Spring is the season of horse shows.
Well, it is if you're me, that is.
On March 19th, Amadeus and I trekked about 2 ½ hours away for our first horse show since May 2015. Normally, we would have shown all the way through November, but we all know how that turned out.
I was so excited to be going. Amadeus was schooling so well and I knew we were going to do amazing. Even if we didn't, I was just glad to be showing. Riding at all really.
I'll admit, back in August, there was a part of me that was wrestling with the scenario that I may never ride Amadeus again. God was incredibly faithful and Amadeus is better than ever. So, to be in the saddle, to be embarking on a fun outing...
I was thrilled!
This was a schooling show, meaning it wasn't recognized(sanctioned) and the scores weren't recorded by the United States Equestrian Federation(USEF). Schooling shows are more relaxed and are a great opportunity to practice for recognized shows(we have one coming up May 7-8!).
I wake bright and early at around 5 AM Saturday morning and stumble through taking care of my gaggle of cats and dogs, readying myself, and doing last minute checks on whether I really remembered to put my show jacket in the car. The plan is to arrive at the barn at 7AM. The barn is a 30 minute drive, don't ask me why I need that much time between waking up and getting there, I really don't know.
Amadeus is chowing down on some hay in his stall, but as it turns out, we totally forgot there was a bucket of molasses flavored, mineral-filled goop in a bucket, so Amadeus' white nose is now brown because that stuff is apparently delish. I decide to tackle that particular problem after we get to the show grounds.
Last time you lovelies saw Amadeus, he had quite the mop of mane going. I hope you said your goodbyes because when it comes to braiding, AIN'T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT.
Also, I have an obsession with Andalusians with traditionally shaved manes.
Also, a friend roached her thoroughbred's mane and it looked super duper cute, so last summer, I(by ~I~ I mean, my trainer who goes along with my schemes) took the clippers to Amadeus' mane. And it looked fantastic, so I've kept doing it.
The 2 ½ trip is filled with pulling in at QT to get coffee and donuts as well as me screaming and shaking my fists every time the car(s) around us decide to do something stupid like, tailgate or pull out in front of the truck and then go 15mph.
If I ever catch you beautiful readers doing that to me or someone else pulling a livestock trailer, so help me, I will track you down and beat you to death with a sack of potatoes.*
PSA: TRAILERS CANNOT STOP AS FAST AS A CAR. THEY CANNOT SLAM ON THE BRAKES OR THE ANIMAL WILL FALL. PLEASE SEE YOURSELF TO THE NEAREST INFERNO.
*this is illegal, but tempting nonetheless
A couple of hours of my nerves being shot later, we arrive at the lovely barn that is hosting the show. We've been there a few times back in 2015 and it's pretty grand. Plenty of parking, nice arenas, it's chill. I like it.
We somehow manage to park amongst all the other trailers whose drivers don't seem to know how to park. I unload Amadeus, dig out some baby wipes, and go to town on that nose of his. Ten minutes of scrubbing later, he now has only a minimally stained muzzle. The judge is probably not going to notice. I rub some baby powder on it for good measure.
At this point, I leave Amadeus alone with his bag of hay to munch on for a few minutes while I give my tack a quick wipe down because I didn't clean it because of who I am as a person. It looks fine, now that the layer of dust has been rubbed off. I start grooming Amadeus because we're about an hour out from our class and I need about 25 minutes to warm up.
Amadeus catches sight of a dog in the distance and suddenly, that is THE SCARIEST THING TO EVER WALK THIS EARTH. Like, he is pooping and shaking. This is made more entertaining by the fact that he has tried to maim and kill all the dogs at the barn at least once. The dog disappears, but Amadeus is still freaking out, so I decide to take him for a quick walk around the facilities.
Oh boy. Everything is spooky this morning. He's never seen another horse before. He's never seen a barn door before. He's never seen a stall before. Is that a truck??? WHAT IS A TRUCK IT SOUNDS TERRIFYING.
And then, as quickly as it started, his drama is through and he is totally chill once more. My horse is a weirdo.
We make our way back to the trailer, but now we're running late. Thanks, Amadeus. I scurry around and manage to make it to the warmup arena with enough time to get us loosened up and going. Our warmup went well and before I know it, we're in the arena for our first test.
Amadeus considers spooking at his reflection in the mirror hanging on the wall. He changes his mind and we begin our test.
Just a btw for anyone who has no idea what I'm talking about, a test is a series/pattern of ridden movements to showcase the horse and rider's skills. At my level, it's mostly just circles and changing gait, but that's a lot harder than it sounds because you have to stay balanced and forward and light and accurate and prompt and wow I am making this sound like a really boring sport.
The test was kind of ammmaazzziiinnnnggg. Amadeus didn't bobble once. I could have set him up for our canter work way better, but he did all that asked flawlessly.
Usually, it takes at least 30 minutes to get scores back, but this was a small class and this facility has got quite the system going, so I am just finishing untacking when my mother, who can't stand suspense, comes scampering up with my score sheet and a first place blue ribbon whaaattt.
The blue ribbon is awesome, but what really counts is the judge's comments on the score sheet.
We got a 70%!!!
This is 70 out of the possible 100 though 100 is not actually possible because horses have minds of their own.
Unless you're Charlotte Dujardin, in which case, you get a world record of 94.3%, which beat your previous world record of 93.975%.
This is the third time in my life that I've gotten out of the 60s with my scores. I hug Amadeus and feed him horse cookies(which I would have done anyway, but it feel more sincere when your horse actually did amazing). The judge's comments are helpful and all pertain to my inability to make a properly sized and balanced circle el-oh-el.
After asking a friend to pop in to check on Amadeus, our group, consisting of me, my mother, my trainer, her husband, and her wee baby, go in search of lunch. We end up at Chili's. I order nachos. I only eat half of them because my nerves never quite settle on show days. We get back to the facility about an hour later and Amadeus is still munching on his hay.
I putter about for about twenty or thirty minutes, grumble under my breath because I get salty when people see-saw the reins to get their horse's head to drop, and spot a lovely buckskin(or dun, I wasn't close enough to see which) pinto that I really wish I would have stalked more. I go back to the trailer to tack Amadeus again and warmup for our second test. A couple of people tell me how lovely Amadeus looks and I beam like a proud parent.
We go down to the indoor arena for our second test. You know how sometimes you just know someone is up to something? Let's just say, Amadeus is that someone and, as good as he was being, I knew he was up to something. Don't ask me how. I just knew.
Our test began well, but I made a mistake during our first bit of canter work. Amadeus was a little off-balance, so my brain betrayed me and was shouting that we were on the wrong lead when we weren't. So, I dropped to a trot and fixed it except there wasn't anything to fix, so it just made us look hesitant. Oops. One mistake, oh well. My geometry was a little off, but it's always a little off. One day, I will get better, I swear. That day was not the day.
As we approached the letter(marker) for our next canter lead, I knew. Amadeus knew that I knew, but what was it that I knew? As soon as I asked for the canter, he squealed, threw his head down, and threw in a magnificent crowhop. I got him to cut it out, but I busted out laughing(loudly) because I could tell by the chaotic tension in his body that he would very much like to bolt across the arena with exuberant, joyful bucks. Why? Who knows! It's Amadeus we are speaking of! I try to redeem us, but for the most part, it's too funny for me to really care. Pfftt I already had a 70%, what did this matter? We only had a few movements left and our last trot circle was really great until Amadeus decided to trip. This isn't something the judge commented on, but it was one of those 'last nail in the coffin' moments.
We ended up with second place and a 64%. We were two points behind the winner and, according to my calculations, if I hadn't “fixed” the lead and he hadn't been ornery, we would have won. I still didn't care, I was still cackling about the whole thing. It's hard to not have good humor when you know your horse is just feeling good about life.
We packed up and headed home. Overall, it was an awesome day and I am so grateful God helped us get back to that point. Amadeus received lots of sweet compliments and worked better than he ever had before. It's so funny to think about how last show season, we were going through such a tough time and I kept getting told that he wasn't worth the effort. That I should buy a horse “made” for dressage.
I have said it before and I will say it again. Horses are not made for dressage. Dressage is made for horses. If you want to reach Grand Prix as fast as possible and win the entire time, then sure, you're going to have an easier time buying a horse “made” for it. I'm not knocking that at all. It's simply not the journey I have picked for myself. I do dressage because of what it does for horses, not because of what horses can win for me. Of course, winning is a blast, but when my horse is 25 and still fit and strong, I certainly won't feel as if I have lost.
Our first show of the season is under the belt and I have deemed it a grand success! We have another schooling show April 2nd and I'm hoping to not suck so bad at circling this time! It's such a blessing to be out doing this. My main focus this year is to always keep an attitude that reveres God and is grateful to Amadeus, no matter how our tests and scores turn out. I'm also hoping to be doing First Level in May, but I'm in no rush. With God's advice and Amadeus' approval, we'll get there when we get there!
I hope everyone has a great week!