The Nail Biter Finals Class

Alison and Ike USDF Region 1 GAIGs Photo by T. Perez

Alison and Ike USDF Region 1 GAIGs
Photo by T. Perez

At the start of the season, the October championship show feels so far away.  It feels like you have all the time in the world to practice and hone your skills.  Heck, I even thought that we’d be able to pull off both First and Second Levels successfully (we only managed First Level).  But in the blink of an eye, it is here and the weekend of the show always manages to fly by without me doing everything I thought I could do.

The morning of our departure day was sunny but cold.  I had enough clothing layers packed to protect myself from any arctic blast and the suitcase zipper was barely holding the case closed.  I also had packed everything but the kitchen sink and the barbeque grill.  One must be prepared – doesn’t everyone travel with two corkscrews when attending a horse show for 4 days?  Unfortunately, I managed to wake up with a sore throat and a runny nose.  Awesome, just freaking awesome.  Luckily we had some Dayquil in the house, so I threw a couple of those down my throat and headed off to the barn to load big man…after a stop at the local Target for the large economy-sized boxes of tissues with lotion.

The drive to Lexington was uneventful.  Our hacks around the show grounds and competition arenas were relaxed.  The excitement came later in the day when my friend realized that someone had stolen 2 of her credit cards out of her wallet while we were unloading the trailers (the sneaky thief left the wallet, cash, other cards and the purse behind).  All was resolved without her being responsible for any of the charges.  But when I went back to the barn for night check, that is when I realized that I’d spiked a fever.  More super news.  Did you know that Dayquil Severe packaging is practically adult-proof for a tired, feverish equestrian?  After over five minutes of struggling, I finally released the pills from the hellish packaging.  My head hit the pillow and I prayed for quick relief.

Quick recovery was not to be.  Both Friday and Saturday were spent fighting a fever and struggling to stay awake to do my barn chores and riding.  I felt so poorly that I even managed to sleep through my husband’s wakeup call on Saturday and almost sending him into a panic on my whereabouts.  Our Friday open class was not our best effort, but if we had to sacrifice a ride, it was better that it was an open class and not our finals class on Sunday.  Perhaps Ike was just missing Miss C’s presence since once she arrived on Saturday, he settled.  We had a little tension in Saturday warm-up, but Ike was much more focused and gave me a solid performance with no major bobbles.  My performance was marred by tearing eyes, a runny nose, a sprained finger, and a lack of oxygen.  Cold wind plus a viral infection equals a not photo ready rider.  Confession time – Desperate times mean that you just might use the same rag to wipe your horse’s nose to blow your nose.  We came out of that class with a 67.5%, a pink ribbon, and the confidence to head into our finals class knowing there we were as prepared as we would ever be.

Miss M and Miss T were kind enough to take care of my morning barn chores on Sunday, so I was able to sleep in a bit.  Thankfully, I heard my husband’s wakeup call on “championship day” and I woke up without a fever.  The day was already starting on a good note.  Ike was a saint and kept his braids intact.  Our ride was not until 1:00, so we had some time to stew and watch our friends in their open classes.  Part of the learning curve with these long weekends is knowing your horse, his mental state, and his energy level.  You want to have good practice rides, but you need to conserve something for the finals.  Our warm-up was peaceful and short.  We did spend some time riding through the sun spot on the ground since we’d seen a number of horses spook at the one in the indoor competition ring. 

It was finally our turn.  The indoor was quiet and Ike was focused as I rode around the outside of the ring waiting for the bell.  Rrriinnnnggg!  Time to make that turn down centerline.  Big man was with me as we cruised to X.  Exhale, salute, and trot on.  Our left-to-right leg yield was sticky, but there was no time to dwell on it.  Our 10-meter circles were fluid and our mid-test halt at X was one of our best of the year.  Super happy with our canter departs as well as our canter loops. Our weakest movement is the trot lengthening…we just don’t have one.  We made it through the ride with no spooks, no “unexpected tension,” and no major errors.

Now came the hardest part – we’d done our best with a 67.86% average from the two judges, but now we had to wait to see how the next 25 or so riders would do to know our fate.  We hung out in the top 5 for more than half the class, but slowly, we saw our name drifting lower in the placings.  At 4:30 we were sitting in 8th place – the last placing with a ribbon and participation in the awards ceremony….and then there were three riders left….and sadly, the second to last rider bumped us to 9th place.  Our fate was sealed and we could now finish loading the trailer for the 2 hour ride home.  I must admit that I choked up since I hoped to place – not just for me, but for all those who have tirelessly supported us on this journey.

I teared up even more when we arrived at the barn.  Ms. C had left a lovely ribbon hanging on Ike’s stall to welcome us home.  In her mind, we deserved a ribbon – she is our toughest judge of all, so this ribbon is so very precious to me.  My horse may not have the fanciest breeding, the most extravagant gaits, or the prettiest tail.  I may not have the advanced dressage skills or the money for winters in Wellington.  But, Ike does have the biggest heart and a lot of try.  We do have a trainer who believes in us and amazing friends and family that support our dreams.  We have an incredible bond and partnership, and in the end, isn’t that worth more than any accolades or championship ribbons?





The Final Push to the Finals

Ike selfie Oct 2015

Hello Friends!  Yet again my mother claims to be too busy to write to you about our preparations for the Region 1 GAIG Finals this coming weekend in Lexington, Virginia.  Sheesh.  So that means that I am taking charge.  How are my friends supposed to know to send good luck vibes unless they know when and where I will be?

We had some down time last month because of the weather.  It rained and rained and rained and then the cooler weather came rushing in.  The cooler air means that my brother and I decided it was time for our fence line games.  We like to walk to the far end of our paddocks and race back to the water trough.  He isn’t as fast an agile as he used to be, but he will try his best.  Mom got mad because I somehow managed to scrape some hide off the front of my hind leg with my front hoof.  I don’t know what she is so worried about.  I didn’t hurt myself.  She is such a fun sucker sometimes.  She also frets that I will slip and fall during my hijinks.  Does she not have any faith in my athletic ability?  It should be me worrying that she will slip and fall…she can be such a klutz sometimes. (I watched her hit her head on the stall door as she ducked under the stall guard.  I stifled my laugh, but I have to tell you that it was pretty funny!  But don’t tell her that I told you or I might not get to borrow the laptop again.)

I’m glad that it is getting colder since my winter coat is growing in pretty thick this year.  Mom will probably still make me wear my blanket even though I really don’t need it – I feel like Ralphie’s brother in A Christmas Story when I am all bundled up when no one else is wearing anything.  We should all be glad that Mom doesn’t try to clip me.  I would look like I’d been shaved by a blind woman using her feet to hold the clippers.  I hear it is supposed to be very cold in Lexington this weekend, but better that than too hot.

When Mom and I did get back to work after the rain, Ms. C said that I was looking very fit.  She also complimented my canter and how much it had improved since last year.  Mom is the one who bears the brunt of the criticism since she is the one making all the mistakes.  I always try to do what she asks, but sometimes she is not clear about what she wants and I have to guess.  I try and bail her out as best I can.  There is only so much a fellow can do in some instances.

Part of Mom’s problem might be that she can’t see very well.  She has these things she wears in front of her eye’s that supposedly help her see.  Many times though, I catch her squinting.  Other times, the things on her eyes are so dirty that I’m not even sure she can tell if I am clean or dirty.  The lack of eyesight might explain why we make ovals instead of circles when we are practicing or why we miss X when halting.  She had to go see a special doctor and now she is complaining that she had to buy eye things call bifocals.  I will have to run away if she shows up with more eyes on her head.

Mom and I had our final lesson this morning.  We rode our final’s test from start to finish, then Ms. C made Mom judge each of the movements and next asked how she could have made them better.  Haha!  See, it is all Mom’s fault when we do things wrong.  Well, I do sometimes make it hard for Mom to do some things, but a fellow can’t be all work and no play.  I like to think it keeps her on her toes and sharpens her skills to a certain degree.  Ms. C felt that our trot work was where we could pick up some extra points, so that is what we schooled for the rest of the lesson.  She made us focus on riding accurate 10 meter circles with my body in the proper alignment.  That is HARD!  Mom and I also worked on our leg yields since there is a tendency for my hind end to get left behind.  When we get it right, Mom says we get good scores.  Let us hope she uses her corner to help set up the movement properly.

Well, all our homework is done.  I get the next 2 days off to rest.  Mom has lots of packing to do and has to go to work.  She says that without work, I would not live the lifestyle that I’ve become accustomed to having, so I encourage her to work hard at her job.  She tells me that unlike apples, money does not grow on trees.  That’s okay with me since I like eating apples.  I leave the money eating to my brother.

I promise to try my hardest this weekend.  Mom promises to let you know how we do.


#EnoughRainAlready – I Want To Ride!

"I will say my goodbyes from over here."

“I will say my goodbyes from over here.”

Sigh, it has been a challenging few weeks.  The Mid-Atlantic region has been coping with copious amounts of rain after a dry spell.  We were run out of our fall beach week 2 days early because of a nor ‘ easter, only to come home to a rainstorm and another nor ‘ easter.  Thank goodness Joaquin decided not to pay us a visit.

The foggy photo was taken the last morning before vacation.   Ike must have thought that he was expected to come with us because he avoided all interaction with me. I didn’t push the issue, gave all the apples to his brother,  screamed goodbye, and headed down the road for a week.  Did he learn anything from this? Probably not, but he came right to me when I returned,  “Hi Mom!  Come see me! Do you have treats?”

In the few rides that I have squeezed in between rain events, I am feeling confident with our First Level work heading into the last weeks before the finals.  Someone read my blog post from 2 ½ years ago titled “C is for Canter, P is for Patience” just the other day.  It was a good reminder of how far we have come with our work.  Back then we struggled to stay on a 20 meter circle.  Ike resembled Scooby Doo on more than one occasion.  Our walk and trot work carried our scores.  I can proudly say that we have now seen 7’s and 7.5’s in our canter work later this season.  Real evidence of progress! 

Our Second Level endeavors are also coming along.  Even Ms. C was pleasantly surprised with our turn on the haunches. There is hope for us yet.  I am pretty certain that our scores for the movement could finally exceed the 5 ‘s that we received earlier this year.  We have scaled back our simple change schooling until after the finals. Ike sometimes offers canter when I want trot…honest mistake, but it would be costly in our finals class.  The changes are coming and we will be ready in the spring when the plan is to go full Second Level.  (It would be the first time EVER that my season didn’t involve Intro, Training, or First Levels.  I feel like a big kid now.)



In other news, we have added an adorable Husky cross to the family. Lena is a five-year old from our local SPCA.  She is a lovable doll who just today barked for the first time since joining the family.  Briefly considered bringing her to the fall show for the doggie costume contest, but decided against it since she has yet to be introduced to the equine side of the family. Better to wait until she is more settled.  They can be a bit overwhelming the first time.

Sorry for the delay posting since our return.  I started drafting this last night and lost the post.  Not sure where it wandered off to, but I hope it finds a happy home like Lena did.

Fingers crossed for some sunshine this weekend!!