The Show that Almost Didn’t Happen

Second 3 Dover Medal Ride June 2016

What do you get when you mix one part horse lameness with one part work and one part family obligations?  You get a hot mess of a rider and a lot of sweat from worrying if you are going to make it to the June show or not.  Of course, this all starts to ramp up just after the close date for the show which means no refunds.  It also meant that there was not a significant amount of schooling done in the two weeks leading up to our second licensed show of the year.

Thankfully Ike’s lameness turned out to be the need for his annual Equithane application.  For those of you who are wondering, it is basically a custom gel pad to keep his highness’ feet from getting too sore on the hard ground.  This is now the third year that he has needed it, so I should just put a tickler on the month of May to get it done and stop waiting for the pain to appear.

We went to the show with high expectations that we’d continue to earn scores in the 60th percentile as we have for most of the year.  Ha ha!  I should learn to stop setting the bar so high since there are just too many things that are out of my control – like sloppy footing, unexpected spooks, and a judge who just didn’t seem to care for us as a team.

It is hard to not take the low scores personally, but when you see most of the scores as 4.5, 5.0 and 5.5 in a test, you can’t help but feel like a failure.  I’ve shown enough to have a sense of what my score will be when I complete my final salute.  It is devastating when you see a score that doesn’t mesh with your expectations.  I think all the competitors were feeling the same as I did when they saw their scores from this judge.  After the particularly brutal beating we got after our Sunday morning ride, I took a walk to clear my head, shed a tear or two in frustration, and to try to get myself ready for my final ride of the weekend.

Our final class of the weekend was the Dover Medal class – Second Level Test 3.  All adult amateurs are eligible for this award; the award goes to the high score adult amateur in the class as long as the score is greater than 60%.  My goal for the class was to get at least 60% and to hold our countercanters in both three-loop serpentines.  I wasn’t even worried about my placement.  We had to warm up on our own without any adult supervision.  Ike felt a bit tired, but he was calm and on the aids.  I didn’t school countercanter since we’ve found that it can fire him up and encourage him to show off his flying change skills.

It was finally time for us to head down centerline.  I love it when we make the turn at A and Ike puts on his game face.  He knows it is time, and we can usually make a good first impression on the initial halt and salute.  I was doing my best to breathe and to keep him supple in my hands.  Our medium trots were two of our best for the weekend and we got solid scores on our 10 meter circles.  Frankenhorse did not make an appearance and we got a 6.0 and a 6.5 on our turns on the haunches.  Yea for us!  Our simple changes were not our best, BUT I am happy to report that we held our countercanters in both directions.  Hallelujah!! Especially since they are a double coefficient in the scoring.  We did our best and now just had to wait for the final tally.

While we waited for the score, we got Ike hosed down and our tack loaded on the trailer.  He and my husband were going to head back to the barn to get Ike some afternoon paddock time while I gathered our test once the class placed.  Amazingly, we heard our score right before the boys departed.  I knew I’d done well when I heard the announcer share the news that we were the recipients of the Dover Medal.  What?!  Never did I think that I’d be able to claim I owned one of these medals.  It was such redemption after the challenging rides we’d had all weekend.  Our score was a 63.049%.

My only wish was that Ms. C had been there to watch our ride.  Thankfully my husband recorded our ride so she would be able to see it for herself.  This medal is as much hers as it is mine.

 

Pause

Alison and Ike May 2016 by Melana

Photo by Melana Krivitsky

 

A pause in a speech can punctuate your words.  A pause in movement can help you to recover your breath.  Taking a break during the work day can help you mentally recharge.  And sometimes you just need to pause from writing because your “to do” list is overwhelming and you feel too scattered in your thoughts to put something cohesive on the page.  So please accept my apologies for disappearing for the last few weeks.  Ike and I have been busy and there is much to share.

The weekend after our first licensed show, I signed us up for a schooling show.  Hmm, perhaps that might have been a bit too much for my big man.  He had a bit of a temper tantrum during our lesson with Ms. C and jigged his way around the arena.  When I finally asked for canter, he gave me more of a hand gallop.  “He’s been planning that”  was Ms. C’s observation.  Thankfully, I shut it down and we were able to refocus him enough for some productive work at the trot.  In the last month, our travers has really strengthened and Ike has shown some effort in our medium trot.  Unfortunately, Ike was not over his tantrum and I dealt with the attitude for the rest of the week.  In the remaining days leading up to the schooling show, he started to show additional signs of stress by bolting when asked to perform the movements he struggles with – most notably the left lead countercanter.  Hmm, it was shaping up to be a challenging schooling show.

Mother Nature also had a bit of a tantrum because that Sunday in May felt more like a Sunday in November.  It was downright COLD and very breezy at the show grounds.  As you can imagine, that created quite the electric environment at the show.  Our canter transitions were more along the lines of canter explosions.  When Ike gets on the muscle, it is all I can do to quietly suggest canter.  Needless to say, that our tests were not some of our best work even though he did manage to show a lovely stretch down walk.  I know, go figure.  Too bad we couldn’t maintain that relaxation in the canter.  The best I can say about the day was that thankfully I stayed astride.

As a result of Ike’s out of the ordinary behavior under saddle, I opted to give him a week off after that schooling show.  We’d been going fast and furious on the show circuit this spring (4 schooling shows and 1 2-day licensed show) and perhaps the boy just needed some down time to reflect on his recent work.  The timing worked out well since my work commitments had picked up to keep me away from the barn and my husband was taking me to the Preakness!

Preakness

What a fun weekend that was.  As you can see, I did dress for the occasion although Mother Nature again made it not the best weather day for the full experience. (Can someone please have a talk with her and see what she wants and or needs to mellow out this crazy weather?)  The weather didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the attendees.  Congratulations to all the winners that day and my heartfelt condolences to those who had to say goodbye to their horses before the day was through.  I can’t imagine having to face the loss in such a public setting.

And speaking of losses, lately it seems that I’ve had too many friends who have either lost foals or had bad news about the health of their beloved equine partners.  There are also the tragic losses that you hear about at horse trials and shows.  I either well up with tears or have downright sobbed when hearing the news.  I pause for a moment and think about how sad my friends must feel and wish that I was there to give them a hug.  There is something about these amazing creatures that gets under your skin and into your heart like no other animal.  These animals are ten times our size yet allow us to pursue our passions on their backs.  They carry us down centerline and over the jumps.  They gallop and let us feel like we are flying.  They allow us to pause from our busy lives and just live in the moment.  So, even while you struggle to learn that new movement or get your strides right to the jump, never forget to be grateful for your horse.

alison