise” he’s going to present me!

I must have checked the ride times site 200 times already even though I know ride times won’t be posted until Thursday. I check just in case. Just in case…what? Thursday comes early this week? They put my ride time up because they know it’s my first show… EVER?!? HA! I check it because I’m excited. I’m anxious. I’m thrilled. I can’t believe that, at 47 (still don’t know why I’m so shocked at that number) I am going to perform at my first horse show.

I can’t believe that I actually understand when my trainer says “sit one”, or “get his belly”, “bend him in”, “pick his shoulder up”, or any of the 100s of training level phrases that I actually understand what she’s saying and how to fix the issue. I can’t believe I have the most awesome horse. I can’t believe I ride a horse. I can’t believe how unbelievably fortunate I am to have started this journey. As far as I can tell, the best is yet to come.

So, yes, I am ready. I have both tests committed to memory, but just in case, my trainer will be on the sidelines ready to be my caller, if the need arises. I keep telling myself I’m riding for fun. Honestly, between you and I… I would really love a ribbon. One would be fine. Two would be terrific. Any color… I’m not picky. However, blue, is my favorite!

Sue Moore