This past weekend I took Remy to the recognized show up at Sorensen Equestrian Park in East Troy, Wi. I had never been there before and wanted to check it out, so I figured it was a perfect opportunity to see a new show venue and get Remy some ring miles. The facility is very nice. It was much quieter than some of the other places I’ve been, which I appreciated. The footing was good, the riders were friendly, the show manager (Reid Sorensen) was helpful and easy to talk to, and I LOVED that the warm up ring was right next to the show rings. After 40 minutes in the warm up ring, Remy had seen all there was to see about the adjacent show ring, which made it really easy to enter at A and get right to business.
In the warm up, Remy took a good look around and felt a little tense, but he didn’t put a foot wrong. We walked around and stretched, trotted until I was content that I could bend both ways and get my transitions, then relaxed until our test. I knew the footing was deeper than at home and I wanted to make sure I had gas in the tank for the second test.
As we entered the ring for our first test, Training Level Test 2, Remy felt obedient but tight. He felt a little behind my leg and I couldn’t quite get him to really stride out. I figured it was his nerves or mine and left it be, trying to ride an accurate test. That strategy mostly worked, except when it came time to canter. To his credit, he did pick up the canter, and even the correct lead, and he kept me on his back. Unfortunately, we received the too accurate comment “bucking and playing”. He came right back to me and we recovered in time to canter a nice circle and get an easy transition back to trot. I wasn’t super thrilled with the stretchy trot circle but it wasn’t awful, and we had some decent moments in the free walk. Then we had a complete repeat the other direction, complete with a buck into the canter, and again a quick easy recovery… he wasn’t trying to run off with me, but the transition was SO unusual for him I didn’t know what to make of it.
The second test we rode was Training Level Test 1, which should have been easy and I was prepared to really go for it, despite the quickly rising temperature. I was hoping he would feel more relaxed in the second test and we would get our bigger, swingier gaits, but he actually felt about the same. We entered at A, confident and ready to do this.
We had some nice trot work, and I think I got the stride a little longer than in the first test, but I was working really hard for it (active spurs!) which is so unusual for him.
Then we had a repeat of the slightly-too-bouncy canter transition which easily settled into a decent left lead canter.
The canter was followed by a relaxed walk I was pleased with.
Then some more decent trot, though he still felt a little tight or balled up under me and behind my leg.
And then the final canter transition was as bouncy as the previous 3 had been… and just as before, it quickly settled into a perfectly acceptable though still a little lacking canter.
We left the ring hot and tired, but having successfully completed the first show of the year. I was proud of Remy, though puzzled by his strange behavior in the ring. He is not usually the sort to get so behind my leg, and I was working WAY too hard for the lack of gaits we were getting. And he has NEVER bucked even a little picking up the canter. I didn’t get the feeling he was bucking out of naughtiness, nor was he trying to get me off his back (or I have no doubt he would have lol!), and he didn’t feel particularly fresh. It was odd.
We got our tests back, and it was as I had thought. We had mostly good scores with a few really low ones mixed in (er, all 4 canter transitions), and the comments mostly suggested that he was tight/tense and not really moving forward. I was pleased to have received three 8’s and a 7 for the centerlines/halts, and a 7 both times for the “Rider Position and Seat” score (I’ve been working REALLY hard on that one!!). The rest of the scores were mostly either 6 or 6.5 with a few 7’s randomly sprinkled in, so we ended up with 61.429% and 62.292%.
Over all I wasn’t thrilled but I also wasn’t disappointed. Remy really had been fantastic. It was his first show this year, and a new place for us. He hadn’t spooked at anything, he had trailered like a pro, and had really done well in the ring. I had been hoping to pull out his fancier trot, but I was also confident that with a few more shows the tension would disappear, and being his first show of the year, I’m sure I was contributing to the tension. As I get more confident taking him places, I’m sure we will both do better.
It wasn’t until we got home that I realized just how well he had really done. He had given me all that he had, and it wasn’t tension causing the balled up behind the leg feeling. His back was REALLY sore. I felt horrible. I don’t know when it happened, maybe tension in the first warm up caused it, or maybe the trailer ride, or maybe the saddle (I had tried a new memory foam saddle pad the day before). In any case, I had my explanation for the bouncy canter transitions and I gave him extra cookies for giving me such nice work despite his sore back. I left the barn feeling even more confident and pleased with what we were able to do given the circumstances.
He got the next 2 days off and was totally fine, and I’ve since been re-evaluating saddle fit… I have a bad feeling about this one.