When I started planning my show season back in February, I had a pretty set vision for how I wanted it to go. I was planning on starting with our biggest provincial indoor show, and showing fairly consistently locally at 1.0m, leading up to a big national show in Alberta in August and a move up to the 1.10m. Alas, like so many of the best-laid plans of mice and men, the reality ended up being somewhat different. But despite the deviation from the ideal… I’m still pretty damn happy with how it went, from my vantage point here at the end of summer show season.
At our first show in March this year, Justinian and I were still somewhat out of sync. We pulled off a couple of clear rounds in the cloistered indoor arena, but most of our classes were marred by a rail here or a rail there, mostly caused by a lack of impulsion and a sort of discord at the base of the fence. It was all still fairly decent, and I was happy, but there was something missing.
Our next show was on an extremely rainy day in June. Our first outdoor show of the year proved to be one of the rainiest and windiest that our city experienced this year. Despite these metrological challenges, Justinian performed like a star and we had some fairly strong rounds in the 1.0m – but yet again, it always felt like close but no cigar. Work at home turned to pacing, and more importantly, maintaining a flow around a course, including through sharper turns and rollbacks. By our next show in July, I felt ready. Confident. We’d been consistently schooling 1.1 – 1.15m at home, and 1.0m no longer looked intimidating out in the ring. Justinian was truly excellent, foot-perfect all weekend while a hot July sun baked down on us. We took home champion in both of our divisions and even competed in our first double slalom for third. I was over the moon. I felt like I was starting to be able to differentiate between an okay pace and the perfect pace. And better yet, I was starting to feel like I could find a way to turn the former into the latter on cue. I sent in my entries for the Rocky Mountain Classic II in Calgary, Alberta.
I was beyond excited. I’ve never shown out of province before and have been dreaming of showing in Calgary since I wasn’t much older than a tot. My friend and fellow competitor Lauren and I spent days planning out our hotel arrangements, shipping routes, and details right down to what caulks to bring. I booked the week off work and my work over fences became more focused, coursework out in the open field mixed with some gridwork to polish up Justinian’s jumping style. It was pretty much all I could think about. We had one more local show on the roster before heading out, and I was looking forward to it. Better yet, my coaches had suggested that I move up to 1.10m after Calgary, and that was another milestone I was looking forward to.
Then, on the second day of our last local show, Justinian came out sore in the morning. The vet diagnosed a stone bruise on his left fore. And suddenly like a house of cards all those travelling plans came tumbling down. I spent the week doing data analysis instead, and feeling a bit sorry for myself. But on the bright side, the money I saved can now go towards replacing my car’s shocks…!
Thankfully Justinian came sound towards the middle of August, a few pounds heavier but back in action, to my extreme relief. I signed up tentatively for our last local show of the year, not sure if he was completely fit enough but so excited to show him one more time before winter engulfs us once again. And he was bloody perfect. Smart, keen and brave, he even jumped around his first ever derby course clear for me, 17 efforts including a grob, tabletop, bank and Liverpool. He barely blinked. And while I still spent a few minutes every night scrolling wistfully through pics of my friends competing in Calgary, I think I can safely say that this show season was a success, maybe more for the intangibles than anything else.
When I go into the ring with Justinian now I feel confident and keen. My trust in him has grown over the year and I like to think that his trust in me has grown, too. We went from an early spring of passably adequate rounds to a late summer show of stronger, more purposeful rounds. So while show season 2014 didn’t include a cross country tour, I’m still stamping it as a success. What will the fall season bring? Plenty of flatwork and maybe some hacks along some quintessentially autumnal Manitoba trails. My favourite season!