dressage for mere mortals, dressage show, natalie perry dressage, seat aids

Honey, Is That a Carrot on the Nightstand?

Of course it is! I’d spent the day at a horse show and will need days to unpack and regroup. You’d think my husband would catch on to these things, but I haven’t shown in several years, so it’s a new experience for him. The carrot accompanied a pair of gloves, so it was something of a montage.

After seven years out of the show ring, my return had the fascinating feel of something new yet familiar.

Familiar: getting up at the crack of dawn and hauling an incredible amount of equipment for a one-day event.

Familiar: a mix of anxiety, excitement, and exhaustion as I wait for my rides, scheduled for 1:41 and 3:04 p.m. It seems like an eternity.

Natalie gives Charles his show ring debut. He was scared but did a great job.

Natalie gives Charles his show ring debut. He was scared but did a great job.

Familiar: spending the day with our barn community, with their own levels of excitement and show nerves. We have owners taking new horses into the ring, horses who have never shown before, and even a young stallion. We’re all pitching in where we can. Everyone’s supportive and upbeat. Thank goodness someone brought Gatorade.

Mari makes riding a young stallion look reasonable

Mari makes riding a young stallion look reasonable

Unfamiliar: I take two 10-minute breaks to sit in the shade, away from the activity. I review my tests and find a sense of perspective.

Three weeks ago I felt underprepared. Today, I gather my thoughts and realize I can do this.

It’s probably obvious to seasoned show veterans, but for the rest of us, it’s something of an awakening to fully take it in: you have mere minutes to show your stuff. At first level, it’s five minutes of intense focus.

Happily, Micah’s a pro. He ignored the judge’s stand, the flowers, and the audience in the viewing gallery. I smiled once, per my friend D’s advice, to help fake a sense of confidence. Then I smiled and meant it, knowing Micah would give me his best as long as I truly rode him.

I found my focus fand gave those five minutes the best that I could.

It's lonely there in the show ring & much too quiet! But Micah's a pro.

It’s lonely there in the show ring & much too quiet! But Micah’s a pro.

My eyes shot like laser beams from letter to letter, trying to make our movements as accurate as possible. (Those little-used letters are the tough ones: S, V, P etc.)

Neither of my two tests were perfect, but they were awesome. My horse  rose to the occasion even when he was tired. He forgave my mistakes and was as giving as he could have been. Ribbons were the icing on the cake. And when the judge remarked, “Good use of seat aids” — I was ecstatic. That’s a new one!

So, we still have to work on rider position. Those errant legs of mine have been behaving better at home but took a bit of a hiatus in the show ring, sliding forward at times. And, I’m supposed to ask for a ‘keener response’ from my horse.

Today’s lesson included a lot of work without stirrups since, as always, I have to improve before my horse can. I’m trying to memorize the feel of an engaged seat and legs hugging the horse.

As for the carrot by the nightstand, I’m in no hurry to put away the memories of this day. Camaraderie, support, encouragement, and a terrific learning experience … everything you could want from a horse and a horse show.