I have mixed feelings about how we did at the Championship show yesterday. Here’s how the day went…
I got to the barn at 7:30 to give him a bath and braid. The first thing I noticed was that PJ tried to scalp his forelock. He had a big gash that didn’t require stitches but was fresh. I cleaned it out when I gave him his bath, put Swat on it, and tried to braid over it. My ride, Betsy, arrived right on time. PJ loaded right up and we were off. All good.
The show was in full swing when we arrived. I didn’t show until 2pm and it was about 11:30. I had gotten PJ a stall. He had never stayed in a stall at an event other than a clinic we did last year, which was very low-key and not the same at all. I thought it would be a good way to introduce him to the concept of eventually staying overnight at a show. He settled in better than I expected and didn’t seem to mind the horses around him or when horses came and went. I grabbed lunch and then took PJ for a hand-walk around the grounds. We timed it well and got to walk around the perimeter of the show rings. He was pretty relaxed. It was very funny. Every time he saw a black horse he screamed at it thinking it was his girlfriend. And then there was an appy that looked exactly like Phoenix (even I had to do a double-take), PJ’s other buddy. He screamed at him too and was very confused when the horse ignored him. You would think horses would be better able to recognize their herd mates. So far, so good.
My husband showed up just as I finished tacking up. We had a good warm-up. PJ didn’t even care when a horse got loose. We headed up to the show ring where I handed my whip to Betsy because in the Championship show, you can’t use a whip. It didn’t take long for PJ to realize I didn’t have it. But we still put in a descent test for a score of almost 67% and third place. I was very happy.
I had an hour and a half until my second test, so I threw him back in his stall after untacking him. We all watched some of the freestyles and then it was time for my second test. I planned on only a 15-min warm up. As soon as I mounted I could tell PJ was not happy. I was very surprised that he was more forward than he had been for the first test. But it was a fake forward because PJ felt angry to me. Picture a little kid wrinkling their face and stamping their feet at something their mother was asking them to do – that’s how he felt. When I asked for the canter depart, he actually bucked – twice! We worked through it, though. I entered the show ring confident that the test wouldn’t be quite as good as the last one but it wouldn’t be so bad. And that’s how I felt at the end. He was more forward but he tried to look around a lot more. Our canter departs were worse and I didn’t have him bent as well through the circles, but overall it was okay. Unfortunately, the judge didn’t agree. We came in seventh with a score of 54%. I was not happy because that dropped us from third place overall to fourth. I did not think it was a 54% test. Maybe a 60% test. The comments over the entire test were that he was hollow. He wasn’t hollow through the trot work. I think maybe the judge had some breed bias and thought the way his neck comes out of his shoulders (high) was a sign of being hollow. I don’t know. She did judge everyone 10 pts lower than the first judge. The horses who won had gotten in the 70s under the first judge and in the 60s under the second judge.
We did get to participate in the victory gallop, which was really a victory trot for most of us. PJ had really had it by this time and when the fifth-placed horse came galloping up behind us, I was glad I was trotting because PJ’s eyes bulged out of his head and he started getting bigger, if you know what I mean. But I didn’t have any trouble going back to walk again at the in-gate.
All night I couldn’t sleep and kept trying to think about what I could have done differently to have stayed in third place. Really it was about what I need to do with PJ to ride him better. If what the judge saw was reality and what I thought I felt was wrong than I was in real trouble.
So, the good things: trailered well, fine in a stall, not a nut under saddle, timed both my warm-ups well, first test good, worked him through being angry at having to go back to work, handled the victory lap well.
The bad: canter departs, that darn second test, which may be a much bigger problem than just that test.
I’m so tired right now in more ways than just from a lack of sleep.