On September 27th, our final horse show of the season began. Not only is it the biggest All-English show of the season in our area, I am also the founder and president of the club that puts it on, and the show manager. I had set the goal early on to ride in this show, and I had really hoped to do a few Dressage tests to gain a baseline of our training fundamentals. Unfortunately, for the first time ever, I also had to work at my day-job on show day, and as such, my goals of riding in the Dressage ring died. I considered scratching at that point, but instead, I pushed onward and altered my plans to ride in the show. Luckily for me, the Flat classes were scheduled later in the day, which opened up a possibility for me to still attend.
|Schooling at home prior to the show|
Currently, I was in the running (and the lead) for the Walk/Trot Division of the Jumper Jackpot Series, and the fourth and final part of this series was tied into the Fall Finale so alas, I chose to enter the Walk/Trot Flats. On the off chance that the AFX has solved all Sierra's problems in the show ring, I also entered the TIP English Pleasure class. There was only four in the class, so I was guaranteed a Ribbon, but I had already decided that if the wheels began to fall off the bus yet again, I would scratch it.
|The dark barn hides all the mud... She was filthy|
In the days leading up to the show, I considered scratching all together. All our other shows this year had been essentially schooling shows, and this show was, as previously mentioned, the biggest show of the year. That notion alone weighed very heavy on my shoulders, and when the day before the show Sierra found the muddiest pit in my field and rolled in it from head to toe, I was at a loss. My schedule didn't allow for time to bath her, and instead I opted to just brush the absolute snot out of her, and hope the show sheen would cover the rest. The days prior to the show were wet and mucky, so upon brushing Sierra to the best of my ability, she was bundled up and turned into a small grass paddock. I had been having some lovely rides on Sierra at home in the pasture earlier in the week, but as the show approached, the skies opened and everything became saturated very quickly.
|Literally bundled from head to tail|
Despite the weather, having to work, the absolute insanity of running a show and so on, the time came and I found myself in a warm up ring with roughly 10 other horses. Much to my surprise, Sierra warmed up incredible. She was truly exceptional, I literally can't say one bad thing. She was relaxed, supple, attentive, completely at ease with horses whizzing past her in multiple directions, crowds of people on the sidelines, a busy alleyway and so on. I was ecstatic. The AFX was the cure to all our woes, and I was so excited to finally feel like I earned my ribbons that were surely to come.
|Basic Seat.... I think|
Our first class was Basic Seat and the classes were quite large so they were split into two Groups followed by a Championship round. The stipulation was that the judge was to select the 5 Top Riders to return to the ring for the Championship round, and despite it just being a Walk/Trot class, there was some very stiff competition. Many of the horses were seasoned pro's under less experienced riders, and others were green but with ample show experience showing in the 2'3 - 2'6 divisions. I was proud to make it to the Championship round and Sierra felt great in the class. She didn't feel quite as good as she did in the warm up and I worried that our fate was sealed, but I pushed onward and before I knew it the class was over and we were called to line up.
As we awaited the placings, the Judge explained her reasoning for the placings, and noted that not only was she looking for correct equitation, she was also looking for the effectiveness of the rider, and how a horse responded to their requests. The Top 5 Riders listened intently as they began calling the placings starting with Honorable Mention, followed by 4th, 3rd and so on. As they announced 3rd place, I thought "wow, we got second!" but then someone else was called for second and I was in shock to hear our names called for the red ribbon. It's not our first red ribbon of the season, but this one felt like a true win and I was really thrilled.
|Jesus take the wheel|
Due to the Groups, I had to get off while Group 1 of the Walk/Trot English Pleasure began as I was in Group 2. Much like the previous class, it was split into groups with a Championship round. I'm well aware that Sierra can ride like a Pleasure horse while schooling, but on show day she is the complete opposite.. but for sake of the schooling opportunity, I entered it anyway. While I was in contention for the Year End Awards for the division in the Jumper Jackpot series, I was less concerned about maintaining or earning points, than I was ending the season on a good note. As I got back on for my Group 2 round, I could feel Sierra slowly beginning to unravel. I imagine the AFX was wearing off by this point, and the stress was getting to her. She managed to keep things together and we once again were called back for the Championship round, but in said Championship round, the wheels really began to fall off the wagon and we managed to just squeak in for 4th place.
I was really torn. I really wanted to do the TIP Class because my ultimate goal was to canter my horse in a damn show ring before this year ended, but I concluded I needed to put my horses well being first. I knew if I pushed on and rode in the class, I would be disappointed in both her, and myself. I would not end the season on a good note, and things would have went to hell in a handbasket despite being guaranteed a ribbon.. and I don't even know if we would have gotten to the Canter portion for the class, so I decided to save that fight for another day and thanked the judge and informed her I would be scratching from the TIP Class.
|No seriously, please Jesus, take the wheel|
I'm doing my absolute best to push from my mind the fact that I wasn't able to reach that ultimate goal, and I upon dismounting at the show I did this pretty well. I got off smiling, not just because we came out with ribbons but because I genuinely felt like we EARNED them. As per usual, we did not end things, or accomplish the things, I wish we had, but at the end of the day we came out ahead. At our first show, Sierra literally tried to buck me off - several times... and at the final show of the year, the worst we got was realllllly strong in the bridle and tension through the topline with a swishing tail. Progress isn't linear, but as long as we are moving forward at a positive trajectory, I am okay with it.
|Watching the TIP Class|
We have one more 'thing' this year which is a Clinic next weekend, and I have decided to send Sierra to a newly hired trainer in the new year for a tune up and [hopefully] some show miles so my trainer can help me work through this. She will be about 4.5 hours away which isn't ideal, but it will be short term (likely only 30-45 days), and she is close enough I could haul down for weekends of lessons when the weather improves next spring. I will post more on that later, but in the mean time as of October 1st Sierra has been boarded at the local indoor and she will remain there until she goes to the trainers. We have been having some absolutely exceptional rides lately, and I have some exciting news to share soon!
|Probably my favorite photo of the year of us|
|Home from the show and happy to see her friends|