Ups and downs in front of the judge

After attending several shows at the beautiful Sunflower Farms in Bristol, WI as a spectator, I was really excited about showing there last weekend.   We were fortunate to have a gorgeous day, and there were some bright spots for Derbs and me.

However, there were a bunch of challenges too, which started right off the bat when my sloppy horsemanship resulted in Derby taking a high-speed, unaccompanied tour of Silver Fern before I could even get his braids in.  I had left his door ajar when I went in to curry him as he ate his hay.  The other horses were being turned out, and Derby decided that he’d rather be outside with his pals thaninside eating hay.  He was all wound up, and proved to be the very devil to catch. I finally got him back inside, and braided, but he was still fizzing with energy, so I put him on the longe before loading up.   I was so unhappy.  This was not our routine!

Thankfully, Derby loaded easily, and the trip to Sunflower was uneventful.  He settled right in and resumed his breakfast, and was as cool as a cucumber.  Things were looking up.

Cool in front of the judge …for the moment.

Because I had the first ride of the day for our team, I didn’t have time to linger.  I tacked Derbs up, and we went for a walk around the grounds, giving him a look at the rings and in gate before strolling over to the warm up.   Derby was extremely composed and was being a very good boy.
The warm up went pretty well, but we kept it short, because our second test was soon after the first.  Fairly satisfied, we walked over to the in gate for our first test, Intro A.

Our 8 halt.

Derbs went straight in and went around the outside of the ring, greeting the judge with no problem.   Entering the ring, I could feel a little tension but he wasn’t bad at all.  In fact, I had to give him a bit of a crack with the whip as we started the first circle because he was a bit behind my leg.
However, he was leaning on my inside leg a lot, and I struggled to get him to move out throughout the test.

All in all, I wasn’t terribly happy with my ride, because (as is so often the case) we’re doing much better work at home.  But there were a couple bright spots.  We got a 7 on one sticky transition from trot to medium walk that has been a problem for us all season. That 7 represents a huge improvement.  I also got my highest rider score, with a 6.5, up from the 6’s I’ve been getting this year.  But the real surprise was the score for our last centerline and halt.  We got an 8!  My first 8! Yes, I was pretty thrilled by that.  We wound up with a 64.5%, which is our best score of the year.

We went back to the barn to chill for about 30 minutes, before heading back to the warm up.  This time, Derbs felt awesome.  We had some very nice work, and between that fact and his steady performance in the first test, I was feeling really confident about the second test.  I was looking forward to getting into the ring and really riding for a score.

Derbs, it turns out, had other plans.  He melted down on me, spooking at everything he saw, whirling and scampering around willy-nilly.  I got him past the judge’s stand, with the help of some enthusiastic coaching from judge Caryn Vesperman.  We went back and forth in front of the stand, and I thought things were under control as we headed for A.   He started the shenanigans again, and after hemming and hawing for a second I withdrew.  There were a lot of people and some other horses in close proximity, and I elected to stay safe rather than upset and possibly injure others.

Back in the warm up, after the melt down.

I dismounted, and stomped off to the warm up ring like a petulant 8 year old to go back to work.  I mounted up, and put him to work. And once again, he was great.

I won’t kind you, I was (and frankly remain) very annoyed with Derby and disappointed with myself.  I wish I could have ridden him through that naughtiness, because he wasn’t legitimately scared. He was evading.

Back in the barn, Derbs was pooped.  I untacked groomed him, and left him in peace with a pile of hay.  But no cookies.  He didn’t earn extra cookies this time around.  The extra cookie bag remains in my tack trunk.  I’m saving them for the show when Derby is a good boy from start to finish.  And then, there will be cookies.  An obscene amount of cookies!