I very much enjoyed seeing some friends. The weather was brisk and cool, a welcome changed. The show staff was incredibly friendly and supportive, as usual. The judge was über friendly. The warm up was huge, the dressage court well watered and groomed, and the other riders were very supportive and kind. Except for wanting to throw up for the better part of an hour, I enjoyed the day.
Complete Both Tests ...
Sydney went Looney Tunes in the warm up. Nothing I tried helped. He couldn't walk, he couldn't trot in any kind of circle, and there was no way I was going to canter in a space that large. I pretty much kept an inside hand planted on my thigh and just rode out the bucks, bolts, and squeals. At one point, I could tell that a true explosion was imminent. I hopped off and turned him loose in the round pen where he proceeded to squeal, grunt, kick, buck, fling himself around, and generally cause havoc.
With my eye on the clock, I got back on just hoping for a walk, but if anything, he was worse than before. With fewer than ten minutes until my test time, I told the ring steward that I was scratching, something I've never done before. My second test was in an hour so my plan was just to stay on for the hour in the hopes that he might eventually relax even just a little bit.
Just minutes after deciding to scratch, Sydney took a breath and decided to stretch his neck and walk. I know that most will think that I must have also taken a breath when deciding to scratch, but I really don't think I was the source of his tension. I was actually feeling very relaxed, if not a bit frustrated that I wasn't able to help him relax. Right from the start of the day, I had decided that the day would be what it was and whatever happened, happened. I wasn't aiming for any particular score; I just wanted some relaxation.
The ring steward kept her eye on me and didn't scratch me. When she saw that we were finally walking, she knew there was still a chance I'd make the test. With some very encouraging words from the other rides, I walked up to the dressage court after all. The ring steward very kindly gave the judge a heads up that I might not ride the whole test.
As I came into the arena, still walking, I approached the judge to greet her. She very kindly told me to ride whatever parts of the test that I felt comfortable doing and that I should feel free to school him as necessary. She would still give me scores and comments no matter what happened. That simple gesture took away any last worries I had. Knowing that I could walk the whole thing gave me a different mindset.
I should point out that this was not a schooling show, but rather a rated CDS show. I know that at a USDF show the judge couldn't be so accommodating, but I've never had one be so at a CDS show either.
I walked all the way to A and only picked up a slow trot as I entered. As I trot up the centerline, I debated whether to halt and salute or just keep on going. I could feel that Sydney was trying to listen, so I took a deep breath and sat deep. He halted, I saluted, and then we kept on going.
None of the test had anything good, but it was MUCH improved over last September when I brought him to Tehachapi. Last year, I couldn't get him to move at all forward. He was so sucked back that we did nearly walk the whole thing. This time, he was forward and trying to listen.
As I approached the three-quarter canter circle, I debated whether to just trot the thing and get through the test. But then I reconsidered. I had an understanding judge, a safe venue, and if not now, when? So I gave the canter cue and was pleased that he got the correct lead and even came back to trot when asked. She gave us a 5. And that was for our right lead canter! When we approached the same spot for the left lead canter, I again decided to go for it and we scored a 6. Not bad for a horse who ten minutes before was in the throes of lunacy.
It was not a nice test by anyone's standards, but I am encouraged and equally discouraged at the same time. I know that I rode him as well as he could have been ridden. I was really pleased with what I was able to get from a very nervous, tense horse. He was literally quivering for most of the ride and calling plaintively to no one and anyone. JK, a friend and talented rider, couldn't say enough kind things about how well put together he looked considering what he had looked like just moments before. We scored a 58% which was good enough for a first out of three. I find it funny that I "finally" won a class only to do it with such a paltry score.
I haven't even read the comments for the directives; I don't need to. I could have written them for the judge. Needs bend, drifting, etc. What he was able to give me at the show was nothing like we have at home. This show was really just for mileage. I just wonder how many "miles" we'll have to do before he starts to relax a little bit more.
On a brighter note, the remarks in the collectives are more meaningful. He scored a 7 for gaits and 6s the rest of the way down which confirmed for me that I really rode this horse as well as I could have. I absolutely love the judge's further remarks, "Good for you." That about sums it up.
The second test tomorrow ...