My instructor, Barbara, was away at a Pony Club rating this weekend while I had my show, so today was the first day to discuss how it went. I gave her a play-by-play. I told her that during the first test, PJ was looking around constantly. To keep him connected, I did what I had been taught which is to widen my hands, so as not to lose a feeling with his mouth, and push him forward. Well, I had to do a lot of that in the test. At the end of my ride, the judge scolded me for doing that and said that that is not how you keep the contact. Blah, blah, blah. I know how I rode him was correct. The only thing I would have done differently was to get after him a little more for looking around. I’m too nice a lot of the time and make excuses, such as he’s still a baby, etc. instead of asking for it to be done correctly. Barbara agreed. Yes, in an ideal world, I would keep my hands together and PJ would listen and off we would go, but that’s not the ride he gave me and I don’t have the skills to get the ideal ride within the first couple of movements, but I’m working on it. Having my aids be more subtle is my goal. I did, however, get it before the second test and I know the judge was surprised to see my hands together at his withers for most of the test.
Barbara knew who the judge was and said that I should take her advice with a grain of salt. I think that’s the case with any judge because you know your horse best and you know if you had a good or bad ride for that day. The score is just a snap-shot of your progress – and we all know how bad some photos can be if you press the button at the wrong moment. I know my canter-depart deserved a 3. It’s nice to see my center line got an 8. I don’t need a judge to tell me how to ride – that’s why I take lessons. I show to test myself that I am on the right track. Riding movements at specific points in the ring is much harder than just riding around. You can prepare forever for a canter depart at home, but at a show it has to be performed before M, and you have to figure out how to prepare way ahead of time, so that you can do it. Ideally, I should be riding like that at home more – but not always. You definitely need a balance between taking your time to get the perfect canter depart and doing it not-so-perfectly but at a specific point. Both teach the horse, and the rider, for that matter.
I like to show for a variety of reasons. I like showing off my horse because I think he’s pretty great. I like the challenge of dealing with all of the distractions and the nerves that come with riding in front of people. I like to test myself and I learn a lot from both my successes and failures during the show – both in the ring and in the warm-up. And, seeing where I am relative to others is a good motivator. I have to say that I don’t like braiding and cleaning tack and wearing white, but I guess that comes with the territory. This may have been my last show of the year, which is a bit sad. But that only means I get to devise new goals for next year, which is a blank slate of possibility. I’m already starting my list of shows I want to go to!