On the whole, I was really, really happy with how we both did.
I got to the barn Saturday night and rode. Remembering my day-before ride from Groton House, I really pushed us both to get to a place I wanted – supple and forward. I may have pushed a bit too much, as it was hot and humid and he took a long time to get his respiration back under control. Then I hosed him off for a long time, killing many awful greenhead bugs, and spot-scrubbed with shampoo. I packed up the truck and went out for a sub for dinner and spent a lovely evening snug in the back seat of my truck, reading and relaxing.
I woke up bright and early the next morning to see everyone else head out for a XC school, then had a leisurely breakfast and finished packing the trailer, hitching it up, and getting ready. Tris was cranky and nervous when I arrived at his stall so close on the heels of breakfast, especially with all the other activity – he knew something was going on, and he didn’t want his Sunday routine ruined. He paced his stall, and whickered, and wouldn’t stand still for me to groom him.
We ended up leaving quite a bit earlier than planned, and made good time getting there. I settled in by checking with the secretary and laying out all of my clothes and his tack, and then ran into another friend who used to board with us, who was there coaching one of her students. I watched her and her student and explained some things about the show to the student’s parents, and then it was time for me to get ready.
One thing I would change was that I got ready way too early, especially with the temperatures as high as they were – mid-90s all day, with minimal shade. I was doing mostly okay, but Tris’s energy was not great, and there was only so much warmup I could do I got him where I wanted him, but we were way too early, so we went over and stood beneath a tree and rested for about 10 minutes, then did a few canter circles to get revved up again.
First test was…eh. We hadn’t settled back in like I hoped, and I completely and utterly blew the left canter. Botched the lead twice, and as a consequence blew the whole geometry of the figure. He just didn’t have enough oomph for the transition, which is in a tough place in the ring for us anyway. We did much better with the right lead, and I was really pleased with a couple of points, namely our stretchy trot, which has come a long way.
We walked back to the trailer and pulled off his bridle and shucked my show coat. He drank nearly an entire 5-gallon bucket of water, which for him is HUGE. He’s not much of a drinker off-property. That told me a bit about how hot he really was, and for the rest of the day I offered him water every time he stood still. We rested for a bit and chatted to the people in the trailer next to us, who were very nice and knew of T. and Flatlands. Tristan fell asleep – actually asleep, closed his eyes, cocked a hind leg, and jumped when I went over to put the bridle back on.
I waited longer to tack him up for our second test, and after a little bit of trotting and making sure our bending was still accessible I stood up off his back and urged him into a bit of a hand gallop. Beland has these big gorgeous fields to warm up in, and it was late in the day, so there was plenty of space. I did get some stares, but opening him up did exactly what I wanted it to, even made him a little hot. We stood still for a few minutes, then opened up to trot around again when the person before was finishing her test.
This test went much, much better. I had more energy, more accuracy, and felt better overall. We nailed both canters. The stretchy trot wasn’t quite as good, but the free walk felt great. I was pleased with several of my transitions, and with my ringcraft – knowing when and where I could look less than perfect but be more effective in getting him back together. The judge smiled and asked what breed he was after our test, and he was tiiiiiiiired walking out of the ring, happy to stop and stand still when I dismounted and chatted to a woman after the test who was really, really excited to meet a mustang. I gave her some advice about picking one, and gave her the name of Tristan’s rescue to go check out for some more gentled ones.
Tris wanted very badly to eat grass, but I wouldn’t let him, not as close to hard work as he was. He drank another half bucket and got sponged off, then a bit of a walk around the parking lot area to make extra sure he was cooling out appropriately. He went back on the trailer with a relative minimum of fuss. I’ve tried a slightly different technique to load him by myself: standing on his right side and half-walking on the trailer with him, then sending him up the rest of the way and doing the butt bar with my left hand, standing on the right side of the divider. That seemed to work rather well.
Then there was a whole lot of hanging around, reading a book, eating a few handfuls of animal crackers (no food vendor meant I hadn’t eaten since a bagel for breakfast!) while he ate hay. It took forever for our class to finish and to get pinned, and then we headed home. 5th in Training 1, 7th in Training 2, but I was especially pleased to see a 61% and change for the first class, and a 66% and change for the second! Exactly what I was hoping for.
The drive home was tedious, because everyone and their cousin was driving home from the Cape and 495 was bumper to bumper. Rather than overheat Tristan by standing in that, plus getting home even later, I took semi-back roads and got a little more stressed by constant red lights than I wanted. Then settling him in, unpacking, cleaning out the trailer, parking the trailer (about which more later), driving the truck back to my parents’, throwing in a load of laundry and taking an incredibly long shower, ordering half the menu at McDonald’s, and getting stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic…didn’t get back to my apartment and in bed until 10:45. Whew.