Lessons are always part of our plan. (Photo by Sheila Wolff)

When I sat down in January and planned out my riding for the year, I figured I had covered all the bases. I knew I had to keep Timmy reasonably fit while I built up my own strength.

In May, I would see my 60th birthday come and go and I wasn’t going to be one of those people who used age as an excuse (at least not often!). While my regular trainer was in Aiken for the winter and then off to Rolex, I decided to work with someone she recommended who is a fabulous dressage coach.

Lessons have continued and are going very well. I did 3 spring shows and Timmy did awesome, taking home a 4th place ribbon, a 2nd and a 1st. I was so happy to be learning new skills and honing some of my prior ones. I am getting stronger every day.  Timmy is working better than ever and enjoying the part where his Mom is FINALLY learning how to be a better rider and leader. I HAVE THE BEST HORSE IN THE WORLD!

As the summer got hotter, we just rode smarter. We worked in the evenings during the week and in the early morning on weekends. When the heat index hit in the 100’s, we didn’t work at all. I learned that Timmy does much better with days off  in between our rides. Life is good and I am riding the wave. Did I mention I HAVE THE BEST HORSE IN THE WORLD?

So when there was an opportunity to ride at a facility where previously there had only been recognized shows, I jumped on it. I couldn’t wait to ride in the full arena because it gave me a chance to showcase Timmy’s lovely gaits. I sent my entry in and prayed it wouldn’t be 100 degrees. I just knew Timmy would do well, because our lessons with Maggie were paying BIG dividends.

This past Saturday started out great. The temperature was a cool 76 when I got to the barn. It was so cool in fact, that all the horses were brought in to be fed and then turned right back out to enoy the day…all of them except Timmy and his pasture mate Tommy, who won’t stay out alone. Timmy’s first disappointment was having to stay inside. He just didn’t understand why everyone else was out. Next came his bath….need I say more? Our ride time was 4:21…yet another anomaly, since we are usually one of the first classes to go. The hour and 15 minute trailer ride was uneventful and we arrived in plenty of time to walk around, graze a bit and relax before it was time to warm up. So far, things were doing okay.

At last, it was time to tack up. My usually dead calm boy was a little squirrelly, but we got him ready. As soon as I got on him, I felt a change in him. Instead of calm and collected, he was tense and blowing. In the warm-up, all he wanted to do was run. He was bracing against the bit and had no intention of listening to me. He wasn’t rude or belligerent…he was genuinely freaked out. I have no idea why, but it was like sitting on a thoroughbred waiting to break from the starting gate. The harder I tried to relax him. circle him, refocus his energy, etc., the worse it got. So when the ring steward told me they were 10 minutes ahead and I could either go or wait, I figured I might as well go and see what I could do. After all, I still had THE BEST HORSE IN THE WHOLE WORLD, right?

As soon as the bell rang, Timmy flew down the outer track and entered at “A” like he was on rails! He flew down the center line and thankfully did a proper, square halt. After that, everything went to hell. While our geometry was great, the Judge didn’t appreciate that he circled at warp speed with no bend. He trotted when he should have walked and cantered when he should have trotted. His only good moves were the medium walk and free walk. As soon as I picked up the rein after the free walk, he blasted into a trot that looked more like a run. His final halt came after a blitz up the centerline but again, it was square. THAT much he knew to end with. I have NEVER been so happy for a test to end! The muscles in my back were so sore, I could barely un-tack him when it was all over. Our score was the worst one he’s gotten in 6 years! The Judge wrote how he needed to “stretch down more and relax”. REALLY?!?!? I didn’t know that! I’m pretty sure that the scribe caught an earful during our test.

So what are the lessons learned here??

For starters, even my dead calm boy can have a bad day. I don’t have to understand why (although that would be nice). I just needed to appreciate that every show stands alone.

I may never know what freaked him out, but I have to forgive him for the aberration. He wasn’t being bad. He was genuinely upset. I have to remember that in the 6 years that I have owned him, he was only rude once.

Other than that, he is a gentleman and tries his hardest to do what he is asked. When my friends tell me how sorry they are for how this show turned out, they are surprised that I shrug it off and tell them Timmy has a “by” on this one.

Sorry mom, I’ll do better next time. Love ya, Timmy

My trainer is the only person who really understood. She has seen what a good horse he is 95%  of the time, so she too, has forgiven him his sins on Saturday. We know we still have work to do and will continue, just as we do every week, to keep our goals in mind and stick with the plan.

This one show, while frustrating, changes nothing. Interestingly, several other riders showing had similar experiences with their horses, so something must have been in the air up there. But we lived to tell the story.

So today is another day. Timmy had a day off after the show to think about the experience and put it behind him. Work started the next day and he was back to his sweet, willing self.