Friday was a day off of work, which was providence because I hadn’t gotten to ride Wednesday or Thursday. So, I made a point to practice a few things – a few goes over poles for trail, our left to right simple changes, and getting that sternum UP to the right. And she did all of them wonderfully. We rode for maybe an hour and fifteen minutes, but not much of that actual, hard work. Her left lead was on point, I got her sternum up at the right lead after a few circles (I have to admit the spurs did most of the work lol), but it’s more that it’s going to take a while for her to understand to replicate what she does to the left to what she does on the right. I put markers up for myself to help with the practice, and we practiced our western dressage pattern like 3 times. That’s actually what contributed to the ride being so freaking long – it takes FOREVER to ride a walk/jog pattern in a 125×187 arena lol.
But she felt ready to go. I didn’t think I needed an English prep day – our last English ride on Sunday felt great so I figured we’d be fine. But, Amber had her little tantrum again, thankfully not smashing the actual barn before we rolled on out to the show. We got there with enough time to warm up, and she was feeling good if a little tense. But her canter was so on point. Her left felt phenomenal, her right felt uphill and beautiful, and I could feel all our trot work really coming to the fore. I felt like the both of us were really getting this whole dressage thing, and I was so happy. There were a lot more people than usual, so a bit more atmosphere, but that doesn’t usually bother her.
We trotted in for our first class, and she got really tense before the gate because people weren’t clearing the way, but once we were in the ring she really started to settle in the trot. You can even see in the video how well her trot is coming – I think it’s been our best yet. Come the canter and she was just so great. I only focused on breathing because if I knew I said something she’d break gait and I had to tap her a few times with my inside leg to keep her going but it felt so soft and manageable and elastic and a culmination of the work we’ve done so far. I felt like we were doing awesome. Get to the walk and a trainer on the outside starts loudly clapping. Amber startled, but we regained it. And reversed. Aaaaaaand the class promptly went horrible. Here is video proof lol.
Right in front of the judge watching us lol. I finally talked to Amber, pet her, figured “well, there went the class” and she was nervous but once we trotted again felt like she was settling, getting it back. Aaaaaaand then it fell apart again. I was just mostly trying to keep it together at that point, and the last time around she really tried to be calmer, so I was telling her what a good girl she was. At the end after lining up I was just petting her and asking what was wrong since that’s so out of character for her. The judge was really nice and joked with me about Amber being silly, and we didn’t place but I had no expectation that we would. So I went to the warm up ring, got her relaxed and just walked a lot and she was okay.
Next class – jackpot – was worse.
We trotted in okay but she was super tense. Really looking and definitely stiff in her movements. Once we got away from the stands, she was okay, but unfortunately, the class was big, people and horses were in a bit of a crush and I don’t think she liked that at all. And at the canter she was near explosive. And then suddenly Amber full on bucked and kicked out. Probably the first real buck I have ever felt this horse do. A crow hop yes. But a buck? Never.
So I backed a bit, letting her know that was not okay, and then proceeded to canter again. She was still a little lit, but better after that. The right side was a bit better but still just ready to come out of her skin. I figured this class was also a bust so I did some schooling in the pen, trying to get her off of my hands since she felt like she was trying to pull my arms out of their sockets. She remembered, tried for a bit, broke gait but I cantered again for a second even after they called for a trot and to trot into the center. That was about the craziest ride I’ve ever had on her. We were both breathless by the time we were done.
And I’m not sure if the judge just didn’t see everything that happened, but we still got reserve (6th) out of 8 or so horses. Ones that didn’t have issues lol. So cue a lot more walking. She was wound like a spring when I’d take her to the short alley between warm up and main arena, and then was okay back in the warm up. It was just so strange for her. But when we went in the arena for our equitation pattern, she was just fine. Still pretty tense, but felt a lot more manageable. No crazies this time. And our pattern was good but not as crisp as the other horse, so we got second. At least no DQ and I didn’t fall off, right? lol.
So off her stuff went and she just looked a bit overwhelmed at the trailer. My mom and I went over what in the world happened because that was legit the weirdest thing. I worried that I missed something, that she was hurting and finally lashed out, but like I said, the beginning of that class was phenomenal. Discussing it more over the next few days though, and watching the video several times, I think it was just a lot of things. It was the clapping, the little kids roaming in the grandstands that she couldn’t see clearly, the extra people in the stands on the other side of the booth that startled her, the saddle seat horse, and that I personally think she felt too enclosed with all those horses.
In all the years I’ve had this horse, the only time she has ever done something similar to this was when she wasn’t mine yet, and another student had her for switch week. I am not too sure what the student did, but when I got her back Amber was scared as hell to canter. She would only crow hop. Poor thing was petrified. The only thing I can think of is that something in those classes was making her scared, petrified, frustrated, and then angry enough to lash out when she felt trapped. I mean, this horse just doesn’t do anything like that. I’ve felt when she’s a bit stubborn, or when she wants to say no, and this was not it. She was plain scared.
Even for dressage she was a little tense, but there were less people crowding around the fence, no saddle seat horse and we were on the other end of the arena. And she was fine except for a bit looky. It felt like our very best dressage test yet. And it even looks almost as good as it felt. And I memorized it like twenty minutes before I had to do it, and didn’t have a caller this time! Progress lol. We were the only ones in the class, so our only 1st of the day, but hey, I really didn’t care about that. I felt that was a progressive test, so points in my mind.
I very much agreed with a few of her sentiments – especially my left circles. Usually that’s my good side, and both days my left circles were so bad lol. It was like I couldn’t figure out the 20 meters at all lol. But those circles are Amber’s bad side anyway, and I was just pleased to see her trying to move into the contact on that left circle despite it’s weird shape. The judge forgot to do the collectives, so I have a weird test, but like I said, it felt better, so I’m not concerned about the score.
So while it sounds horrible, and looks bad, I was surprisingly not upset about Saturday. It helped that none of those classes counted towards our buckle we were working for, but even still I wasn’t even frustrated. Just really puzzled and determined to figure out what had happened to my poor girl. Which is a huge progressive step for me. Years ago, I would have been pissed at the horse or myself or both and just frustrated and upset, but this time I was just worried about her. And it was a really weird day for everyone. One person got bucked off, one kid’s horse ran off in response to that, my horse was wired, others were wired, too…. It was just an interesting day lol.
We got home and she promptly napped lol. And got a ton of treats. Poor girl deserved it. I fixed up the trailer with my western stuff, took out her braids and re-braided for western (so glad that I’m only going to have to braid ONCE now). She got lots of food, and I got an Epsom salt bath lol. Lots shenanigans for the day, right?
Next up: western day! Everything that actually counts towards the buckle!