The only thing you can count on at a horse show is that the experience will be different every time. At one show your horse may be low-key and relaxed; at another he might be a nut case. Let's face it, as riders we are never the same at each show either.
The Northern California Regional Adult Amateur Championship (California Dressage Society) tested my physical abilities as well as my mental toughness. It was a hot and dusty. I did not do well at the two attempts I made to move up a level. But in the end it held a huge reward and the hope that I would be able to move up in the future.
The show took place at the Santa Rosa Equestrian Center and I was looking forward to it until we arrived on the grounds. I am never comfortable in new places and the set up made my heart race. The arenas were situated looking out over open pasture land with cows grazing nearby.
Open land gets horses excited. Cows too can be a strange sight to those horses that do not live with them. The only thing that Teddy did not look at was the heavy equipment shuttling around the property. We have plenty of tractors, end loaders and bulldozers at our own barn.
The cows definitely got his attention. They appeared in their pasture just before we were to enter our first class. His head went up and we backed up. But by the time we were ready to go in, I had his attention.
This was our first try at the First Level 4 test. It went reasonably well up until the working canter at F (movement 19) where we had a few trot steps (when we should have been cantering) and then we took up the incorrect lead at the canter. We counter cantered through the next two movements. These errors cost us a lot of points and the collective marks were also low. I was disappointed, but moving up to a new level is a challenge.
By Saturday the new show ground experience was gone. Teddy was once again a solid citizen and I was focused on getting the true canter during our second test of the weekend. I had real hopes that we would do well and get a descent score. But it was not to be.
At our first canter depart (movement 12), we executed a 15 meter canter circle at A and then Teddy very smoothly exited the arena. The movement was so smooth that I did not realize we were out until the judge rang the bell. And although I was allowed to school the movement again, I am afraid I was so angry with him that I could not get him to canter at all. It was not a pretty display and it ruined the weekend. It was a huge rider error and we were eliminated. At this point I felt more like Calamity Jane than a dressage rider.
On Sunday it was just plain hot. The temperature gauge said 90 degrees by 9 am and our ride time was not until 2 pm. I was worried about the heat. Not the most forward horse at anytime, the heat seemed to plague Teddy, slowing him even more.
On such a hot day, it is hard to know how much to warm up. I walked Teddy for 10 minutes and then asked for canter and trot. After another 10 minutes, we were definitely ready to go, but we still had 20 minutes left. Thankfully, the coolest spot at the show was the covered warm-up arena.
As we walked to the arena, Teddy's head hung low and he was reluctant to go forward. I was also tired and had begun shaking. Although the judges were allowing competitors to go without jackets, I felt it would look better if I wore my coat -- after all it was a championship show.
We walked into the arena and I tried to forget everything. The bell rang and we were off. I was concentrating hard on riding the 'perfect test'. Teddy was listening. There were a few small mistakes, but nothing heinous. Then we were done.
When the class was called, I hoped we had done well. There were only five competitors, so I knew we would be in the ribbons. When my trainer and one of my best friends came out into the arena holding the RAAC banner, my heart leapt. Yes, despite the Calamity Jane moments, we had come out on top.
Teddy and I won the Novice Training Level 4 class with 67.4 percentage points. We also won novice high point of the championship, and we won the over age 50 high point for the entire show.
The video of my winning test was shot by Ruth Lake of Lake Web Design.