I cleaned his stall, ate breakfast, and checked in at the show office. The reining patterns werent yet posted, but I knew my first class was the same pattern as the last show, pattern 12, and Melissa had described the Novice pattern briefly the day before, being pattern 7. I got dressed and then looked at the now posted patterns. Pattern 7 made me a little nervous as it is a run in pattern and a bit complicated, plus I knew I would be trying for lead changes in this pattern. But I tried not to let myself get worked up.
My horse, however, had runny manure, was calling to just about every horse that was now coming into the fairgrounds, and generally was quite stressed. Sarah had some wet clay so he got a half syringe of that. After about a half hour, I realized my horse was quiet. Phew, I thought, maybe he was calming down. But wet poo and more calling came back. I tried not to think about it.
Time to tack up and warm up, and my horse was mouthy and dancing in the cross ties. Boyfriend and a couple we are friends with had made it up to the fairgrounds, and he was acting ornery and rude to them. Again, I just tried not to think about it. I climbed aboard and headed to the warm up pen. No calling, but he still felt quick, and some more wet manure slipped out from his rear. I tried not to think about it. But today Milo was much more fluid in his hocks and could step his hip out and nose in easily. He snake trailed pretty easily too, but I wanted to not go into the lope too quickly. I kept schooling and suppling at the walk and trot, then finally moved into a lope after a few more people left the small arena. He felt good, after I realized that tension in my ankles was causing him to run away from my leg. Once discovering this, I took a deep breath and stayed strong in my core, letting my legs go and not picking up my hand. It took a few strides, and then Milo came up underneath me and loped nicely.
I commented to Sarah about this realization, and she was happy to hear I was in a better mind set than at my ride the night before. She also helped me re-wrap his polos with a better method than I had been using. The big arena was now open for schooling, and we had about a half hour before reining was supposed to begin. I made my way into the show pen and schooled again at the walk and trot, hip out, snake exercises. The pen was busy with not only reiners but pleasure riders too, and Milo seemed somewhat distracted by the heavier traffic. There were also volunteers outside of the arena spraying hoses into it to try and keep the dust down. Fortunately, Milo didnt give much mind to the water cascading in on the rails, and didnt pay much attention to the traffic either.
We went into the lope, and he still felt a little rushed. I tried to remember to stay strong in my core and relax my ankles. When I would, the lope was great, but it wasnt consistent. However, we did school some nice stops, rollbacks, and some excellent spins. I was feeling more prepared, but still lacking confidence. They called the order of go for the first class, the Dave Reaume Memorial Green Reiner. This was pattern 12. I remembered the pattern after looking it over once more, and we headed into the arena.
Although this class allows for two hands, I went in one-handed not feeling like I needed both hands. The pattern didnt call for a lead change either, so I felt more relaxed already. We stepped into our first lope circles to the left. I was surprised by the clean lope departure, and we found a rhythm in the first two circles. We stopped pretty clean in the center. Our first two spins felt fairly good, but I knew I held some tension in my body. We raced into the right lope departure, which wasnt clean, and I had to work a few strides to get Milo back to me. He did, and we loped a couple of nice circles to the right. Although the circles were good, they didnt feel as wonderful as those we had in this same class back in July. I tried not to think about it and we stopped in the center for the next set of spins. Again, I held some tension and after the two spins were over, I was a bit disappointed knowing our spins were much better at home and schooling than we delivered in the pen. Oh well, they were now over, and we loped off for our rollback. We came around the top of the arena and I tried not to over think the stop that was coming. My horse stayed straight and I relaxed my ankles a bit. I even remembered to say Woah as I softened my lower back. For the first time in the show pen, I felt our stop was good. We rolled back up the arena and I was happy with that maneuver as well. I tried not to think about stopping in front of the judges, but as we came down the wall in front of them, I thought too much about the stop coming up, and I lost Milo a bit only a few strides before the cone. The stop wasnt bad, but it wasnt as good as the rollback. We backed and we were done. I turned Milo and he tried to trot off, still feeling fresh, huh?
They moved the classes around a bit, and instead of my novice class to follow, they ran Open Reining next, then Novice. So now I at least had a class in between to look at the next pattern and give Milo a break in the shade. I knew the pattern now, and waited with a somewhat twisted stomach for the open reiners to finish. I watched their runs and heard scores like 78 and 75. I felt a little discouraged by that, but tried not to focus on it. It was time to get back on now, and as I walked Milo a bit, he felt fresh still and raring to go. I opted to enter the ring two handed. I am happy that I did.
The pattern called for a run in (although where the arena gate is held, you really cant), with a left rollback, followed by a right rollback, than a stop and back. Four spins to the right, four and a quarter to the left, begin with three right circles, lead change, three left circles, lead change, one final run down, no back. I knew the pattern. I just needed to do it now.
Just before the judges nodded, I remembered to push my hat down, but I didnt gather my reins. I pushed Milo into a left lead and he felt straight and good. We stopped and rolled back, with some cheers from the crowd. It felt good. I didnt ask correctly for the next lead and Milo cross fired. I tried to get a lead change, but didnt really ask, and for some reason I was obsessing about how he was on the wrong lead. In hindsight, I should have focused on a good run down before the next rollback, but I changed his leads with a simple change, and ended up getting a terrible stop. Rolled back for the next run down, and gathered my reins a bit. The stop wasnt too bad, and we backed, but I didnt line him up to center properly. I had been thinking too much about how disappointed I was in our lines.
Four spins to the right, and instead of sitting deep on my inside seat bone, I hammered him around with too much leg. I was again disappointed in our spins. The left spins didnt make me feel any better, especially when we finished them and I saw I was way off center from the judges. Oh well, and we loped off into the right lead. Two large fast, and I pushed Milo for a little more speed. As we came into the small slow, I felt the downward transition was good, although looking on tape now it doesnt look like much. I got halfway around the small slow before I realized I had a lead change in only a matter of a few strides. We came to center, and I asked for straight, then a change. He changed, although front to back. I whispered good boy, happy for the effort anyways and we loped two fast. After the change it took a circle at least to get him to somewhat lift up and lope properly, and the slow circle transition didnt feel as good. I thought about the approaching lead change throughout the three circles, and ended up not getting it. I broke him down and got a simple change. We were almost done. I loped him up the back side for our last run down, and was too afraid to push on the gas. I felt my horse had been flipping me off during the ride and I didnt want to lose all control. We stopped hard and he tried to go into a back. I kicked him out of it.
We left the arena with people telling us what a good job we did and how nice we looked. I heard a score of 62.5 and felt defeated and frustrated. I told everyone how upset I was with my horse, and remembered the bad ride from the night before.
Thinking back now, I really wasnt upset with my horse. I was frustrated with myself. I let a bad ride from the night before haunt my performance the rest of the day. I wanted Milo to perform when I wasnt in the moment with him, and instead got mad at him for it. Instead of thinking about all the bad things I felt we did in the show pen, I should be emphasizing the good parts of it instead:
We scored just as well in the Dave Reaume class as we had at the last show: a 68.5 from both judges. This placed us second under both judges out of four entries.
We accomplished the best rollbacks and stops in the show pen to date. I didnt over think our rundowns (not every one at least) and got stops I knew we had. My horse is reaching up under himself with his hind end much better. As Sarah says, he no longer looks like two guys in a horse suit - he looks like the makings of a reiner.
Looking at the videos, he is much more over his hocks in his spins. Although not well cadenced like we have schooled, he is picking up speed and holding a plant foot better (at least in the show pen, much better at home).
We got one lead change. Although it wasnt a correct one, we got one. This is a first in the show pen too. The secret behind it seemed to be that I was in my body for that moment, and not in my head. I let it happen, and although it wasnt super pretty, now we have a building block to start on in the show pen. Edit to add: I have watched the video over and over, and looking where we lost the second change, it looks like Milo actually changed in the back but before he could change in the front, I blocked him and slowed him down. I wonder, had I just been patient would he have balanced himself and changed? I really must give him more credit than I had been - he really was working for me, everything was just a little more rushed than I expected.
We accomplished a harder reining pattern than we ever had before. The Novice pattern certainly wasnt novice friendly, but we stayed on course and actually didnt do as bad as I had given us credit for. Come to think of it, just being on pattern for both classes was another accomplishment. :)
Our scores for the Novice class were actually 62.5 and 65 from the second. This gave us second and third out of three. Although one judge threw away his score cards before I got to see them, I did get to see the scores from the 65 judge.
I really should not have been as down as I was after those classes. Milo really did give me an effort, even if it wasnt what I was anticipating for that day.
P.S. What do you think of my "chinks" outfit? I got a lot of compliments on it! And it sure saved me from being hot under my heavier black equitation chaps (and black hat that would have followed!).