Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Through every open door
Dressage at Lexington was nothing short of fantastic. Achieved everything that needed to be achieved, plus more. I'm still honestly floored about the entire thing.
I didn't expect to take this trip this year. In fact, I was prepared to just stick to Kentucky and a few Ohio shows. But, a few months ago JK challenged us to throw our big girl pants on and come to Dressage at Lexington in July, a first major East Coast showing for the pony. Feeling, game I entered us not really knowing what to expect.
What I didn't know was that this was a number of major qualifiers for the bigger championships. Several large barns show here, several large riders do as well, several of which are high performance riders from other disciplines. Even the AA base is ultra strong at this show.
We left last Wednesday around 8am before the heat and the Breyerfest crowds hit Lexington, and arrived safely around 3ish in the afternoon after white knuckling it through West Virginia. The Virginia Horse Center is a beautiful, sprawling facility with hills. The view is breathtaking.
We landed not in a quiet park, but in the middle of hunter pony princess hell. For the first time we were easily the biggest in the group and definitely the oddest. We were surrounded by jumps and kids at every turn.
After I got her settled, I went to check in and school around the arenas, what was left of the hunter pony crowd gathered to watch us go through the paces. Some hooting and hollering went down after we went through a few lines of changes and lateral work.
Thursday rolls around and the weather is nothing short of a perfect 80 degrees and partially cloudy. I get up feed, walk and lunge her out. JK and crew arrives, unpacks and we proceed to start to school horses. Sinari still feels great, no hitch, but a little behind the leg. We school transitions up and down, in and out to get the brain firing. I get to meet the other clients, who instantly make us feel at home. By the end of the day we're set and ready to roll.
Friday was another early start, a quick breakfast and trying to find the nearest coffee source, all of us were at the barn sorting horses and getting everyone ready for the early classes and preparing for the mad dash of the afternoon. I get up, warm up, and go and ride at the hill. Unlike Kentucky, there are huge amounts of space for warmup, I virtually have my own arena. Which is great because it settles her down and clicks her in. She puts in a solid round and consistent test to earn into mid 63 percent with great comments, and second place against confirmed horses.
Friday night I catch up with people and watch good horses previewed for the Saturday auction. Keenland this is not.
Saturday comes through with more perfect weather. Sinari warms up, this time with a small fan club forming on the rails. Small girls, and a few of the clients came out to cheer. I'm frankly not used to this, but the pony transitions into diva and channels her inner Aretha. She knocks out the test with consistent 65 percent, ending second to a really nice pair by 1 percentage point. Proving she belongs here and is capable I just have to ride the test clean, she does the rest. Due to the management using the same judge, we have to still compete Sunday to finish out the USDF Bronze. But the highlight is ending up Reserve Champion for the Sporting Horse Amateur Challenge (Individual).
Saturday night rolls around and it's found out that it's my birthday on Sunday, Justin drives five plus hours to spend the night with me. I feel seriously lucky and on top of the world. I've had the best meal I've had all week.
Sunday breaks, and the pony and I are running low on batteries. I get lost on my way back to eat breakfast with my parents. My cell phone doesn't stop going off with text, phone calls and messaging since 2am, so I'm on little sleep. We stick to the normal routine, but threw in an extra walk to keep loose. I drive around on the Bobcat to kill time and start packing up. My support crew is leaving after their last tests, my parents, who also spent the weekend left early that morning to travel home. Only Justin and JK's horses remain. For the first time, I feel the pressure of completing out the weekend well.
We warm up in the covered arena, and everything is going according to plan. She's firing all cylinders despite being tired. She's doing everything as cleanly and I'm not riding like an idiot. Then they clear the arena to drag it, and we get chucked outside. We're interrupted, then delayed then allowed to go in early. The pony wilts mildly, she sucks behind and fades in the mediums. Her normally great lateral work felt weak. I ride it as cleanly as I can, and we go and cool out. I'm proud of what she's done and we've finally got our stuff together to ride tests.
Ten minutes later I'm screaming up and down the barn and running to find, score texting came through. 61 percent. We've done it, we've achieved the bronze. Two seasons, countless hours later. I don't care we ended up fifth in the class. I don't care that we have a six hour journey back. We came to accomplish this, and we did it.
We're now back in Kentucky, plotting a bit of 2012, but looking to perhaps make it a double threat with Silver in the wings. Next on the schedule is a stop in Tennessee and then a show in September at KHP.