Have you ever seen the movie Top Gun? (If not, that’s just plain wrong; go watch it right now.) There’s this great scene where Wolfman is telling Maverick about how his team got their butts kicked in a training exercise. He says: “We went like this, he went like that. I said to Hollywood, ‘Where’d he go?’ Hollywood says, ‘Where’d WHO go?!?’ ”
In spite of having made a half-dozen perfectly lovely transitions in the warm-up, when I said, “Hey Midge, we’re supposed to be going from extended trot to passage; WHERE are your HINDLEGS?!,” he responded, “Where are WHOSE hindlegs?!?!?!” And then cantered instead.
I sorta can’t believe that I didn’t get a -2 for just cracking up in the middle of it all. What else could I do? I tried to get him back, and I think I might have made a few steps that were actually two-beat somewhere in the middle there before getting to P where I was supposed to extended walk, and I just called it quits.
Because these are the things that young Grand Prix horses do. They rev up the hind legs, topple over their front legs and, like a snowball rolling down a mountainside that becomes an avalanche, canter instead of passaging, or trot out of pirouettes. In this, Midge’s first weekend at Grand Prix, the Real Grand Prix, the one where the panel doesn’t have in the back of their collective minds that this horse is a work-in-progress, Midge may not have gotten all the details right, but the baseline work was delightful, and all heading in the right direction.
Other than a swing-and-a-miss moment in the ones, there were no mistakes. I got more 7s today than I did yesterday. And in two days of competition, there was not one moment where any judge said anything other than: This is going to get better and better as you and this delightful horse get stronger, more balanced and more organized.
My wonderful Midgey has no flaws other than that he’s 10 years old, he’s only done six shows at the Intermediaire II or above, and that he’s got me in the saddle, making mistakes even with all the lessons the horses who’ve come before him have taught me. He does not have one defect in his education. When I sit down, he sits down. When I lean back, he leans back. When I put my leg on, he goes. (Sometimes he goes in every direction, but that’s neither here nor there.)
On my way up to Saugerties, right around Hour 5 of the 7.5 hour drive, I started thinking, “You know, I could have saved a lot of time and money bringing Midge to Morven this weekend instead of schlepping all the way up here. What’s 13 horses as opposed to 12?” But I realized that this was the right decision after being on the grounds five minutes. The Marshall & Sterling League Finals, a giant show hunter finals; the breed show; the banners, the vendor alley, the golf carts whizzing by; three different FEI “I” judges. The big show ambience was exactly what I needed to both humble me and inspire me, to remind me of how far I have to go, but also how far I’ve come.
And don’t even get me started on how proud I am of Midge, my little weirdo. I was telling my mom about how it all went today, and she said, “I didn’t think it was possible for you to love him anymore, but apparently it was, because listen to yourself.” What a guy.
I think this show is the last for us this year. There’s just too much going on and not enough shows left; I could take Midge to the BLMs, but he’d be one of 18 horses, which really is way too many, and when I show, I want to focus on that.
But this show, this experience, was a bellows to the fire I’ve lit under my own ass. We’ll do a couple of schooling shows just to keep getting in the ring, keep learning, over the next few months before we head to Florida. Look out, world. Midge and I are coming for you.