We did it! Roo and I entered and completed our first USDF dressage show weekend ever as a partnership. There were many firsts – Roo’s first-ever off-property show, both of our first time showing third level, the first time that I’ve had a coach at a show, and the first time showing with this group of people, and more.
Preparation in the form of training started long before GDCTA awarded us the grant, but receiving that training grant seemed to condense time and intensify my focus. At the time of application, I set the general goal to cross the challenging chasm between second and third levels and the ultimate goal of earning scores for my bronze medal. The bronze medal goal required entering a show, which we did this past weekend only a few short months from receiving the grant. Oh yeah, why wait for perfection when there’s money to be spent? Besides philosopher John Dewey said, “all genuine education comes about through experience.”
(Beginning – excitement builds, activity ensues) Friday early – Left the house for the barn, the barn for the venue where the horses got settled into stalls, all the gear came in, walked Roo around the grounds and rode in the covered then cleaned tack and fed for the night before heading from the venue (wait, did I really leave the Horse Park?) for food and finally got to the hotel where there was some time for sleep.
(Middle – showing happens) Saturday also early because we were the first ride in ring B at 8:00 AM – My butterflies had arrived on Friday. Instead of being more relaxed because all was going well, my butterflies were morphing into bats. The bats were asking, Why are we here? What if we embarrass ourselves? Among other unnerving things. But it was too late to turn back. We were there and my trainer was there so off we went to warm up where things went okay. Time flew and I was riding down center line. Halt at X. Salute. Okay, we were off. The whole ride went quickly and then it was over. Sometime during the test the bats disappeared and I began to enjoy the experience. Roo did a good job. We did a good job – the score was high enough to count toward our bronze, which was a confidence boost.
My second test was less than an hour away so I wasn’t really sure how to handle the between time. We got water and tried to cool off a bit before I had to get back on. It went quickly. We took a short warm up and headed into the covered arena. Roo quickly let me know he had not given approval for the tents in the vendor area at the end of the arena. Just as there are no great achievements without setbacks, there are no great horse shows without problems at times, right? We can hope to learn from mistakes and situations. Identifying and dealing with them is the key. Needless to say this test was not one that counted toward the bronze. Bright side: even though Roo was uncomfortable, he was still willing to cooperate. We moved from letter to letter in the pattern even if the movements didn’t look so much like graceful and elegant dressage.
(End – more showing but also a shift in energy as everyone hurried to get moving toward home) Sunday dawned with beautiful pink light and sun beams reaching into the sky. Then it started to sprinkle. Then rain. With later ride times, there was a slower pace in the morning. Due to the schedule and having earned my one score toward the bronze, my second ride of the day couldn’t count toward the bronze so we had to make the first ride count. Of course, it was the highest test of the level (a bit of a stretch anyway!) and in the covered where the test the day before didn’t go so well… I had to shake all those thoughts off and focus on making it the best test I’ve ever ridden. Still confident from the first test, my coach and I took a fairly aggressive approach to warm up – lots of big, forward WTC before working through lateral movements and changes. Going in, we knew the changes would be an issue so I held no expectations there. We didn’t try to improve them or make any adjustments. We focused on forward and quick-like-lightning off the leg. And then it was time.
Roo went in easily enough but gave a slight hesitation as we trotted down the long side. The bell rang so we only had a few seconds to realize the vendor tents were gone. Yay! It didn’t really matter. Seconds later, we were in the ring and I was concentrating on the movements and keeping the flow going. There’s an electronic scoreboard in the outside of the arena. Riders and spectators can see it. I was so zeroed in on Roo and what was happening in the ring that I didn’t even see it – not even out of the corner of my eye! When we finished, my coach came over to congratulate and hug me – we had earned a score high enough to count toward our bronze! What a proud moment!
When I picked up the test, I glanced at it (there’s time for postmortem and planning for improvements later) and was chuffed to see that all except three boxes held a 6.0, 6.5 or 7.0. The three “errant” boxes were double coefficient and low. It’s okay. I was expecting it. I’m still pleased with the horse and the whole test. Likely I would have been sad if we hadn’t gotten the score for the bronze but we got it so I won’t go there. When you consider that I can count on one hand how many off-property activities Roo has had and that this was his first show, you have to agree my sweet horse is Super ‘Stang!
Rain happened. Scores were earned. Lessons were learned. Goals were met. So what exactly did I get from receiving the GDCTA Grant?
- Renewed purpose
- A deadline
- Incredible encouragement and support from the whole dressage community
- Goals accomplished
All of that because of one gift. I encourage everyone to apply! Receiving it is a huge motivator.
Hold the music. I still have to give my Emmy … err… Bronze Medal acceptance and appreciation speech!
I would like to thank:
- GDCTA and the Grant committee for awarding me the 2016 AA Training Grant
- Mark Brewer for tolerating my intense passion for the crazy world of dressage and horses
- Chris Erbskorn for his infinite patience, skills, and friendship
- GHF show management – Ann Genovese, Mary Lou Freil, Mark Fornwalt – for making the show easy for this neophyte
- Equinety Horse XL for improving both Roo’s and my ability to stay focused
- My faithful and supportive friends from all sources – personal, farm, Facebook – especially this weekend’s crew – Lauren, Evie, Madison, Janice, Suzanna, Caitlyn & Chris
- Last but not least, my mom for her unconditional love and support
We could not have done this without you! THANK YOU!
Facebook photo album: HERE