Solace: Wonderful practice

June in Illinois isn’t typically predictable. Sometimes we have tornadoes (okay every June, we have at least one scary weather moment). Sometimes temperatures don’t reach above sweater weather.

This year… we’ve been blessed with more than two weeks above 90 degrees (F for those outside the U.S.). Couple that with very little rain making for not so nice practice days, dust caked everywhere imaginable, and lots and lots of trips to the wash rack. And so it is.

Carter and I, like many of you, have weathered the heat and practiced our intro tests to ready-to-be-judged-at-a-schooling-show performance level. So – we did just that. This past weekend was our second show, our third and fourth tests and our first attempt at Introductory Test C. This time, my nerves were in check, unlike our first show. I was anticipating they’d get the best of me as the day drew closer but I did my best to keep them at bay.

So…heat, mounds of arena dust, and a new test accompanied us to the latest show. My ride times were in the morning so I was able to avoid the heat of the day…thank goodness! I’ve quickly come to realize that whomever decided that dressage dress was a black jacket – many of which are now rainproof, sweat proof, anything but air-flow proof – was either riding in a very cool climate or liked to add the element of torture to a beautiful sport. But I digress.

The practice arena was somewhat chaotic, but not as bad as our first encounter. We made the best of it – Carter was flexing nicely and moving forward pretty well. Good – more moments of pure satisfaction. We were also fortunate to be at a site that had a ton of space… lots of open spaces for practicing in solace – so we ventured off where we were able to roam free without distraction (unless you count the very squeaky weather van across the road…yes, weather vane or the fenced in culvert or other non-scary to human items). It was pure bliss riding on the grass in our own little area. I was getting so into it that when it was our turn to ride I had almost forgotten that we were there to show!

Carter the Ham

We enter the arena and I’m thinking “we’ve got this, Carter” – failing to realize that Carter hasn’t been in this arena before… he’s never seen the big picture window, or the signage that flanked the walls around it, or the flag, or the judge, or the photographer… goodness!

So, we did a few laps to introduce him to his inanimate nemesis. Bell… time to go. Test B, our friend. With the exception of a few hiccups, and straight circles at B and E, we did okay. Oh…and the best part – we mastered the halt and salute at the end of the test…woohoo, small victories! Overall test placed us well above our first attempt at B and we scored a 65%. Yay!

Test C was up next. It was our first attempt of adding canter to our repertoire. We entered the arena, halted and saluted… a little wiggle to kick us off and we’re off… 20m circle accurate… next canter at A… approaching A…also known as the black hole entrance of the arena and Carter has his sights set “are we done yet? Can we leave now?” Not so fast, mister!

Canter…Now! So… slight stumble but an impromptu exit avoided! PHEW! We continued… doing well, next canter circle in the opposite direction…and AHHGAIN, he sets his sights sure that we’re finished THIS TIME… tries to leave, gets a swift heel in the belly and starts off on the wrong lead, quickly fixes it (yes, I know my trainer thought I fixed it but I can’t take credit, Carter did all the work) and exhale, we completed the circle, completed the test… down centerline to a near perfect halt and salute…

Bigger victory this time with an 8 from the judge! YAY! Overall score was pleasantly surprising… and maybe a bit generous at 62+. But we did it. I got to ride my horse today and that’s what really matters. Of course to Carter – he got to go on a field trip, meet new horses, eat all day (when he wasn’t trying to escape the competition arena) eat more and get some time in front of the cameras (he’s not at all a ham).

Our Ribbon Collection!

We’re not nearing perfection but we’re making good progress and that’s what schooling shows are all about. We did our best and received some wonderfully constructive comments. I did not go into “Sue mode” as my trainer calls it – where not even an atomic bomb can penetrate the level of anxiety that I had going on a few weeks ago.
We’re gathering a collection of ribbons – to which I’d like to add the rest of the rainbow colors, in due time. We’ve accomplished small successes, bigger scores, and the anticipation of …duh duh duh duh (that’s my written attempt at suspense)… Training Level 1. I think we’re up to the challenge!