The show grounds is about an hour and forty minutes away, and with reining the first classes at 9 am, that meant an early start, considering I wanted to get there with time to spare. I quickly got Milo ready Saturday afternoon, as that evening I would be selling my jewelry at the local rodeo and would be there until late. I took Milo on the trail with a friend earlier in the afternoon and was able to secure four nice lead changes and a speed change, enough to still feel good about leaving for the show.
We woke up bright and early at 5am with about five hours of sleep before. Milo had been locked in his stall due to the weather and mud outside and when I arrived at the barn in the early morning I saw that the adjacent horse's automatic water had again leaked all over the floor and into Milo's stall. I was happy I had decided to dump a little extra bedding into his stall. Despite the conditions, he had some dried shavings stuck to his sheet on both sides so I felt confident that at least he had slept well, unlike myself.
From the activities the night before, I hadnt had the opportunity to pre-load my trailer which meant I had to remember everything the morning of. I almost forgot my hat box at the house with not only my two hats, but my show shirt, my numbers, safety pins and Milo's registration papers all inside, but did actually forget all of my brushes back at the barn. Thank goodness for having a back up brush that lives in my trailer so at least I had something.
I mildly slept on the haul up north, and we arrived just as scheduled at 8 am. I checked in with the show office to make sure they had received my pre-entry, and to show my registration papers. I was groggy and barely awake (also hadnt had coffee) but already the atmosphere was cheerful and friendly. The arena had been scheduled to close at 8:30 to offer the last half hour to exclusive use from the reiners, so I figured to avoid over schooling, I would get on by 8:30 and spend the next half hour slowly getting things ready and giving Milo and I both a chance to breathe.
After I realized the brushes were missing, I unpacked my white polos and realized I had never washed them since last summer's shows at this same location. The ones that had been used on the rear had been defecated on and I knew none would be better then dirty. However, the fronts were still nice and clean so Milo sported polos on the front. I took my time wrapping them perfectly, then got the saddle positioned just right and my show numbers pinned to my saddle blanket. I touched up the quick bands from the day before and put the bridle on, getting in the saddle right at 8:30.
We walked the perimeter of the arena a few laps, letting Milo check out the arena he hasnt been to since last September. But he didnt mind anything and eventually we moved into the jog. I felt pretty good in my body once we started moving, and I tested our buttons for shaping. Everything I needed was there. I moved him into the lope and he was slow and a little sluggish, even breaking to the jog and needed coaxing to get going again. But the lope quality was really nice and I figured slow and correct would be our pace for the day.
They wanted to drag the arena because most of the reiners had been practicing for nearly an hour and the show management figured they had enough time. I had only been in the arena for about five minutes, and when they announces us to clear the arena I really quickly cut the diagonal to ask for a lead change. We got an ok one to the hard direction, and although it was delayed I seemed to be able to get my right seatbone out of the saddle. I figured even if thats all the warm up I got, at least I had a general idea of what horse I had today. I wondered if the long haul and gloomy day put him in his pokey mood. He cared most about his hay bag.
I had written down the three patterns I needed to memorize a couple days prior to the show. Although I never practiced them with Milo, I made it a point to remember them ahead of the show (but still brought my patterns to the show with me). Although I can remember patterns pretty well, my strategy is to only focus on the one at hand until that class is over - fortunately (or...unfortunately maybe) reining patterns are all pretty similar of course, with only the sequence of the elements changed. My first class in I was last draw, but didnt need to watch the others to ensure I knew the pattern - it was the same one I ran for this same class last year (twice) and was a fairly easy pattern anyway.
I jogged Milo back and forth across the grass alongside the arena, noticing Milo was kind of everywhere with his shoulders. I opted to go in two-handed for the class thinking the novice class would be the best to treat as a "schooling run", especially with no speed change in our circles and no lead change to get Milo excited. I was finally called in after the other four riders (which I was so happy there was actually a good turnout), nerves not taking over like I had expected. The slow pace of the morning and the quiet atmosphere, combined with a pretty low-key warm up really kept me feeling calm about the classes.
He sure jumped into that first set of circles! And I thought, wait a minute!! Where was the super pokey quiet horse from warm up? But I was happy with the run and felt that we got out of the way what we needed. After the second set of circles we came to center and Milo prepared himself to change leads. Unfortunately for him, we were stopping at center, fortunately for me because it was an excellent opportunity to school him on waiting for lead changes. Although all of the spins in the day were lackluster, I felt the rest of the pattern went smoothly. We actually scored a 68 1/2 (pending 69 1/2 as they added the score wrong...) and a 71 1/2!! Can you believe it?? We actually scored not only a perfect 70, but gained plus halves as well! Combined score: 140 (pending 141). Heres the breakdown:
We were draw four for the next class, and I briefly went over the pattern in my head, but was reconfirmed of it by watching the other goes. I was really excited for this class for a couple reasons - it asked for lead changes and I really hoped we would get them but seeing as he had been so consistent at home I was hoping it would work out well, and we also had never ran this pattern before (pattern #5).
|We are #17 - you can see on the left that the score was added wrong, I am working with show management to correct my points for OPZ and PAC|
My hear was still pounding when I was done with the pattern - it was so much fun!! Milo clearly got some energy in this run and overall I was happy. We just started working on clean speed changes this last week, which I think helped some, but its definitely an area to improve on and help get some pluses in circles. He has been a real tricker on his turnarounds and clearly is on the outside leg...its so hard to correct at home when I cant see that hes doing that!! Our lead changes were spot on and he didnt rush out of them I was so happy with that. And our second stop wasnt half bad but I didnt smooch to him out of it so there were a few trot steps. Again, overall I was really happy and got some compliments as we headed out of the arena. I had no time to lose though as I was draw #2 for my last class, Open Reining. I quickly looked at the pattern again and walked Milo to keep him ready for the last class. I was unanimously 4th of 6 from both judges, but was happy with our scores of 68 1/2 and 67 1/2, combined for 136.
I knew Open Reining would be really difficult to place in because there was actually a good turnout of real reiners there, but I wanted to make the most of the reining classes offered, gain some points, and support reining wherever I could. I enjoyed watched the really nice runs too.
Things were going pretty well, I could tell in our large fast circles that Milo was losing steam and for the first time that day he changed front to back on our second lead change. Our first stop was horrible. For whatever reason I cued at completely the wrong time and flew backward in the saddle as a result of it and my weak back. But we recovered ok was we rolled back and made up for it in the second stop, until the rollback. I not only didnt smooch but worse, I sat on the left seatbone which made him pick up the right lead. By that point I was losing my balance I had maintained in my seatbones and when I asked for the lead change back, just could not get on the right one. Eventually he changed, but that greatly effected our score. Before that we were at 69 and 69, but after the two poor rollbacks it gave us final scores of 63 1/2 and 62. Interesting to see because it appears one judge gave us a penalty of -2 while the other penaltied a -5...anyways combined score of 125.5.
Overall, I was really really happy with the show. My horse worked well even after a nearly two hour trailer ride, a longer night locked in the stall, a trail ride the day before, and gloomy weather. Everything came together really smoothly even though I forgot a couple things and nearly forgot a few essential things. I managed to keep myself together for the majority of the time and honestly didnt have any nerves once I was in the saddle. I had the horse I knew I had and even though he wasnt as round or cadenced as he can be at home, he was responsive and wasn't pissy. Most of all, we finally got a couple clean runs with lead changes under our belt and we marked a personal milestone of not only that but finally breaking that 70 milestone - and exceeding it with +1 1/2 over. I couldnt have been happier with the show and my horse. Not to mention we earned a few PAC points along the way (which I have yet to actually break down and calculate). Thanks hugely to Boyfriend who hauled the pony and I up there on an early morning when he could have slept in, taking video and being supportive. All in all, super great day!!! :D