So the long awaited results are in. After almost an entire year of hard work at boot camp, Liam and I went to our first show of the season, and our first ever recognized dressage show. We were to ride Training test 1 and 4 on the Saturday, then 2 and 4 on Sunday. Both the test 4’s were qualifying classes for regionals, and we showed the Open division.
We arrived at the show grounds on Friday and unloaded all our stuff and set up our home base for the weekend. Six horses from our barn came, and we were all stabled together. I was a little nervous about how Liam would handle the show ground atmosphere since our show last year was at this same show grounds and he had a total mental meltdown. I guess a lot has changed in a year, and Liam was all confidence and poise. He munched contentedly on hay in his stall while we set up our tack stall, then he stood quietly while I groomed and tacked him up. The whole group of us first went for a “trail ride” around the show grounds since all but one of our six horses were green to showing. While I held the reins on the buckle, Liam walked smartly around like he knew exactly what was going on. We toured each of the warm up and show rings, walked past judge’s boothes, flower boxes, tents, and misbehaving horses… and Liam took it all in without a second thought. This helped me relax immensely. At home, the training level tests were easy for us. As long as Liam conducted himself in this same quiet, confident manner, we would do just fine. Unfortunately, it was looking like the weather would not be on our side this weekend.
We returned to our stalls and untacked so the horses could take a break before we each had our individual lessons. When it was our turn, I got Liam tacked back up again and mounted up, this time headed out toward the warm up ring alone. He didn’t let me down. He was fantastic as I moved him around, and we didn’t push him. After an easy ride, I took him back to his stall and let him settle down with some dinner. We had a busy weekend ahead, and both needed some rest.
Saturday morning came too quickly. My ride was at 10:42, so I had to be to the show grounds by 6:30, which meant leaving my house by 5:45, which meant a very early morning for me. But I made it somehow, got the horses fed and watered, got stalls picked, and got his hair braided. By 10 we were ready to go and I found myself again climbing onto his back and heading towards the warm up ring. Again he maintained his composure and the warm up was easy. Before I knew it, it was time to show!
The test rode smoothly. I wanted him to stay relaxed, so I didn’t want to pick at him and demand too much. He could have been a little rounder and a little more forward. But he stretched on the stretchy walk and didn’t jig. And we got all the canter transitions… AND all the transitions back to trot… where we were supposed to! The canter circles could have been more perfect with a little more bend, but the canter was even and balanced and not like a runaway freight train. As the test progressed and Liam followed each one of my cues perfectly without any resistance, a smile grew across my face. As we neared the end of the test, we approached the corner to pick up the right lead canter, and I half halted, but he didn’t lighten like he was supposed to. The balance wasn’t just right, the bend wasn’t just right, the moment wasn’t just right… and we were in the corner already. In the moment I second guessed myself trying to figure out how to fix us and get the transition all at once, Liam stepped up to the plate. It was as if he read my mind, and when I froze, he gathered himself up and stepped lightly into the right lead canter. It was that perfect moment that meant more than the rest of the test. He wasn’t working for me, he was working with me, and he wanted to do this as much as I did. I grinned as we cantered our circle, made an easy trot transition, and trotted up the centerline to the halt. On Test 1 we earned a whopping 68%!! We were off to a great start.
Our second test was later in the afternoon. As we began warming up, the skies grew darker and darker until a storm was inevitable.
As the rain began to fall, Liam flicked an ear back to me as if to say, “Are we going to keep going?” and all I had to do was keep riding to put the question out of his mind. He was with me 100% again.
The warm up went smoothly, and then despite the sudden downpour right as we entered the ring, Test 4 rode smoothly. We ended up with a 66%, only 2% shy of a qualifying score.
Sunday started and ended earlier. Our first test was at 8:30, and we were done by lunch time. He was a little more “up” in the first warmup, and Test 4 was first. It felt more disorganized than the previous day, but we ended up with a 66% again. Then in the second warm up I felt like I was running out of pony. We tried to save energy but cutting the warm up short and walking until the test began, but we were already running on a low battery I think. The test wasn’t bad, but we had a few mistakes we shouldn’t have made, like the canter-trot transition that was supposed to be at C (right in front of the judge) came in the corner before instead because he just got tired of cantering and broke to trot. It was a good transition… but… We finished with a 63% on that one.
Overall, Liam was fantastic. We had a ton of fun, and lots of friends came out to hang out and cheer us on. Hopefully many more like this to come!