I suppose success might be a strong word, but it was a success for me! We were not in the ribbons and in fact were recognized as, "oh you were the one on the big grey horse". I guess we made an impression. It could be because we reared, spinned, broke gait, and trotted around with our head straight in the air and barely with any bit of straightness. But we had fun!
We arrived Friday night and unloaded the horses. Rusty traveled with his friend Inky who rode a fantastic 1st level test 4 and an even better 2nd level test 1. We let them settle in for a bit and then I tacked up and headed off to the arena. Rusty was amped up to say the least. I could barely get him to stand still for me to get on. The fairgrounds we were at is sort of your classic fairground arena. Older building, multipurpose with chutes for cows and other stock animals, bleachers and a concession stand. This was all new for Rusty. Overall I was pretty impressed with him. I figured he'd be totally freaked out by the judges stand, but that was the nothing! He was way more obsessed with getting the hell out of there!
The dressage arena was up, but there was a pole down right by the exit for easy access in and out for people who were schooling. Rusty really, really tried to convince me that his best bet was to get out and get out fast. He reared, he spun, he backed up, he ignored me, and generally wrecked havoc. Inky came in for some warm-up time and that immediately calmed Rusty down. He was still pretty tense, but at least wasn't as obsessed with the exit. After time the other horses who were schooling left the arena and even Inky headed back to the barn.
This was when our real schooling started. We worked and worked and worked until finally we had a breakthrough. I got tough, but just tough enough and I gave him his head. I have a tendency to pull back on the reins and expect him to go forward, but not TOO forward. It's a problem. It really makes him crazy. So after we both chilled out a bit things got much better. He also taught be that he really likes to have a nice calm canter to help him relax. Interesting, but whatever I'll take it. So we ended the night on a high note and I was full of good hopes for the next day.
We arrived at the grounds at 6:30am hoping to catch a ride in the dressage ring before the show started. Unfortunately the arena was closed for dragging and wouldn't be available until the first ride. I was bummed, they had said it was going to be open until 7:30. Grrrrr... So we hit the warm up and boy did we hit it hard. He was rearing and bolting and generally attempting to escape back to the barn. Over time with lots of encouragement from Team Rusty (my mom, Inky's owner, and my friends) we managed to settle down into some quality work. Still a bit tense, but at least listening.
I was optomistic heading into the arena. And then we entered for the test and optomism failed me. Rusty was very excited to be trotting in toward "A". For him "A" stood for adjacent to the exit. That set the tone for both our tests. Quality warm up and then instant chaos trotting down the centerline. We managed to eek out both tests without disqualification, but did settle for last in both (just ahead of the disqualified pony who jumped out of the arena!).
I have to say I learned a lot and I'm totally thrilled that we made it through in one piece and we actually had some good work here and there. He felt awesome at moments and I'm really pleased with that. Had we tried this a month ago it would have been much, much worse. We recieved complimentary DVDs of our rides, it was nice to see what the judge was talking about on each element. I definitely will take note of her demand for me to have more soft and yielding hands, even though I am somewhat skeptical of the soft and yielding when the horse is attempting to get out of the arena, but I'll think about it. She also suggested more supportive leg. I knew I was having trouble with that and I could kick myself for not adjusting my stirrups. I usually ride in my paddock boots and half chaps and had switched into the tall boots for the show and didn't adjust my stirrups to match!!! Duh, the paddock boots have a much thicker sole!!! I felt it, but I attributed it to my nervousness. Sure wish I would have shortened them, oh well, lesson learned.
All in all we had fun! Can't wait for the next one!!!