Sunday, April 24, 2011

Restarting the 2011 Season with a Bang!

This weekend, Piper and I competed in our first competition of 2011, reviving the paused 2011 season. And oh my, what a show it was!

Despite what the calendar said, Mother Nature decided to throw horrible weather across New England. Travelling from New Hampshire to Connecticut the day before the show felt like time travel. We left the land of lingering snowbanks to find forsythias in full bloom! Spring had sprung in the southern part of the region. It was glorious. That was on Good Friday.

Saturday, show day, bitterly cold rain was constant except when replaced by stinging sleet. Now anyone who knows Piper knows he can be quite the woose at times as well as a bit of a drama queen. And sure enough, the cold rain and freezing sleet on his face and body was simply more than the poor boy was able to cope with. But I insisted we push on and ride the new First Level Tests 2 (a very nicely designed test IMHO) and 3, returning to the stall between tests for blanketing and drying off.

Out of 118 rides scheduled for the day, 35 were listed as scratches / no shows! That's 30%. The highest I can remember ever seeing at a dressage competition. Yes, it really was brutal weather conditions....

With half of our 1st Level Freestyle qualification for 2011 already in the bag, the plan was to complete qualification at this show. Ha! After the lunch break, the wind and sleet was worse than it was in the morning for our first two tests. During our warmup, Piper got a crash course on how to canter through puddles. He was not happy about it at all. But since we were there, we were going to carry on, no matter what!

And what a disaster! Timid horses don't suddenly get braver when pushed harder. Instead, they tend to retreat. They withdraw. They can become worried and more timid. And sure enough, instead of sucking it up and getting on with the job, PIper was simply overwhelmed for our third and final ride of the day.

Piper was tense and stiff. A 2x4 would have been more pliable. Canter work in the freestyle was non-existent. Simple changes went missing along the canter. My carefully thought out choreography went out the window. And in the end, the ride turned into a schooling session of sorts, trying to get Piper to do a little bit more than he wanted to do, trotting through puddles and striding over the small streams purposely put in place by the ring crew to help drain the arena. It was not fun.

( I have to smile..... Jeddien would have loved it, stomping through the puddles for fun. But not Piper. Two radically different creatures. )

I respectfully withdrew. Huge kudos to the judge who was incredibly understanding about the situation, offering kind words and positive feedback about what she did observe. Still, as you might imagine, it was a bit embarassing. But it was also a learning opportunity......

. . . Next time it rains, guess which horse will be worked OUTDOORS instead of indoors!?

Yes, we have restarted the 2011 Season with a Bang. Or was that just a Loud Thud?