Whoa, where'd I go? What happened? Sorry bout that. But I am here now to blog about the show!
The Day Before: I got at the stable as early as I could, thinking I'd ride, clean the tack, braid and get home within a reasonable amount of time. Ha! Well, first I rode. We did not have a very good ride and I think I was just trying to go through the motions and give him enough exercise so he wouldn't be a raging beast at the show. At this point I was exhausted and just not in the mood to work on any more stirrupless exercises and or any of that stuff. Which I think is okay.
After I rode and cooled him off, the barn owner told me there were several school horses who didn't have riders that day, so would I mind riding a few of them? Well, okay. So I rode two school horses, and even though I only meant to go about 30 minutes on each, the whole process ended up taking nearly two hours.
After that, I started cleaning tack. As I cleaned, all the stable girls were going on and on about the showmanship class and how everything had to be perfectly, disgustingly clean. This is about when I knew I shouldn't have entered showmanship. Marve's bridle is old and crappy and I was cleaning the heck out of it, but it still didn't look so hot. And how in the world could I get his gray coat shiny enough for the judge? I had been under the impression that showmanship was as much about how you handled the horse as the appearance...but apparently, in this show, it almost all comes down to appearance. And I'm just not into that. So I knew it was a mistake but it was too late.
Anyway, after cleaning the tack I washed Marve's legs and tail and groomed the heck out of him. I have to say, by the time I was done he looked pretty darn good. He was practically glowing, he looked so white.
Then I set about braiding his mane. Even though sometimes practicing didn't always feel like it was getting me anywhwere, I'm so glad I spent all those late nights at the barn braiding. At the least, I had a set plan in my head of how exactly I was going to braid, and I wasn't going to deviate from it. The braiding went so much more quickly than I had expected, and I think I did a fairly decent job. Nothing spectacular, but surely enough to get by in this little show (or so I thought).
Even with the relatively painless braiding experience, it was still really late when I finally left the barn. I was exhausted and just wanted to go home, have a pumpkin beer, and fall asleep.
Show Day: I dutifully arrived at the barn at the agreed upon 1.5 hours before my class. I entered Marve's stall and was pleased to see his face and front legs seemed just as glowingly white as they had the night before. Then I took off his blanket and discovered a HUGE splotch of manure and dirt. Argghgh!
I started currying and currying and used some special cleaner stuff to try to get the dirt out. I must have been delirious from the exhausting day before, because when I was all ready to go into the showmanship class, I felt relatively confident that he looked good. His braids had stayed in and I had gotten rid of the brown spot (or so I thought). It was time for showmanship. Piece of cake! Right?
Showmanship: Oh dear lord. What a disaster! I guess it could have gone worse. Like, I guess Marve could have had explosive diarrhea all over the judge. Or I guess I could have had explosive diarrhea all over the judge. I don't think we did anything right. The first thing I had to do was lead Marve through super simple pattern, get him to trot a little, stop, and then back up before we took our place in line for "the inspection." I had practiced this stuff so wasn't concerned at all.
Well, clearly I should have been. While walking through the pattern, Marve started rubbing his head on me. Okay, so I got him to stop that. Then he decided he would not trot. AT ALL. And this is something I did work out with him to the point where I thought it would be easy. But not only would he not trot, but he jerked his head up and I almost lost the reins. Then, when I tried to back him up, he briefly bolted out to the side and I again almost lost the reins.
I lined him up to wait for the others to finish so the judge could come inspect everyone's grooming. I was super embarrassed. Obviously I would not get a ribbon in this class, and I just wanted it to be over. But as I stood there, trying to look nonchalant like I didn't just humiliate myself (everyone else was perfect, by the way) I noticed that the manure spot had magically reappeared on Marve's side! WTF? I think the lighting in the barn must be different from the lighting in the arena, because it was totally visible in there. Ugh.
But I didn't even get to wait out the failure in peace. When the judge got to us and conducted her "inspection," I thought she'd take pity on my already dismal performance and leave me be. Um, no. She started harping on the fact that Marve's bridle didn't look clean enough (I swear, I scrubbed and polished that bitch like no other...it's an old crappy bridle), I didn't have the right kind of helmet (wtf???), his braids could be better, and, of course, he had a faint manure stain on him the size of Texas.
I felt like a little kid being scolded for a loose pigtail or something. I know it's my fault because I decided to enter this class, and I clearly didn't prepare to the extent I needed to, but it just seems silly to me. Sure, you should have your horse looking his best on a show day, but I personally don't find it worth my time to kill myself getting him to look ridiculously perfect all for a class where you stand there and judge circles you, searching for stray hairs. I also wasn't expecting the other girls to be soooo serious about this class. They were really into it. Me? Not so much.
When they finally announced the last ribbon winner, I was more than happy to get Marve the heck out of there and focus on my "real" classes.
Equitation: After showmanship, I mounted and got to warm up a little more before my advanced equitation class. At this point, I started to get really nervous. I watched some of my competition and felt pretty discouraged...a lot of these girls are very, very good. I felt so out of place and decided I probably should have just done intermediate again. At the last show, the advanced class had to do some pretty serious moves, and I just didn't know if I could cut it. Plus, the judge this time apparently was being harder on everyone and challenging them more than the judge at the show a few months ago. What if I couldn't control Marve? What if I fell off? I was really starting to stress. My last words to my SO before riding into the ring were, I believe, "I don't want to do this!!"
It was a big class for the arena, about 12 riders. And somehow, Marve and I didn't totally suck! He didn't run away from me. I didn't do anything stupid. I was nervous and couldn't get him to bend/relax/stretch, which stunk, but that was it. And while I did have to do some exercises without stirrups, it wasn't anything nearly as difficult as what I had been practicing on my own. So when the judge called for us to line up, I was like, "Already?" I couldn't believe she didn't throw anything trickier at us. Also, that I stayed on. :)
I still wasn't expecting a ribbon, because I don't have the best equitation in the world and assumed I couldn't compete with those girls. But I got 5th place! Awesome. Maybe all my practice paid off, after all. I know 5th might seem lame to some people, but trust me, in that class and with that many people, I was thrilled with it.
Pleasure: I was just relieved equitation was behind me, but I should have been more concerned with this class. This is where Marve and I lost our shit. I don't know if he finally got wound up from cantering around the small ring with all those horses or what, but he became a nutcase. During one of the first cantering sessions, he started to run away with me. Oh, joy. I will never forget that powerful surge in his shoulders/neck and he started to take off. Fab-u-lous.
I turned him in a circle and managed to prevent us from, you know, dying, but he was all excited. I had to canter him in practically a 10 meter circle to get him to calm down. Thankfully, we were asked to trot again, which was a relief. Then we switched directions and started cantering again almost immediately, and he tried to run off with me again. He ran right up behind another horse, and I didn't have room to turn him across because another horse was already coming...so we were basically in a three-way traffic jam and Marve did not want to stop. I managed to pull him into a trot, thank god, and would have stayed trotting even if the they hadn't called for a downward transition anyway. Then, a minute later, we were told to canter again. Usually they only ask for a canter once in a direction, so what was the deal?? Well, we had a few normal strides of cantering, so I thought things were cool, but then a little girl in the audience made a sudden move and Marve spooked to the inside of the arena. I held on desperately and was mostly okay and kept my balance, but my shirt came untucked and my jacket flew up a little so I think it's possible I exposed my tummy.
Anyway, not long after that the evil pleasure class was over. Do I really need to tell you whether I got a ribbon? I'm just lucky I didn't die.
So overall, not an exactly encouraging show report. Despite the disasters that were showmanship and pleasure, I really am not that upset with it. Overall, Marve was okay, and even when he freaked out in pleasure I managed to bring him back under control. So it's not hopeless.
I have to say that I really don't "blame" Marve for anything. I truly think it's my weaknesses as a rider that contribute to these problems. I have no doubt that a better, more confident rider would have gotten better results in the show with him than I did. But I am doing my best, I'm working hard, and that is all I can ask for.
Positives: Learning to braid, realizing showmanship (or "extreme grooming" as I now call it) is just not for me, handling the stirrupless stuff like a pro, and getting 5th in equitation. Yay me! I think I deserve a cookie.