I was so excited that Sarah was able to add reining to the class list for the Horseplay Winter Schooling Series she and her students attends at the Tacoma Unit every winter (same location all of my reining shows were at last winter). With the series I had attended the winter before no longer offering reining, this was my only chance of practicing if the show manager would allow the addition. She did, and Sarah told me to pick the pattern for the class. Melissa decided to fill the class for me as well, and it so happened one other person entered as well.
Boyfriend, a friend, and I hauled Milo to the showgrounds bright and early Saturday morning. Reining was added after the halter and showmanship classes, and I ended up warming up too soon and throwing him in Sarah's cross ties for what turned into an hour. I felt bad for Milo standing there bored with the saddle still on. I hadnt anticipated the classes taking so long. The announcer said there would be a half hour break and then reining. Only a few classes before this break did they now announce that reining would be before the break. Melissa and I hurried back onto our horses and into the warm up pen.
Being a typical Washington horse show day, it was raining and windy, and naturally everyone gathered into the small covered warm up arena, leaving the large open, wet one empty. Initially we warmed up in the covered pen, but it got too crowded with longers and riders, and when an entire gang of amped up pleasure type horses entered the arena and spun, snorted, spooked, and came within inches of running smack into my horse, I decided to bring the warm up outside in the rain.
In my first warm up, Sarah watched Melissa and I, and her main advice for me was to sit further back and I was creeping forward about two degrees, as well as driving with my seat. I repeated this over and over as I rode, trying to stay back, but still keep a light seat to encourage Milo to lift, trying to stay centered on my seat bones, entire core engaged, and not allow Milo to tuck in corners as he has so learned from work at home in the small arena. Things werent going horribly, but they werent going fantastic either. He wasnt happy about working in the rain, and I wasnt happy about the less than stress free warm up situation. I was up second draw for the pattern, and watched as Melissa worked Grace in the pen. She looked good, and I envied her lead changes. I had worked Milo on counter canter circles to regular canter circles in an effort to tire him on his leads. I didnt school lead changes as there was no room, but hoped the counter canter schooling would pay off. Milo had become a bit rushy in the warm up pen but when they allowed us ten minutes to work in the show pen, he had come back to me. I was optimistic.
I knew the pattern and picked it for a reason. It was pattern number eight from the NRHA, which included not only two rollbacks and four spins each direction, but lead changes. I could have taken the easy route and chose a simpler pattern, but the purpose of today was schooling. I already believed we wouldnt knock any socks off, but I really wanted to get Milo into the showpen again, as we hadnt been out since early September. I wanted those elements in the pattern because they were ones we needed to school on, in a large arena we dont have at home.
We walked into the center of the pen and I paused to collect ourselves before beginning our left spins. He had schooled so well on spins before the class, and at home too. All I had needed lately was to sit deep on the inside seat bone and hold the shoulder with the outside rein. I sat on my left seat bone, but not before raising my outside rein. We didnt turnaround as nicely as I knew we could, coming off center and not keeping the inside hock planted. I heard clucking and looked up to see Sarah clucking to me, so I started clucking, then realized I didnt know how many turnarounds we had just completed. Did we only do two when I stopped? Thinking I needed two more I recenterd him on pattern to do two more. When I stopped I knew I was over my four spins, but couldnt do anything about it now. Oh well, four more to the right, and I cued out of sequence again. We stopped the spins and I sat for a moment, a little disappointed. I still had a pattern to finish however, and I asked for the lope departure to the right. Watching the videos later, he doesnt look as terrible as I thought he felt. He rushed from my seat, ducked the corners, and twice coming through center wanted to dive out the other direction. When we rounded the third circle I tried to straighten him out and change my legs and seat for a lead change, which didnt happen. No matter, I would bring him to the trot and get a simple change. Suddenly my horse didnt seem to know how to come down from the lope to the trot. Strides went by on the counter canter and he still wasnt coming down to the trot. I needed to get him to slow down so I made him completely stop. There goes the pattern, I thought then made him lope off on the right lead.
The circles again felt rushed and off center, but he wasnt ducking away from me this time. I thought I could redeem myself with the next lead change. I really tried to set him up for it with a change in my hips and legs, but again he loped off on the counter lead, and again did not come to the trot when I asked. So I halted him again and loped off. At this point I glanced to the judges as I came around the corner to prepare for the rollback, and quietly apologized feeling like I was wasting their time. As we started the rundown, my horse increased speed without me. In an effort to keep him with me and stay round, I loped him a few strides longer then stopped. No slide, but some hip down at least. I turned him for the rollback and he loped out of his tracks, literally, making a U-shaped turn. Not the good scoring rollbacks I watch on YouTube, but I also havent been schooling him on rollbacks so I accepted the effort.
Around the corner again for the next rollback and once again, he rushed away from me. Again, I was disappointed with our stop, but the lope off was decent. Rushing on the final rundown and running crooked I was just happy this stupid pattern was going to be over with. We stopped, hard, definitely no slide. I jolted in the saddle as his front feet planted and his head came up. I backed and barely got myself to look back at the judges. The gentleman was the same who last judged me in September, I hoped he recognized my horse and remembered that we can turn in a decent run.
I walked my horse out, shaking my head at some of Sarah's students watching in the stands. That was the worst run I had ever done, I felt like my horse was completely blowing me off. I rode him right out into the outside warm up pen, still raining, and loped him off. I was not going to be one of those people who got pissed at their horse after a run and worked them into the ground in the arena. But I wanted to get a few decent lope circles in, and mostly, lope to trot transitions. I got about a circle and a half at the lope and I heard Sarah call my name out in the rain. I tried to look for her but was on the back of the circle now. At center, I hoped to bring him to a trot, which again he did not do for me. Half a circle later and I finally got him down into an ugly transition, then stopped in front of Sarah.
She asked if I knew what happened in the pen. "I'm sure I did something wrong," I concluded, knowing anything that goes wrong is probably my fault, acknowledging that made me sink down into the saddle. I couldnt tell her what I thought I did wrong as I felt my horse was simply flipping me off. I was hearing her voice in my head the entire time, I was telling my body to sit back in the saddle, but apparently the message wasnt being received. Sarah said that I wasnt riding my horse, that I was perched forward just as I had been in warm up. Without him feeling my seat, he rushed away not knowing where I was at. And for the lead changes, she noted that there too he had no idea where I went and simply kept loping. "You've got a pleasure horse and you're putting him into the reining pen. Cut him some slack, he cant go fast." Fast?? That was not my concern. I never once asked for speed, I just wanted my horse with me, not rushing away from me. But it got me thinking, why am I doing this? Is it pointless to ask a pleasure horse to rein? Maybe I am running in circles here and kidding myself. Is that really what Sarah thinks? Why am I even showing, I thought later as I untacked him and put his cooler on. This was definitely not fun in any way. The weather, the warm up pen, the pattern and the crowd.
Boyfriend and my friend found me in Sarah's aisleway. I was still upset, they thought I was mad at Milo. I had sort of let that go. I was just frustrated with the whole situation. Boyfriend reminded me that everyone has bad days. He boiled it down to bad luck from Friday the 13th the day before, now catching up with me. He also suggested that the number I assigned was bad, it being the same number Milo and I had at his first horse show, where he acted terribly (but it was also his first show ever so I cut him some slack). Boyfriend is really superstitious, however. Bad weeks is what it has been feeling like lately. One good ride in the last two weeks sure isnt making me feel really good about where Milo and I are at lately. I love my Milo, but maybe we arent doing the right thing. I just felt sad for the rest of the day.