After a year and a half of not showing, it was nice to get back in the arena. There were definite highs and lows. The lows are more tolerable when you're surrounded by a great group of people. We joked about our mistakes and everyone from the barn was completely supportive of each other. It was a great time!
I schooled Gunner on Friday. Actually, it was more like tried to school. When I got on he had a HUGE hump in his back. It went away after we walked a bit, but his head was straight up in the air and his back was tense. We warmed up in the completely enclosed indoor and he was all over the place. What the hell? This isn't Gunner. He might normally take five or ten minutes to loosen up and focus, but he'd never been like this. He was almost to the point of frantic. Crap! I was THAT girl on THAT crazy horse that was going to get herself killed. There was no focus, I was nothing but a passenger.
Fortunately my trainer, Jose Luis, was there to help me. He had me step off and held Gunner for a few minutes to let him just stand there and settle down. When his wife, Marybeth, came in on one of the horses she was showing, I got back on and walked around with her. Gunner was a little better. Then he tried to kick her horse. Seriously?! He's a pony-horse!
We warmed up in both arenas and Gunner was pretty much spastic the entire time. Jose Luis was able to help me to the point that I could at least get Gunner into the frame and steering. I kind of had him listening, yet couldn't get him to relax. He pulled my guts out. I might as well have galloped a race horse for an hour. It was extremely frustrating on top of being exhausting.
After we were finished, I was pretty aggravated and about ready to cry. Jose Luis just grinned and shrugged. At this point, I began to laugh. He was right. What can you do? It's a horse and days like that happen.
I put Gunner back in his stall to give him and me time to settle down. Then I took him out and just walked all over. He got a lot better. Okay. Maybe we would be able to make it through a test. Maybe.
The next morning, I took him out and mostly just walked. Gunner was calm and relaxed so I put him back in his stall until it was time to warm up. My outlook on showing him was becoming more positive. The temptation to scratch decreased.
He warmed up really well before the first test and my confidence was coming back.
As we entered for our test, Gunner spooked and ducked sideways. My stirrup leather slipped off of the bar. That is why you should always check your tack before you ride. Oops. The judge actually got up and went into the show office to see what time I could try again. Thank goodness for second chances!
The test went well on the second try. There were a few bobbles, but it was pretty smooth for the most part. Our trot-canter transitions sucked, the tempo and connection were a little inconsistent, and our downward transitions could have been better. That's fine. I didn't care about mistakes, just that his brain was working. We scored a 61 and I was happy with it.
The second test was in the indoor that Gunner hated. Jose Luis thought he might be slightly claustrophobic in there and I think he was probably right. He'd only been in a covered arena before that, never in a completely enclosed one. The horse just wouldn't relax in there. We made it through without any serious mishaps. Gunner and I scored a 63, even though I thought it was worse than our first test.
The next morning's warm up went really well. It was probably the best he's ever gone. Then we entered the dreaded arena and the beautiful warm up became insignificant. It was back to tension and pulling. I've never asked to be excused from a test, other than when my stirrup fell off, and I was seriously tempted. However, I was ticked enough that I decided we were damn well going to finish no matter how ugly things got. The judge gave us a score of 48. Honestly, I thought it was generous. I've never scored that bad before. Not the end of the world, it happens.
When I came back to the barn, Marybeth asked me about my test. I told her about the ride and by the end we were both laughing about it. We laughed while we watched the video and laughed about the comments on the test. Once again, what else can you do but get over it and try to do better next time?
Our last test went a lot better. There were some really good parts! We scored a 62 under the judge that gave us a 61 the day before. I really wanted to improve under that judge because he was a little tougher than the other one. No matter how minimal the margin was, I was pretty pleased with the improvement.
Gunner and I both survived, I had fun, and we got that "first show" out of the way. It really was a lot to ask of him. I put five dressage rides on him in the few weeks before the show and a couple this past summer. He doesn't completely understand what I want from him yet. Really, considering the lack of training and experience, Gunner did very well. I feel pretty bad for getting mad at him. It's not like I beat him or anything, but I think I put too much pressure on both of us.
This show was just for fun and I have no grandiose dreams of Gunner's dressage career. I'm just thankful that the option to compete on him is there.
Most of all, I'm thankful that my wonderful fiancé, Jose Luis, Marybeth, and everyone else from the barn was so supportive. They kept me from getting down on myself and made the weekend fun. Thanks guys!