This weekend, I took Faeryn to her first “real” show – recognized, and also her first away-from-home sleepover (except for hurricane evacs, when she was with her buddies.)
Faeryn is definitely the ‘hottest’ of my three horses. Part of that is because she just has not seen the ‘world’ as much as my other two. Faxx showed in hand for two years before even being started under saddle. He was an old pro at showing long before he was started under saddle.
It was a two-day show but I only took her for one day. It was at Great SW Equestrian center, a large, very nice facility. There are five covered arenas (one large enough for two dressage rings) and three outdoor arenas. She was showing in one of the covered arenas, but since Saturday’s rides did not end until 5:30, I could not get her in to see the rings until then.
As “luck” would have it,just as I got her ready to lunge, the freestyle music from the main arena was accidentally piped into every arena and throughout the barn area. At a decibel level that probably would not meet OSHA regulations! I almost got undone by Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America.” Imagine, if that was the last thing I heard. 😉 Faeryn spun in circles around me when the music started, and I just managed to get the lunge line clipped to her bridle before she took off and hit the end of the lunge line like a swordfish on the end of a fishing line! Due to the music, lunging her did not really calm her down – in fact, it got her more revved up. I finally gave up and took her back to the stall and got ready to get on her and ride her.
By the time I got her over to the arena we’d be competing in the next day, it was about 5:45 p.m. and not a soul was around. The rides ended at 5:30 – the place cleared out in a hurry!
Poor Faeryn was scared to death. When I got on her, she started backing and backed out of the arena and halfway into a vacant barn before I was able to get her pointed the right way again. It went that way, all the way around the perimeter of the arena (there was a dressage ring set up in the middle) – we went haltingly around…stopping, backing up, whirling around and doing mini-bolts – for probably 15 minutes. It was a very long 15 minutes. And I kept thinking “Gee, if I get dumped and hurt too bad to use my cell phone, wonder how long it will take someone to find me???” I knew part of the reason she was so scared is that there were no other horses in sight. But I really didn’t have a choice – the show started at 7:30 a.m. the next morning, and even if I got up at 5 and got her in the arena then, there was no guarantee there’d be any horses around then either. Plus, they probably would drag the ring in the morning, and close it until the show started.
I started Faeryn under saddle myself, and acclimating her to this show arena was scarier than starting her under saddle! Finally, about 20 minutes into our ride, she had relaxed a bit. She was so scared she wouldn’t even eat a peppermint – I gave her one thinking it would relax her a little – she held it in her mouth for probably ten minutes, until, finally, I heard a “crunch.”
Then, when she was starting to relax, two people on horses came in. By this time, I had gotten Faeryn inside the dressage arena set up in the ring. She did not bat an eye at the judge’s table, or even the sound of dirt hitting the vinyl arena rails as she went by. When I was actually able to canter and trot her somewhat calmly, and she was doing a nice relaxed walk, with a swinging back, I figured I’d done as much as I could for one day. I went back to the stall and untacked her, fed her and ‘tucked her in’ for the night. Faeryn had made friends with a handsome black Dutch gelding behind her and seemed just fine in a strange place. In fact, I think she was quite ‘in love’ with the handsome fellow since the usually-ravenous Faeryn was not even eating her hay, in favor of standing at the back of her stall, mooning over the gelding.
The next morning, I did not know if I was going to get ‘the lady or the tiger” when I got on Faeryn. First I would lunge her. The minute I asked Faeryn to trot on, I knew I was going to have ‘the lady” for the day. No maniacal antics on the lunge line – just a calm trot, followed by a round, rhythmical canter. I was relieved. Still, I wondered how she would be in the arena where she could now plainly see horses warming up just behind it – would they be a comfort or a distraction? She warmed up easily among the other horses and when it was our time to enter the ring, she was not scared at all – perfectly calm, perfectly obedient. More reluctant to bend than at home, and a little stiffer, but fabulous compared to the night before. I rode a conservative test (and could not believe I went off course in a test I’ve ridden from memory at least a dozen times the past year!) and was very happy when we left the ring. Faeryn got many pats and peppermints as we exited the ring.
I was a bit disappointed in the score – a 61something – probably the lowest score she’d ever gotten. The judge said she needed to be more forward. She was 5th out of 7. I had two people come up and tell me they were surprised by my low score after watching the test. No matter. I did what I came to do – get in the ring, get through the test without getting dumped. 😉
Our next test was about 2 hours later, and was Training 4. She was a bit grumpy about being saddled for the SECOND time in the same day – and really had to work to get her to bend to the right. She was just coming out of heat and that may have had something to do with that. In fact, in the test, she wanted to counterflex. I felt she was slightly crooked all the way down centerline and could not get her straight. (But I ended up with 7 for that.) Something also startled her in the middle of our canter work because suddenly she was really wanting to take off on me! And, again, I went off course. Really, my brain was quite fried, apparently! But, she was more forward! I thought this score would be in the 50s. I was surprised to see we got a 62 – and even more surprised to see we’d gotten 3rd in a class of 14! We missed a qualifying score by 1 point, but that’s ok. I don’t think she will be heading for the championships this year anyway. Faeryn is one of those horses who will do better at the higher levels. I am going to take her to another recognized show for more mileage and then see how she does there. I probably will opt to just train and do schooling shows at first level after that. But we’ll see. She is talented, and very fun to ride. Her canter has improved a LOT in the past 6 months. I think by the end of next year she could easily be doing second level. At this point in my dressage ‘journey,’ I’m more interested in moving them on up than ‘perfecting’ a level for showing purposes. Second/third level is where it starts to get fun, I’ve discovered.