Master of the Dark

                                                                                           A+++

That would be Ike’s grade for his performance yesterday even if our scores had been awful.  How, you ask, would that be possible since dressage schooling show success is typically judged by your score and ribbons earned?  Let me explain.

I last rode on Tuesday at our lesson.  Life intervened the rest of the week and kept me out of the saddle and away from the barn until Friday.  My job which pays the bills, general life maintenance (read, laundry and house work), and ACL surgery on my dog Tim’s knee demanded my attention.  I managed to make it to the barn long enough on Friday to load the trailer and groom big man.  I put in the basic braids so all I had to do in the morning was roll them into our cheater buttons.  Ike would have had every right to act out since he’d had limited work.

Yesterday started at 3:30 a.m. in the DARK of night.  Had to tend to Tim – getting medicine to go down and a morning walk were necessary.  A quick stop for coffee was also necessary and then the 25 minute drive to the barn in the DARK.  Arrived at the barn at 4:30 a.m.  It is very DARK in the country.  The horses all nickered to me as I opened the barn doors and turned on the light; not sure if it was “good to see you” nickers or  “turn off the lights, we are sleeping” nickers.  In either case, all eyes were wide open when I fed Ike, so everyone got some oats and hay.  Ike balked at getting on the trailer.  I’m assuming because it was DARK and way too early to be going anywhere.  Since he is such a good sport, he finally conceeded and we were on our way at 5:00 a.m.

We arrived at the show barn at 6:15 a.m. in the DARK.  We parked in the field in the DARK.  Did we remember a flashlight?  Of course not.  So we unloaded Ike and tacked in the DARK.  Since it was DARK and there was no one else at the show, I opted to not put Ike and I in our Halloween costumes.  What was the point?  It was DARK and no one could see it.  We then walked through the field and down the path in the DARK.  Checked in with the show secretary in the DARK.  The one advantage to being there at this early hour – since there were no lights in the field where warmup was to be, they let me warm up in the competition arena since it had lights.  The lights did a decent job at providing light, but there were still DARK, boogie man corners and shadows.  Ike, being the star that he is, didn’t spook at anything.

I should also mention that we rode by ourselves for most of warm up.  Thank goodness my husband and Ms. C were also there so Ike had some ground support.  About 7:00 a.m. another horse showed up; it was the other horse in our class.  As it turns out, the other competitor in our group scratched…I’m betting it was because they did not wish to ride in the DARK.  Ike’s warm up went fairly well.  We had tense moments and some stumbling.  Hey when it is DARK, I tend to have trouble as well.

It was finally time for Training Level Test 2.  Not our best effort.  Ike was inconsistent in his rhythm and even felt “off” during half of the test.  He also kept trying to break into canter.  The judge took some time to talk to us after our ride since the scratches opened up a block of time.  She also noticed the odd movement, but told me there were some nice moments.  She complimented my riding and Ike’s stellar performance in the early morning DARKNESS.  We ended up with a 62.5% but it came with a blue ribbon.

They let me and the other competitor do another 5 minutes of warm up in the competition ring before our second rides.  The sun was just starting to peak over the horizon, so the field was still pretty DARK.  During this five minute period, Ms. C had us trot in a circle around her and she checked Ike’s shoes.  Maybe he stepped on a rock?  Maybe when he tripped in the DARK, he torqued something?  His movement was still not quite right…..and then he finally pooped……..and my happy horse returned.  Ah!

I could feel the difference as we headed down centerline for our second test.  Ike’s rhythm was steady, there was no hitch in his giddyup, and there was no general ickiness in any of his movement.  His canter transitions were prompt (a good thing since they have a coefficient in Test 3).  His trot loops were smooth.  We even nailed our canter turn onto the long diagonal and the down transition at X.  His walk was marching and forward.  I was tickled with our test.  The judge was as well.  Her oral comment, “WOW! What a difference!  What did you do??”  LOL, I told her what made the difference.  She laughed.  She was very complimentary of our test and the score reflected her comments – 68.6%!!  Way to go big man.

As we headed back to the trailer, we finally saw more competitors.  We also could see the path back to the trailer parking and the fields and the ground and the tack room.  The sun had made its daily appearance and night was over as was our work for the day.  I joked that our experience prepared us for riding under the lights at Devon.  Ha!  Although we didn’t make it to the 70% mark, I cannot complain.  My big man proved to me that he is a rising star.

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