Getting Better

Feb 18, 2013 - 12:27 AM
Photo by Shaana Herlocher Risley.

This week was not the best horse show prep I’ve ever had. I had clients in town visiting, and then it DUMPED rain on us for two days, and as soon as the rain stopped Michael caught The Plague To End All Plagues. I got Midge worked every day for the week leading up to the show, but I only had two lessons, one of them with poor Michael huddling, pale and wobbly, in the corner of the field because every ring in South Florida was a giant puddle.*

(*Except for the rings at the Global – even with all that awfulness, they were PERFECT. They should be VERY proud!! I love that place.)

And that Midge of mine got to the ring and said, “Pffh, whatever. I got this.”

Which was quite something considering our warm-up on Day 1. The ring was PACKED with people. And to top it off, the high winds that mercifully blew the rainclouds away stuck around to howl across the Wellington area, whipping palm fronds around (which make quite a noise!). Two riders in the warm-up had real horse meltdowns on their hands as Midge just quietly went around, up but with not one toe out of line.

I tried a new strategy this time – I’ve felt like he got quite behind me in our last few tests, so even though he can be a hot little thing, I really revved his engines around the outside of the ring. And lo and behold, if he wasn’t absolutely foot perfect energy-wise in the ring for the test! I could ease off the gas and just let the engine idle a little. To continue this racecar metaphor, he idles at a higher rate than most, with plenty of energy for all the work.

Our piaffe and passage transitions were the BEST they’ve ever been in the ring, and while he snuck a one into my twos just to keep me honest, and the canter half-pass zig zag was not our finest, there was not one moment of anything other than overexuberance. The score was low, but I felt great about the ride.

Sunday was The Big One – just another national Grand Prix, except this one was in the International Ring and in front of the International Panel – 5 four-star judges, the same panel that had judged all the CDI classes. Eek! No pressure.

Midge actually felt tired – Sunday was technically his seventh day of work in a row, something I don’t normally do to him, but that’s just the way it worked out. But bless him, he let me push and drive and make the decisions and put my leg on him and ride every step. Some things were better than the day before, some things about the same. I GOT THE TWOS! I had great pi and pa transitions! I think my trot half passes were the best they’ve been. My reinback did not have a caddywhompus transition in! And once again, even in that big cavernous ring with the wind howling and the VIP tent flapping, Midge had his game face ON.

We won that class on almost 66 percent. Had we been in the CDI, we would have been just out of the ribbons. WOW!

Now, some people might think this was something worth celebrating, and it was. I’m SO proud of Midgey, and on how far we’ve come together in just two weeks from a strategy perspective. But now the gauntlet’s thrown. I want to tighten up those details and make my next Grand Prix FLAWLESS – I don’t mean just mistake-free (I did that Sunday), but tidy, EVERY movement well-prepared, with no room for luck. I particularly mean the canter half-pass and the pirouettes and the reinback, the three movements that I sometimes don’t come into quite right, and when you don’t come in quite right, you’re a bit screwed.

And I say all this after a night where, at a dinner party with Carol Lavell, she reminded me that the Grand Prix is like herding ducks – you think you’ve finally gotten all 32 of your ducks in a row, just as a few fly away, and when you put them back, another few have flown, and when you catch THOSE a whole ‘NOTHER section of ducks (one you’ve never had a problem with before) starts to flap their wings and bail. 

But all I can do for that scenario is be mentally prepared for it. So until then, it’s zig zag, pirouettes, reinback. That’s the goal for the next show, two weeks away, where I’ll also ride the Special for the first time. BRING IT ON!


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