As promised, and late as usual, the real show post is here! I have been really ill since I got back from the show however, so I really do have a legitimate excuse for my tardiness. Saturday night I wasn’t feel great and having not slept because of nerves the drive home Sunday hit me hard and I have been house bound ever since. I got out to take my last final on Monday and graduation practice today but I haven’t actually seen the Champion in three days. You know I am sick when I cannot even sneak out to the barn to see my man!
Friday was a tough day as we ended up getting down to Poplar later than I would have liked since I had to stay and take my AP Calculus final (which I passed with a 101 by the way ;D). The night before I loaded the trailer to the hilt and so all that was required was driving out, hooking up, and throwing the big man on. He was a little stressed about the trip, more so than usual which is probably because of the tough heat we have been experiencing. My friend Rebecca was already at the show ground though and we were stabled together so she got his stall ready for when we got there which was so helpful. We were stabled with all of my friends this past weekend which was great and my Rhythm and Balance was right next to us which was great. There ended up being three of the six FEI Junior competitors in our little block of the barn: Rebecca, my other friend Christina, and myself. I adore these girls so it was great to be able to have fun all weekend together! I cannot tell you how much I missed having a show family, something that has been absent since my first year of showing Val. We usually go out and do everything ourselves but this weekend there was definitely a friendly feel down our end of the aisle. The Boss got there quicker than I had anticipated, which gave me a moment of panic because I had yet to tack but I got on quick and headed out to grab my comtex from him. The Poplar show ground is great, especially the footing which was just recently redone. I always enjoy riding there – and someday I might actually get to ride him on the beautiful cross-country course!
My ride on Friday presented some real challenges, not because Val has a different ridablility at shows but because good is not enough especially when I ride in front of Jason. I am a perfectionist which is both a good thing and a bad thing in my riding. Val had some great moments however he also had some really bad ones. The half passes are his weakest point right now since they are not consistent. He likes to evade the bend by straightening and leaving the haunches behind. You cannot kick him to get them back over because this results in a temper tantrum in which he tells you just how much he does not appreciate you putting that much pressure on him. It’s adorable, even if the other people riding in warm up didn’t think so. In fact, I don’t think I have ever cleared out a warm up that fast. We got back to a good place though before we ended the work for the night. Basically Friday was just a day to run through the basic movements in the test and get him moving well. He also likes to cop-out and give less than 100% which is something that I am learning how to solve. It has become something a little elusive at the moment, his perfect collected trot. It is all about half halting from my upper leg while driving with my calf and keeping the connection alive with soft hands and elbows. He has a really fancy trot once his hind leg is active and the front legs come up to have greater cadence through his knees but he then likes to get stiff through the neck. He has a natural ability to carry himself poll high and in front of the vertical and because of his comfort there he can stiffen in a moments notice and then it takes me too long to unlock him and we have missed out on being able to do a movement. I am slowly learning to have a better feel of his gaits and keeping them brilliant even through the movement but it is definitely something that I am not sure of yet. I know what we will be working on this summer for sure! I did really enjoy having Jason there and even though I didn’t do a drastically different schooling ride (which, in my mind, is a good thing that shows I know what I am doing!) he makes sure I don’t settle – another bad fault of mine. I sometimes catch myself making excuses and no more! My new mantra is Do Not Settle!
Saturday dawned just as hot, if not more so, than Friday. We planned for about a 25 minute warm up, give or take, since I don’t like to wear him out in warm up. His thing is to be non-stop from the warm up to the ring. This did not go down as planned. I was first in the FEI Junior Division, and the FEI Junior Class was the first one that needed both judges present, one of which was our Chef D’Equipe Anne Gribbons. Turned out she was the late one! There was some problem in the top ring that prevented her from getting to the class on time – they marked down a rider on the wrong test sheet and she could not leave until she signed off and moved the scores over to the correct place. This put our ring way later than scheduled. Of course being the first rider I was really affected by this. I got sent over before my ride time, only to be pulled back out into warm up. Then I got yelled at to come back to the ring but Anne still had not showed up. Third time the charm, I finally got to go ride for my Junior Team Test – and by this point I had no horse left. With him being only seven, the heat, and the ring fiasco there was no chance for me to be able to get the ride I wanted. I rode for everything he had but I wasn’t happy with it for sure. Still, we ended up with a score right under our average by a tenth of a point and first place which I was thankful for.
Sunday was much cooler by far, which was a godsend! Poplar scheduled us to ride our freestyle first in early afternoon and then the Individual later in the afternoon. With the heat this was a big concern but we planned well for it. I was really nervous about my Freestyle since I had not ridden it through but once. I also did not have the funds to buy a professionally done Freestyle and so I had to make it myself, since there is a requirement that we have to ride it and get a 62% on it. On top of that I didn’t go the normal, classical route but used lyrics. All in all, I was extremely nervous about the ride. He warmed up super well and the walk to the top ring had to be the longest I have ever taken. Riding around bidding “Good Afternoon” to Anne Gribbons almost lead to me puking when she replied with “Have you got a freestyle with super choreography and music for us?”. Fake it until you make it though – I put my hand up to cue the music and it was over before I knew it. We had a few bobbles, including a break to the canter in my first extended trot and a couple of iffy flying changes. I left the ring looking up to the crowd that inevitably gathers for Kurs praying I had hit the 62% mark. Scores took forever, but in the end another blue ribbon was handed my way, along with my first 70% of the season and from the “O” Judge no less! I was over the moon and really pumped to ride the Individual that afternoon.
The warm up for the Individual was amazing – I got some really great moments out of him and his trot just improves every time I get to ride these days. It was a crazy warm up with all six Juniors present but a part of me loves that chaos. A crowded warm up actually settles me down and makes me really concentrate on Val and ride for everything. We had the same judges from the freestyle which was also a plus in my mind. The Individual Test itself went really well – he had a few late changes which happens when he gets tired but everything else was really solid. I concentrated on really riding every moment and making it all as correct as possible. When I started riding the tests I felt like I couldn’t think about anything but movement to movement riding but every time I go into the ring it gets easier to focus on things like corners, cadence, submission, connection, correctness of the gaits, and making everything brilliant. Coming out of the ring I wasn’t sure I had first again, but I was happy with the test itself for what it was worth. Turns out I need not have worried and hard work pays off – my third blue ribbon and my second 70% from Anne!
A shout out to my friend Rebecca as well who had a great weekend at Juniors as well and I am so looking forward to going to NAJYRC and Gladstone with. Her and her mother are fabulous and Downtown (her horse) is such a nice horse! They are pulling great scores as well so kudos to them!
I know this is long but I figured someone might want all the details ;D Hopefully I will get back on the horse soon as we move into a new barn in Alpharetta on June 1st – that is when the real hard work starts! Until next time <3