Peering through the fog towards Regional Finals

In four days we will end our show season as we head down centerline for the UDSF Region 1 Adult Amateur Third Level finals class. No matter what happens this week, this year went well above my expectations. Ike and I met all of our preseason goals…well, okay, they were more my goals, but Ike played along since he is such an agreeable fellow. How could I not be happy with a horse like Ike?!

Our finals class is HUGE. The entire show is HUGE with over 450 horses entered. I saw a post on Instagram from Heels Down Media earlier today that I will keep in mind at the show, “A rising tide lifts all boats. Someone else doing well doesn’t take away from your own success.” With that in mind, our goals for this show are to equal our Fourth Level score from last month and aim for a 65% in our finals class. We came close in August, so it is not out of our wheelhouse. Let’s just hope that the remnants of Hurricane Michael don’t try to dampen our fun.

Best of luck to all the competitors! We have all worked hard to make it Lexington. Enjoy the experience .

Alison

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?

alison

 

 

#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.)

Lena

Lena

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!!

Alison

Anticipation

013

To this day, I can still (poorly) sing along to Carly Simon’s 1971 top twenty song “Anticipation.”  My singing is not fit for public consumption – just ask my husband who is subjected to it in the car…That aside, things are gearing up for our show in two weeks.  Anticipation is building and hopes are high that we will do well.  My riding has come along way the past few years and is finally fit for public viewing.

With the seasonable temperatures, we have been able to ride and not finish looking like drowned rats.  Although the region could use some more rain, I am not complaining that the sun is out more often than not.   We have been able to school 4 or 5 days a week.  Ike had his pedicure last week as well as an acupuncture and chiropractic session.  My extensive packing lists are on my desk as well as the lists of stuff that I need to get done at home and work before we leave.  The dog sitter has been hired.  Ike has attempted to grow back some mane.  We have about 1.5 inches of spikey growth in the “bald zone.”  I am hopeful that there might be enough hair to fake some sort of braid.  Still praying that roached manes will surge into popularity with dressage riders in the next 10 days.

Our lessons have been intensive.  A lot of discussions about keeping Ike up in his bridle and not letting him dive into the connection.  My whip has been taken away since it not allowed in the championship classes.  I’ve played with a longer spur so that I can speak to the other time zone that is Ike’s hind end.  A few test movements are interspersed in the lessons, but we continue to focus on me understanding when I am connected and through and when Ike’s stride is too short/tight/quick/choppy.  Once the problem is identified (if I am successful at the identification) then we work on what I need to do to fix the problem.  Thankfully, I’m now better able to fix the problems.  Could it be that I might have discovered the secret language of the half halt?!  I’m still waiting to be taught the secret handshake, but that can wait until after the show.

Of course, anticipation can be a bad thing when your horse has ridden the dressage tests enough that he begins to anticipate the next move.  I finally realized that Ike was anticipating the up and down transitions in my Training Level Test 2 rides.  When I sat back and looked at my score sheets from this year, I saw that we quite frequently jig right before our trot transitions.  We also got hit a number of times for trotting before we finished our right lead canter circle.  While practicing my tests at home, sure enough, Ike is jigging and trotting too early.  Hmm.  Guess I need to change up my preparatory methods.  Part of it is that I might be on cruise control myself.  I should know better by now, but some habits are hard to break.

Back in the saddle again tomorrow and then a break on Wednesday.  Thanks for checking in on Ike and I!

alison

Can You Guess What They Tried To Do To Me Yesterday???

Alison and Ike Culpeper August 2014

I have yet again seized control of the blog to share with my fans the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Mom just doesn’t do a stellar job providing you the facts.  Mom forgets to take off her rose colored glasses sometimes as she skips through her days.

The poor woman continues to struggle with what to do with her appendages.  I hear her reminiscing about how I used to attempt to ram her knee into the fence since I couldn’t make all my body parts work together.  Well here we are three years later and I am more than capable of coordinating my legs.  I cannot say the same for Mom and she is almost 46 years old.  Come on woman! Put your inside leg up near the girth when I’m cantering to help me bend.  You can clearly see from the photo that she is incapable of listening while in the show ring.  Just look where her leg is!  Sheesh!  And then she is surprised when I break from the canter or lean in.  Will someone please tell her to be there to help me…yes, I do a lot of the work, but she’s got to learn to do her part for the team.  I can only hope for better leg/seat/hand coordination at our upcoming show at Rose Mount.  With only a week until the show, I have to hope for a miracle.

That whole feed bucket debacle had nothing to do with what was in my feed bucket.  I’m not really a picky fellow, except for peaches, those things are gross.  I might have been pawing one morning while waiting for my breakfast and might have gotten my hoof stuck in the bucket.  When I pulled back to get it out, somehow the bucket got in the way and it broke.  Yeah, that is what happened.  Or wait, is it too late to blame my brother.  Yeah, he made me do it.

Lately, it has not been fun to be outside.  The weather has been okay, but the horseflies have been out in droves.  We horses have decided that they are evil.  We are pretty certain that they are the devil’s spawn sent forth to make us all miserable.  I have mastered the tail flick and the neck-reach-around to combat the flying devils.  My brother does a nonstop shimmy shake so that they cannot land on him.  He only stops when Mom is close by and then he shows her where it is so she can kill it.  While she is uncoordinated in the saddle, she does have lightning quick thwacking skills to kill the flies.  Go Mom!

And let me tell you about yesterday…Mom and I had another lesson with Ms. C.  I’m pretty sure they tried to kill me.  We worked very hard on the various movements that we will need for our upcoming show: cantering, trot lengthenings, canter lengthenings, centerlines, and leg yields.  We didn’t stop much because the horseflies were lying in wait if we paused.  After about 50 minutes I was breathing very hard.  It was scary.  I huffed and puffed and couldn’t catch my breathe.  Mom dismounted and they hosed me off for at least 20 minutes (I didn’t think I was that dirty).  Mom then stuck this tube of brown goo in my mouth.  She called it “elektrolights.”  I called it gross and tried to spit it back at her.  After about 20 more minutes I felt better.  I hope that never happens again.

If you are going to be in town next weekend, come see me at the show.  I love when my friends come to cheer for me!  Especially the ones who bring snacks!

Until next time,

Ike

 

Digesting What Was Served by Hilda

012

Holy Moly.  What an amazing, overwhelming, humbling, inspiring weekend.  I am not even certain where to start to capture all the details.  Amazing to have met one of the legends of dressage.  Overwhelming to have been selected even though Ike and I were the least experienced of the rider group.  Humbling in so far as I realized that I know next to nothing about dressage.  Inspiring to see the upper level riders and their talented mounts.

If you want to know what I looked like, feel free to ask any of the 200 auditors.  Yes, 2-0-0.  I have never ridden in front of that many pairs of eyes; not even at the Region 1 championship last year.  I unfortunately cannot publicize the videos of my ride, but suffice to say that Hilda pretty much pegged me after about a minute.  Now, so can the 200 auditors.  They will now have no fear when they see the name spastic rider getting hauled around by her larger than average pony when they are in one of my classes.  “Don’t be afraid to use your hands.” “Relax your back.” “You are not sitting.” “Move your legs back.” “Where were you to help your horse?” “You forgot your corner.”  She said nothing that Ms. C hasn’t told me before, and that I haven’t been working on for the past two years.  I’m back to feeling like a beginner rider entering the arena for the first time.

The nice thing is that I have learned that I’m not alone with my struggles to grasp the intricacies of this sport.  So many of the auditors approached me after my ride to share with me their impressions of my lesson.  Many said that they thought I handled it wonderfully and that it was great to see someone working at their level bravely attempting to follow Hilda’s instructions.  I don’t know the names of these kind souls, but they helped me to rally and do it again on Sunday.  My fabulous friends from my local chapter also gave me a shot in the arm to bolster my confidence to face the crowd for a second day.

Sunrise over Wyndham Oaks Farm.

Sunrise over Wyndham Oaks Farm.

Sunday dawned a gorgeous spring day.  My dear friend Ms. L again made certain that Ike and I were impeccably turned out.  What we lacked in dressage knowledge and skills, we made up for by looking marvelous.  Ike and I were definitely more relaxed – not surprising given that we worked our butts off the day before.  We’d each had a chance to dwell on what we’d learned the day before and hopefully improve our performance.

I think I can confidently say that we showed improvement in our second lesson.  Can I give myself a pat on the back that Hilda complemented me on being a good student?  Awesome!  She was a special education teacher for 14 years, so she knows a thing or two about teaching.  Ike showed clear improvement in his right lead canter – he was kind enough to not lean so much on my inside leg.  I demonstrated better following hands at the walk and canter.  I did some passable sitting trot work.  We even attempted some centerlines and leg yield.  Our turns onto centerline were squirrely, but Ike was supple and responsive in his lateral work.

The videos Ms. L recorded will help me to see for myself my errant ways (eek, what a funny face I make while concentrating and will you please stop doing THAT with your hands!).  They confirmed with Ms. C that we are on the right track and that I need to be a better leader/rider in order for Ike to progress.  The clinic helped me to realize that I should not be afraid to take chances.  Yes, you will make mistakes when you take yourself outside of your comfort zone, but it is at that point that you will grow as a rider and the path up the levels will become just that more clear.

alison

Back to Work – Hilda and the First Show of the Season Await!

141

This has been one of those winters – one of those that the cold seems colder, the sky more grey than blue, and riding seems like a distant dream.  Mother Nature dropped another 6 inches of snow on the region yesterday.  The only upside is that when it snows in March in the mid-Atlantic region, it usually doesn’t stick around for long.  In fact, by Friday, temperatures should be in the 60s – much more spring like.  Given the fact that spring starts on Thursday, I’d say that we are due some 60 degree days.  The boys would agree – they are tired of eating hay and would like some lush spring grass for grazing.

I did luck out last week and managed to ride FIVE times with two of them being excellent lessons with Ms. C.  I haven’t ridden that many times in a week since last December.  It felt good to mount up and begin to re-establish our rhythm.  It is amazing how rusty you become.  It takes forever to find the training sweet spot and yet within a few weeks, you lose months and months of stamina and training.

Ms. C asked me an interesting question at the start of one of my lessons, “If you are asked at the clinic with Hilda what you need her to help you with, what will you tell her?”  [Insert sound of crickets chirping.]  Umm, well, ah, yeah, I dunno…guess I need to give that some thought.  Perhaps I need to refer back to George Morris’ commandments and just pick one of those.  Ms. C suggested that I let her know that we are beginning our first year of showing First Level, so perhaps we should tell her that we need help becoming a First Level team.  No more plodding around on the forehand or racing around like Scooby Doo.  No longer is Ike allowed to ride a circle with a stiff and straight body; a circle needs to be more of a circle than a decagon.  Guess whose job it is to make sure that he moves correctly?  No more cruise control for this girl…one must ride every stride and plan for the movements to come.  I suppose that means that my half halt timing will be closely scrutinized.  And if my two lessons last week are any indication, my timing definitely still needs improvement!

And speaking of close scrutiny, I have to admit, that while I am thrilled at the opportunity to be a demonstration rider at the Hilda Gurney clinic, I’m also a bit nervous.  I am imagining hundreds of auditor eyeballs staring at my every move and looking for any and every mistake.  That is more attention than I had at the regional finals!  Yikes!  “How did she get selected for this?  Did you see her blow that half halt?!  Look at her hand position!  Ike’s head is so big and the ears belong on a mule.  That poor horse could be great if his rider was more talented.”  Yes, this is what loops through my head when I’m not busy with work or other tasks.  I know that I need to stop the madness, but that is easier said than done.

The money has been sent for our first show of the season as well.  Our first show will be the first weekend of May.  While there are shows in March and April, I knew that there was no way we were going to enter them.  It is no wonder they call the show at the end of the month March Madness.  You have got to be darn near insane to enter it since ride time has been steady practically nonexistent this winter.  There is also an outlay of cash for the April clinic, so since there are not unlimited funds, the first show needed to wait.  Call me insane, but I signed up for a couple of First Level tests.  I guess if the one on Saturday is a complete disaster, I can always scratch my Sunday ride.  I also signed up for a couple of Training Level tests just so that we have two rides that we can feel confident about as we head down centerline.

Fingers crossed for great things for our third show season!  Hope you stick around for the ride,

Alison and Ike

OOOOOHHHMMYYYYYYYYGGGGOOOOSSSSSHHHH

image

Yes, there is very exciting news from Ike’s Centerline Adventures!  Well, I should say that I am beyond giddy at the news;  Ike was nonplussed and continued to munch his hay and enjoy the unseasonably warm day.

I guess I should back up first.  Late last year, I received an e-mail from USDF (along with every other USDF member) announcing that Hilda Gurney would be the clinician for the USDF Adult Clinic Series (http://www.usdf.org/education/clinics/adult/index.asp).  She would be in Region 1 in April 2014.  Riders interested in being demonstration riders were invited to apply.  What the heck, I said to myself, go ahead and apply.  It cost nothing to send in the application.  How many other opportunities will you have to have a lesson with a former Olympian?

So I gathered up all the necessary information for the application:  Ms. C’s recommendation, my show record, and my clinic history.  I scoured all the videos that we’d taken over the past year and culled the best out of the bunch – one of a Training Level test, the only one I had from our one First Level test, and some leg yield video from a lesson.  In early January, I emailed the video links to USDF and mailed my completed application.

Then a week after I mailed it, I was launched and the snow began to fall with regularity.  Phew,  good thing I had some decent video already.  And then the wait began in earnest.  And we waited, and waited.  In an e-blast from the USDF Region 1 director, it was noted that there was a record-setting number of rider applications (37).  Oh, hmm, our chances seemed slim.

And this morning, there was an email from USDF with the subject line, “USDF Adult Clinic Region 1 Selected Riders.”  My stomach did a flip flop as I pressed the button to read the email…would we be on that list?  And there it was under the bold heading – Selected Riders  – Alison Thompson on Commanders Eisenhower!!

EEEEEEKKKK!  I read it three or four times and squealed like a little kid on Christmas morning.  The dogs went crazy as I jumped up and down.  I stared at the screen for another minute before I grabbed the phone to call my husband.  “Guess who was selected for the Hilda clinic?!”  He was thrilled for me.  My second call of course to was Ms. C.  She was very excited for us as well.

Now there is a real deadline for getting out of our wintertime lax schedule.  There is much to be done.  Ike needs to get back into the working mindset.  I need to get myself back into riding shape.  The new boots need to be pulled from the box and broken in before April 12th.  There is no way I’m showing up with my pathetic schooling boots.  Need to get the trailer inspected.  Should check the pads and white polo wraps to make sure they are presentable.  And there is the matter of Ike’s hippie mane that needs to be tamed.  I also suppose that the goat hairs should be trimmed and all the mud removed from his legs and tail.

The list will continue to grow, but tonight we celebrate!

The Ten Commandments According to George

004

George Morris that is.  His status in the horse world is such that he can almost be referenced by only his first name…much like Beyoncé or Madonna.  I was able to watch about 30 minutes of the George Morris Horsemaster Training Session Day 2 video on the USEF Network this morning.  In that short time span, I was able to glean the 10 commandments according to George.  They are true no matter what discipline to want to claim allegiance to – dressage, eventing, hunters, jumpers, western, or happy horse owner/rider.

1) Half halt, half halt.

2) The horse must travel and stop uphill.

3) Inside Leg to Outside Rein.

4) Invite the horse to self carriage.

5) Keep contact and ride it from behind.

6) The horse must listen to the hand.

7) The rider must give a little.

8) The horse must stretch over the back.

9) Half Halt.  Yes, it is that important.

10) Regulation of stride and straightness of the horse is the responsibility of the hands.

So there you have it.  When I read this list, I see Charlotte riding Valegro in their stunning musical freestyle.  They make it look effortless even though we all know it is not.  They are the embodiment of these concepts and what we should all strive to achieve.  This could also be my list of goals for the new year.  If I can master these skills, everything else will fall into place:  qualifying for the Region 1 BLM Championships at First Level, qualifying for the USDF Region 1 Championships at First Level, and earning my First Level scores needed towards my USDF Bronze Medal.

So I’ve got 364 more days this year.  Time to get started!

Happy New Year!

Where Do I Start? The Regional Finals In A Nutshell

Alison and Ike selfie

The BIG weekend is finally behind us.  The butterflies have left my stomach and started their migration south for the winter.  The nervous twitch in my neck is gone and I can finally sleep through the night.  Ike is safely tucked in his own stall after spending the day grazing in his paddock and visiting with his buddies.  I can only imagine the stories he shared with them about his stay in Lexington, Virginia.

It is hard to summarize a weekend like this.  There are so many stories and moments that I want to remember.  You only ever have one first time at a show like the USDF Regional Finals.  When we return (hopefully) next year, we will be wiser and stronger.  There will be no worrying about how to navigate the check-in process or how to get around the show grounds.  We will be smarter about packing for Ike and for us.  Hopefully Ike will no longer feel the need to spook and shy during our tests since he will have been-there-done-that.

So instead of droning on and on about things that only I want to remember, I will share what I think are the high points of the weekend.

The camaraderie with my friends:  I was fortunate enough to have two fellow competitors from my local dressage chapter at the show with me.  We all have young horses who are all showing Training Level.  Each of them has their “young horse issues” that they are working through, so we commiserate and cheer for each other.  This show would not have been nearly as much fun without them there to share the experience.  Each of our equine boys came home with exactly one pink ribbon.  (Ike got his in his Training Level Test 2 test despite his spook in the middle of his trot circle.)

The doggie costume contest:  So while this was a very horse centric weekend, the dogs did have the chance to have their moment in the spotlight.  The Virginia Dressage Association always holds a doggie costume contest in conjunction with the fall show to raise money for a local animal rescue group.  It is always a popular Saturday night activity, and this year there were over 40 dogs vying for one of the 6 placings.  My friends and I entered our canines as a group…Emma the leggy cocktail waitress, Meg the cosmopolitan, and Tim the dirty martini.  And our dogs pulled off what their equine companions could not…Champion status and a chance to stand in the middle of the coliseum with the crowd cheering.

The 2013 Champion Doggie Costume Contest Winners

The 2013 Champion Doggie Costume Contest Winners

The best support team:  There is no way that I could not acknowledge the greatest support team a girl and her pony could ever want.  My husband is always there to drive Ike and I to whatever show we enter.  He will wipe my boots, keep peppermints in his pockets, and babysit my naughty horse when Ike decides that he needs to rear to look out the window waaaay up on the side of the barn.  He is a saint and I love and appreciate him more than words can say.  Ms. C was there to coach me for my finals ride.  Without her Ike and I would never have made it to the finals.  She will scour my score sheets and help to decipher the judge’s illegible comments.  She will continue to help us strive to improve and we will do our best to be the best pupils so that next year we can earn that victory lap.  And I must give a big shout out to my friends who were able to come and watch our finals ride and all those who sent good luck and good karma our way.  I also need to thank two of my youngest supporters for their special gifs.  My good luck pipe cleaner bracelet from Peter made me smile all weekend.  And, below is a photo of Angelina and I and the inspirational gift she gave me when I returned home.  It is humbling to feel so loved and supported.

Angelina made this awesome card for Ike and I for our efforts at the GAIGs.  It says "I kicked butt at my horse show."

Angelina made this awesome card for Ike and I for our efforts at the GAIGs. It says “I kicked butt at my horse show.”

Riding down centerline for your first finals ride ever:  Wow!  How nerve-wracking was warmup for my finals ride.  Trying to be perfect is hard work!  I tried my best to breathe regularly, relax my shoulders, and smile.  Ike tried his best to do the same until the green tractor of doom decided to come groom the warmup arena we were using.  He decided that we needed to leave NOW and find a better place to work.  Ike left in such a hurry that he left Ms. C to face the tractor on her own.  We then moved to the warmup arena designated for our finals class.  It was lunch break, so things were quiet.  Hand walking was allowed around the arena, so I dismounted and Ms. C and I walked Ike around the indoor for one last look.  Then came the dilemma that I had to get back on my big pony…enter the nice gentleman who offered to give me a leg up…and then watch Alison thwack him in the face with her whip.  I apologized profusely for my gaff.  That will be the last time he tries to be nice to a stranger…Time flew by and soon the class started.  I watched the first rider head down centerline for her final salute, and then it was our turn.  The squirrel nailed his entry and we were off.  The ride was going well in my estimation until we rounded the short end and fell out of our left lead canter.  Got it back within a stride, but I knew that would be a costly mistake.  We did our final salute, thanked the judges, and left the arena.  Dare I say I felt tears of relief well up in my eyes?  We did it – good or bad – we did it.  In this day and age of instant information, it wasn’t long before we had our score:  64.5%  (62.4% from the judge at C, 66.6% from the judge at E).  18th of 38 competitors.  Not bad considering our bobble.

The judge at C’s comment at the end of my score sheet was that “horse has greater talent than was shown.”  So there it is.  My homework for the winter.  Ike is going to continue to mature and get stronger.  Alison is going to hone her skills and finally execute an effective half halt and learn to relax.  Together we are going to refine that raw talent and show the world what we can do.  Can’t wait to see what is in store in the year to come!