Finally! Some horse shows!
I’ve been really frothing at the mouth for the last couple of weeks, watching all my friends go to shows. I promised my clients that, because I’d gone to Florida, they could have the early-in-the-season shows, and I’d get my own guys out when the weather turned foul mid-summer. But for whatever reason they didn’t get ready to show until this late in the year, too. So off we went, five horses, to the PVDA Ride For Life in Maryland.
I’ve done this show twice before, but never as a competitor; the show has a Saturday evening exhibition that raises money for breast cancer research. Cleo went two years ago; Ella went last year. This year I didn’t get the call, which was a pretty major bummer, as Tres would have been a terrific choice, but that’s the way that goes.
Instead, I got to show him at Grand Prix, something I truly never dreamed would happen. Tres’ wonderful, laid-back attitude that makes him such a gem for my mom—his owner—to ride also made him a little uninspired when it came to the tremendous physical work it takes to get through the Grand Prix work. He had all the bits and pieces, but putting it all together in a cohesive way seemed like a stretch. But about three months ago, it was like a switch flipped in his head. He said, clear as day: “Dang it, my brother and sister are having all the fun. I want to have some fun. Let’s do this!”
And Saturday, we did!
I did leave a few points on the table. I got a little braced against him in the canter half-pass zigzag, which meant I was really in the backseat for the ones, which I also foolishly started too early. By the end of the test he was starting to get fatigued, and I couldn’t get him in front of me for the first part of the last centerline. The piaffe is still a weak point, though it’s unrecognizable from the mess it was when we bought him. The pirouettes were too small, with too few steps.
But darnit, he went around and did everything with a big ol’ horsey smile on his face. The first and second piaffe-passage tours were as nice as they could possibly be. At 15.2 hands, he banged out nine straight, huge two-tempis that covered the whole diagonal. And when he was done, he hacked out of the ring like an old lesson pony. At any point in that test I could have dismounted, handed the reins over to a 9-year-old, and that kid would have been perfectly safe.
What an amazing, stunning, wonderful horse!
He got a 60 percent as a reward, but a 112 percent for effort. What a gem.
I showed a darling client horse named Landon, a recovering show hunter, in his first Dressage show. Poor Landon had a bit of a teenage moment in schooling on Friday but improved vastly.
The back rings are a bit terrifying at this show; the flatter and closer of the two has this ghastly bleachers-thing made from pipe which has a terrible sound when the wind blows through it. To top it off they’ve secured a tarp to provide shade… but there’s really no way to SECURE a tarp, so it just blows around a little less. Yikes. The test itself was punctuated by spooks, but he held it together awfully well and got better from beginning to end, and got a 66 percent. Good boy.
My clients were the stars of the show—Mel rocked a second level test in front of a judge who’s not well-known for being full of sunshine and butterflies. And Virginia, whose horse Roadie makes the Cowardly Lion look like a Four Star Army General, summoned some serious courage and rode her hair off in her first level test; her riding is improving and improving and improving, but I was more proud of her confidence under fire.
Ella, who was here as a tourist, put in a lovely schooling session with some help from Michael, which was greatly appreciated. She’s had her usual amount of internal combustion but is coping so much better. Feeling like a big horse! No dramatics, no thrashing about in her stall, eating all her feed. Hoorah!
But the highlight of the day was the evening’s extravaganza. There were lots of good rides, including a stunning flamenco with a dancing woman and a dancing Friesian, but the show was stolen, as far as I’m concerned, by Silva Martin on an off-track Thoroughbred named Sea Lord. I’ve seen Sea Lord go before, and he is an outstanding horse trained marvelously, but when she rode him into that scary-as-all-get-out indoor arena, into the crowds of people, and came down centerline to the Call To The Post (for her music was all based around a racehorse theme, and they even dressed the part of jockey and racehorse), I got shivers. He piaffed and passaged and did one-tempis, then finished with a huge gallop down centerline into a perfectly civilized halt.
THAT, ladies and gentleman, is dressage.
Sunday had some mighty tired ponies. Poor Tres just had nothing to offer me, so everything was a point lower than it could have been, but he was as honest as the day is long. And Landon, back in that same ring he was frightened of, was also more fatigued and, as a result, a little more uptight. But I think both horses gained a LOT of mileage this weekend, and that’s what it’s all about!
My students, however, reigned supreme. Both Mel and Virginia scored above 60 percent and got ribbons to show for their efforts. Mel’s got lots of show mileage, but Virginia’s relatively green to competing in dressage and rode her HAIR off again on Sunday. I am SO proud of them both!
And now we’re back at home to recuperate for a few weeks before Lexington, where I think my last head count was seven horses, with a few more who are maybes. Ahh! No rest for the wicked!