Monday, May 19, 2014

71, 70, 70, 71

I sat stride Milo waiting in the small chute for my draw on pattern. It had been nearly two years since I was in this situation, and my heart was pounding as I watched the other rider complete her pattern. Was it two spins to the right, or two to the left? I quickly ran through the pattern in my head:

Enter at the walk, stop facing judge. Lope off on left lead, first two circles large and fast, third circle small and slow. Complete two spins to the left.  Stop in center. I waved my finger in the air mimicking on small scale the written pattern.Lope off on right lead, first two circles large and fast, third circle small and slow. Stop in center. Complete two spins to the right, hesitate. Lope off on the left and complete a circle, changing leads in center. Continue on right lead another circle, changing leads in center. From that point on, I knew I had it nailed. The pattern would set me up for rundowns on the proper side, I just needed to remember to rollback into the fence and to stay 20 feet from the rail.

All too soon the gate steward swung open the green farm gate, and there I entered the pen, seeing the judge again after a few years. This judge I had taken a clinic with two years prior and remembered clearly his lack of enthusiasm for my horse. I tried to push that aside as I curtly nodded and began my lope to the left. We loped off nicely, Milo was between my reins well and I looked to the inside of my circles, constantly finding center upon my approach. Woah I breathed as we stopped in center. I made a mental note that the stop wasnt quality for the rundown, but that would have to wait. I began my spins to the left. Milo barely started to get his groove before the end of the second spin, cutting off his momentum as I halted him squarely. We loped off on the right lead, my circles felt wonderful as I watched our footfalls land directly in the curvature of the previous circles. I breathed back into the saddle and stopped squarely facing the judge. I set Milo up for two more spins to the right, again feeling as if just as soon as Milo got his foot placement right we were finished.

I breathed, finding my own center. We loped off to the left, and as we rounded halfway around the circle, I held my outside leg present to his hip, a reminder to keep it in place until I asked for a change. We came to center and Milo dove into the new lead. I put my now inside leg up to his shoulder to help guide him back to the circle, knowing there wasnt much I could school on now. Halfway around the new circle I picked up my rein, asking Milo to collect and come back to me to get ready for a new change. He easily changed at center once more. As we peaked the head of the rundown, I remembered Julie's advise to ride him fully around the corner, and slowly build some speed from there, but to make sure he was collected as we came around the corner. He felt good, and I started to count his stride as Julie suggested, trying to find the best moment to ask for the stop. One, Two, Three, One, Two, Three, One, Two, Three. I tried to sit deep on "three", forgetting to say the magic "W" word. Milo bounced a little. Was that two hops or one? Was that a timing issue or collection? I moved my hand forward slightly and urged him into the right lead rollback.

Milo loped out of the rollback nicely, square in his tracks and fairly freely into the lope. We reached the head of the rundown again, and once more I asked him to come back to me a bit. I didnt feel much, but I focused instead on the timing again. One, Two, Three, One, Two, Three...Woah. I barely breathed aloud, happy for the better hock engagement I received this time. I reached forward once more and smooched for the lope off. The final rundown was approaching - I needed to make this one count. In my head I counted my rhythm and stride again, but once more got a small bounce at the end. Picking up my hand I asked Milo for a back up, bumping him into it with my legs and looking to the marker cones for the right place to stop. We halted, and I glanced back at the judge, who didnt so much as nod or move. Well, I had indicated my completion, so I turned Milo back to leave the exit gate.

I heard the announcer state mine and my horse's name as I dismounted for the bit check. "A score of 71".

"A 71?" I couldnt believe it! I wrapped my arms around my painted horse's neck, slapping his off side with my hand in joy. "That's the best score we have ever gotten!" I exclaimed to the bored looking bit check girl, filling in for club volunteer hours. She approved my DM Lifter Bit, and out of breath, I led Milo back to the warm up pen. Clapping his neck a few more times from pride, then meeting up with my friends who had hauled to the big show with me.

My excitement was bubbling over, but I realized as I looked at the draw for the next class, Milo and I were second in. With only one run ahead of me, I quickly remounted and waited at the in-gate. I read over my new pattern, once more drawing figures in the air with my finger, trying to remember my new pattern. The butterflies ever present.


This was the first show for the NorthWest Reining Association, held in Lynden WA. I learned about the club three years ago and was eager to attend some of their shows which offered friendly, beginner, and modified classes, as well as full patterns for practice in those as well.  My problem was always the travel to get there, with Lynden being three hours from home and travel along I-5, a scary idea for me. But this year I had made friends with a few other local gals also interested in reining and was able to "horse-pool" with them to the show.

What an experience this show was. I had a real blast, and not just because I got the highest scores we have received to date, placing first, first, second, and first in our classes (with my smallest class being out of 12 people), but the camaraderie and support I received from my own small group as well as from complete strangers made the weekend a truly memorable one, and one I hope to repeat at their June show!

I had a wonderful time watching other riders in the Open classes, Rookie, and Non-Pro. Learning some valuable tips along the way as well, such as helping Milo to not dive into the new lead by continuing to look around the circle we just completed and only changing my glace to the new circle at the very moment I want the change. This helps to keep my subtle body language from not encouraging Milo to anticipate the lead change. I also had some great coaching on the spot from a "local" trainer, a friend of the folks I traveled with, who helped me reach my horse's timing better for the stop, set him up nicer for the rundown, and sit more squarely in the saddle for our spins, also encouraging me to bump my leg rather then hold steady pressure.

What an amazing weekend! I'm so happy we came back into the show pen strong and feeling good for the start of the season!

Fellow car-pooler and I. Check out my new outfit! :) And yes, she borrowed my other chinks.