Monday, July 24, 2017

What is appropriate dressage judging?

Dear Judge, Do you like me?
I am sure all of us who show horses in a judged sport (hunters, dressage, dressage portion of eventing, etc) have complained about a judge a time or two. Two people will never agree completely, so it's normal to have moments where you disagree with how a judge scores something. The seeming subjective judgment of a stranger can quickly seem like an attack. Rising to the bait of such an implied attack is much too easy.

Thankfully, USDF dressage judging is held to a fairly objective standard. Once you know the standard against which you are being held, judges marks should make more sense. Comments are used to show where in you are lacking when compared against the objective standard and process of judging. Typically the comments focus on what the judge perceives as the biggest thing holding you back, and are fairly subjective in that way.

This brings us to the judging done at Loch Moy II in June. As I remarked in my post recapping my 4-1 ride, the scoring was inconsistent at best. The comments were often completely off base. Not only that, some comments were downright rude and inappropriate.
Entering the gauntlet can be mess with your mind, but if you know what you're up against it's easier to keep your cool.
Word about poor (or tough, which is very different!) judging spreads around a dressage show like wildfire. The scores were strange, some very low and inconsistent. By mid-morning of the show, there was a loud murmuring of dissent throughout the grounds and the show office was starting to run low on judge review forms. At this time, the judge was running a Materiale class. 

Materiale is a section of classes where young horses are judged on their potential to move up the levels and be competitive dressage horses. Similar to the YEH classes, they are really aimed at horses with upper level potential. The classes are run more like a hunter style flat class, with competitors riding as a group and instructions called out to the riders during the class. This particular Materiale class had only one competitor. It was a 5 year old horse, which meant the judge would need to see the walk, trot and canter in both directions. In addition she could ask for a trot and canter lengthening to be shown.

The class dragged on for what seemed like an incredible amount of time. Jan was in the warmup ring during this test, so I know the judge put the horse through it's paces for at least 10 minutes. When you consider my 4-1 test clocks in at around 6 minutes in the ring, a 10 minute evaluation of a 5 year old horse is serious overkill. Especially in the heat of the day.

At the end of the ride, the judge took the microphone to give the results and explain her commentary. She praised the quality of the young horse. Then she said something uncalled for, "The riding on this horse is so poor it detracts majorly from the quality of the horse."
"Hahaha. This judge is a bitch." -- Lyra, probably
I'm sure you could argue that this comment is in line with Materiale scoring, but no one on the grounds thought so. (According to the score sheet, "acceptance of the aids" is only a part of the 10% of the score anyway) Everyone stood around mouth agape at her audacity. At another point during the day, she rang an error for a rider doing an extended trot, telling her she hadn't done the movement and "would you like to repeat"?

This sort of commentary is unacceptable from a dressage judge. It is expected that your faults, shortcomings, and mistakes as a rider will be penalized appropriately in the scoring and comments, but not be called out in any other public manner. Riding a test is hard enough knowing you will be judged, but a rider should never have to worry the judge may drag their riding through the mud in front of everyone watching.

When it came to analyzing my own scoring, I began to doubt the judge knew how to evaluate a test properly. You can look over my write up yesterday to see where I had problems with her individual scores. Still, the scoring didn't really cross a line I felt was inappropriate until the judge got to the collectives at the end of the test.
Judge's name maybe not redacted on purpose. #warning
Under the comments for Submission (score: 4.0) she wrote, "Lacks collection altogether."

Wait. What?
Definitely not collected. Nope. Not in the slightest.... *eyeroll*
I won't argue that our collection game wasn't at its finest in this test. I've remarked already how Pig lacked a good half halt for most of the test. He was behind the hand and occasionally a bit behind the leg. None of those things make for stellar collection. However, he was not completely lacking!
Definitely not showing some collection. Nope. Nuh uh. No way.
The point of this post is not to try to justify or complain about my low score. I don't think I deserved much more than what I got on this test. Instead, I want to point out that dressage judging should be held to a the objective standard laid out, to maintain the integrity of the sport and confidence of the riders. I will take a 4 all day long for insufficient collection (which this was), but I do not think it's appropriate to indicate that nothing at all was shown as that is not accurate.

I'm not the only one to get such a comment, either.
"Show some ability to engage for collection"
Jan's second level test had a similar remark. Her test was the highest scoring second level test of the day, and yet the judge seemed to think she also lacked collection. I am sure our two tests were not the only ones with remarks like this.

Judging is a tough job. Training the human eye to see gaits quality with consistency across a multitude of horse shapes and sizes is nearly impossible. Still, most USEF judges nail it pretty accurately. One may be better at one aspect of judging than another, but typically they are fairly consistent when it comes to evaluating the overall picture.
Not an easy pair to judge.
Not only was this judge completely off base with other judges when it came to evaluating overall pictures of most pairs, she was quite inappropriate and unprofessional in her commentary. The comments on my collectives and overall scores on my test lead me to doubt her ability to evaluate for the levels. Additionally, her calling out of riders mistakes in a public fashion is unforgivable, in my opinion.

I'll be on the lookout for this judge at other shows. I rarely actively refuse to show in front of certain judges, but I think I'll be making an exception here. With all the complaint forms submitted to USDF from this show, I'm interested in seeing if her scoring and commenting changes at all. Hopefully it does, for the better.

Have you ever had a judge make inappropriate comments on your test? Do you find that having objective guidelines helps you have confidence when entering the ring? Discuss! 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Loch Moy II Recap: The What Was She Smoking Edition

That wild eye of his cracks me up every time.
Day two of Loch Moy promised to be even hotter than the day before. Luckily (luckily?) our ride was even earlier!

In what is becoming a clear pattern, Pig showed up for day two of a show in a rather cranky mood. He had ideas for how his day was gonna go, and riding 4-1 in front of a judge was definitely not on his agenda.
Sorry, bro. Sometimes you just gotta do the job.
Unlike the day before, I was definitely thinking. Maybe overthinking. A thinking Austen tends to have goals and frustrations to deal with, and she's a lot less tolerant of a horse with a wishy-washy back end. Pig does not negotiate with intolerant riders.

I ended up getting after Pig in the warm-up for his lack of a half halt, which may have been a dumb choice. He shut down a bit behind, throwing his haunches against my leg and blowing through my aids from my seat.
No! I said put your butt to the right!
When I would finally get his butt straight and engaged, he'd try to escape with his shoulder. Shutting the door on his shoulder is always quite difficult. I can often get control at the walk and trot, only to lose it at the canter. To try to get it back, we practiced some working pirouettes and haunches in on a 20m circle.
Remember, Austen. The horse is supposed to pirouette. You are not supposed to do it without him. Sigh.
I did manage to get a straighter horse from all of the work, but definitely also revved up the responsive engine of hot horse. We had power, but not a lot of steering.
Va-VOOM goes the Ferrari
When Pig is hot like this, he can often be quite behind the contact. That was absolutely the case for much of Sunday's work. My half halts would result in his head going up, his shoulders dropping, and his hind end quitting. Quite the opposite result of what I wanted.
Though, we did have some really nice moments.
I probably cantered too much in the warm up. I had horse expecting to canter for much of the test, which caused me some significant problems when paired with my false half halt. I knew it was a test I'd need to ride smartly, but still would be lucky to survive with a decent score. We just aren't confirmed enough at the level to have an off-day and still eek out a successful test.

However, the judge awaited. So we entered...
A: Enter collected canter / X: Halt, salute; proceed collected trot
"Rider sitting to right. Be prompt in trot."
I'm getting a lot more confident in my entrances for this level. Still, halting and moving off in a collected gait is exceptionally hard, and more so when your horse isn't really in your hand. Apprehensively, I turned down the diagonal for the medium trot, trying my best to set Pig up as straight as possible.
C: Track left / H-X-F: Change rein, medium trot / Over X: 6-7 steps collected trot / F: Collected trot
"Show more clarity in trans"
Not going to lie. I'm kind of flabergasted by that 7. I really don't believe the movement should have scored that well, based on the "collected trot" we presented over X. However, the quality of the medium was actually quite good, and I am very pleased with that!

Unfortunately, I was still dealing with a very hot horse who was behind the hand. I was also still sure he was not listening to my lateral aids. When it came time to ask him to half pass, I jabbed him with my outside leg. Dear sweet soul, he got confused and thought I was asking him to canter (I knew all that warm up canter was a bad idea!). Whoops! We resolved the issue and put together a half pass of sorts. 
K-X: Half pass right
"Haunches leading"
In the chaos of the canter snafu, I totally lost Pig's haunches. They went careening into the center of the ring, and made it very hard to get the shoulders out in front. I hate screwing up one of our strongest movements like that, but I put it behind me and worked to improve the rest of the right hand trot work.
X: Circle right 10m
"Lacking suppleness and impulsion"
Halfway through the 10m circle, I felt Pig had forgiven me some for my over-aid of the half pass. That allowed me to actually ride the shoulder-in some.
X-G: Shoulder-in right / C: Track right
"Well done!"
I'm not sure what the judge is smoking here, as I don't feel this shoulder-in angle is quite right or consistent. Still, it's a nice shoulder-in right for us, and I'll always take a 7!

We came into the extended trot. I was resolved to push a bit and try to get Pig more in my rein and in front of my leg. I was actually pretty pleased with the result, though I didn't manage to get him in my rein at all (note how floppy it is?).
M-X-K: Change rein, extended trot / K: Collected trot
"No extension"
(Transitions M & K)
"Uncertain beginning"
At this point in reviewing the scoring, I'm beginning to be certain the judge is on drugs. There's no way my medium got a 7, and my extended is a 4. They're basically the same. Plus, the transitions were behind the rein, but I don't think they were worthy of a 4. 

Moving on to the left rein...
F-X: Half pass left
"Haunches should stay with forehand"
Okay, now I have no idea what she means. I think she's commenting about the moment just before this gif where his haunches get stuck for a step. We resolved it in a moment, however. I'm so confused by the scoring, but really happy with my riding of this movement.
X: 10m circle left
No comment
No, no, no. I want a comment here. Please and thank you.
X-G: Shoulder-in left / C: Track left
"Horse not uphill - heavy on R shoulder"
Okay. You have got to be fucking kidding me. That is NOT a shoulder-in worth a 4. In no world. Her comment is correct in that he is heavy on his right shoulder. However, he's been heavy on his right shoulder the whole test, and he's still pushing correctly with his left hind and maintaining angle and bend. Clearly the judge's drugs have gone bad.
H: Collected walk / S-R: Half circle 20m extended walk / R: Collected walk
"Step forward into walk and more ground cover in extended"
Now I'm just defensive. That score is rather low, but he is tight in his back and not stepping through as nicely as he is capable.
Between G & M: Half pirouette left, proceed collected walk
"Show collection"
Huh? I literally do not understand this comment. I would have accepted "loss of rhythm" or "slightly wide" or "too much neck bend" or "lost outside shoulder". But "show collection"? Would she rather he have reared? Cause, like, we can do that.

I am beginning to think that maybe this judge was expecting a grand prix ride for her 4-1 class. How disappointing for her to get a green 4th level pair.
Between G & M: Half pirouette right, proceed collected walk
"Too much lateral effort, no collection"
Okay, in her defense. This pirouette was a hot mess. I mean, my horse is so stuck in his right front that he looks lame. She's right, there's not a lot of collection here. I dunno that it's a 4, but it's not great. 
(Collected walk) HS/RMG(H)G
"Not engaged"
Really? That's a 4 walk? Really? "Not engaged"? Again. This is 4th level, not Grand Prix. Could he be more engaged, absolutely. Is it "insufficient"? No. Absolutely not. I've literally never had a judge hate on Pig's walk so much. She scored it as if it was horribly off rhythm. I don't understand.

Ah well. I think I rode it pretty well considering Pig's mood and our contact issues. On to the canter.
G: Collected canter, left lead / H: Turn left
No comment
Wow. Now this I think was maybe worth a 4 or 5. The transition is against the hand, flat, and could be more clear. To be fair, it's not too far off many of our other transitions. However, it's not great. Thanks for the 6, lady.
S-K: Medium canter / K: Collected canter
"Too conservative"
I talked in my Loch Moy I recap about how hard this movement is to get started. I thought he had quite a bit of polite uphill action from him, despite the waggling head indicating he's not really in my hands.
A: Down centerline / D-E: Half pass left
"Haunches trailing & head nodding"
That head nodding is going to get her soon, I just know it. Haunches trailed to start, but were corrected. Sloppy riding on my part.

Bring on the fireworks... 
E-H: Counter canter / H: Flying change of lead
"Above bit - swinging head"
Let's also mention a bit like watching a horse dive into a pool, oh, and I lost his haunches right too. Not lovely, but not our worst. He actually wasn't anticipating, and I had to cue him quite hard. (Watch my right leg). Pretty sure he did not forgive me for being so obvious. 
M-F: Extended canter / F: Collected canter
"Too conservative"
Can we talk about happy I am with this extended canter effort? He's not in my rein, but I'm still able to keep him from totally diving down and galloping. It's a clear canter with some lift and reach in the front end. Holy cow. Miracles do happen. The judging is on point compared to the medium canter, too. Color me impressed.
(Transitions M & F)
No comment
Awwww yeah! Did not completely biff this transition! Someone pop open the goddamn champagne!
A: Down centerline / D-B: Half pass right
"Nicely done!"
Oh! Oh, I get it now. She wants me to be literally all over the place. Oh. Okay. We can do that...
B-M: Counter canter / M: Flying change of lead
"Not correct"
No kidding "not correct." I was almost ejected from the goddamn ring. Come on, Austen. Only a few more movements to survive the test. You gotta hold on!
Note: Pig had definitely not forgiven me for the over-aiding of the last change. Whoops. 
C: Circle left 20m, 5-6 strides of very collected canter between quarterlines
"Hollow in collection"
Please note my extreme lack of half halt here. I asked, but Pig blew through my requests to sit. Finally I just sat him down. He did not appreciate.
Only the line of changes to go, Piggy. You can do it. Maybe?
H-X-F: Change rein, three single flying changes of lead, near first quarterline, near X, and near last quarterline
"Not shown"
Yeah. Uh. Deserved. Watch the video below to see what I mean...
See, we got the first one (though super crooked and ugly), then I got no response for the 2nd. Watch carefully and see Pig actually leap up into the air as if he is going to do the change, only to come down on the same lead.

This makes twice in the same weekend we failed to execute this movement at all. Clearly it's super broken and needs work.
A: Down centerline / X: Halt, salute
Crooked in halt
Sigh. He stepped out in the halt. That hurts, as the centerline was beautiful.
Look, mom! I remembered not to salute with my whip in my hand! 
Honestly, I didn't think the test was all that terrible. I knew it wasn't a 60% by any means, but I wasn't all that unhappy with it. Overall, I left the ring feeling like we were still very green to the level and had just shown exactly how green we were.

Click for full test video

Then I picked up my 50% score sheet.
Too many errors? There was some sloppy riding in places, but the only real errors were in that last line of changes. I wish she'd just come right out and said "You suck, get out of this level." It's clearly what she meant.
More next week on why these comments and this judge's behavior at the show bugged me. Until then, anyone else working at a level where you feel super green? How do you approach showing a horse at a new level? Do you wait until you're sure they're fully confirmed? Or do you jump right in, score be damned, and try to just get the experience while you can? If the later, do judges comments bug you?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Throwing It Back to June: Recap of Loch Moy I

When last we spoke about the events of early June, I had updated everyone on Pig's mysterious leg wound and subsequent battle with cellulitis. I told you that Pig was sound, so I loaded him and took him to the show. This is the story of that show.
Finally! A show recap! Only 2 months late!
I had signed up to do 3-3 and 4-1 on Saturday of the show, and 4-1 only on Sunday. However in consideration for Pig's leg and overall soundness, I decided to scratch 3-3. There is nothing for us to prove at 3rd level right now.

My 4-1 ride was at 8:30am, so I was up and on bright and early. This was a blessing, as the true DC summer had decided to start this weekend. The highs were forecast to be quite hot, and we would get to escape the worst of it.
We would also escape the sun, which did not make for great photos.
I went into the warmup more concerned about Pig's soundness and his gross leg wound than I was about our test. I shouldn't have worried, however. He warmed up like a champion, and felt the soundest he ever has. He was also completely on his mental game, like he came to this show to dominate.
"Unsure about the leg. Very sure about my training." -- Pig, probably
Unfortunately, I was not quite so focused on world domination. My head felt like it was spinning. I was still so stressed out about the leg, I just wanted to survive the test.
Pig: "Hell yeah! I am the champion!"
Me: "Omg. Was that a lame step?"
Note: It was definitely not a lame step.
Our warm up was disjointed, but Pig's generosity helped me pull it off. By the time I headed down to circle the ring, I was pretty sure I was going to be the limiting factor in this test. I just could not get my brain in the game.

I ran through some of the basics of the test, however. It was at that point I remembered that my half passes had disappeared in the last week, and I hadn't had a chance to get them back. I also hadn't schooled a turn on the haunches since the last show.
I did have a trot transition, though. Thank god.
The last 10 minutes before you go in the show ring is a terrible place to try to reinstall some movements. So, let this be a lesson to all of you. Run through your level-appropriate work every once in awhile. You can't just work on half halts, straightness, and strengthening work and expect your cues to work like magic out there. We basically survived this test because my horse was on his most saintly behavior.

I did school plenty of canter-halts in the warm-up, so I was pretty sure we were going to nail our entry. Which we mostly did.
A: Enter collected canter / X: Halt, salute / X: Proceed collected trot
"Haunches R in halt. More forward."
I took a moment to give Pig a quick pat, overjoyed to just be in the ring doing a 4th level test. We then trotted off to do our weird medium trot/collected trot thing.
C: Track left / HXF: Change rein medium trot / Over X: 6-7 steps collected trot / F: Collected trot
"Tempo quick, needs lift, clarity in transition, and sitting"
I was pretty happy with the medium trot. The transition over X is always a hard one. It comes up very fast, and our crappy medium makes manufacturing a nice collected trot really difficult.

My mind was on the half pass at this point. Worried about Pig blowing off my lateral cues, I might have over-aided, and he put in the start of a canter transition before he got the idea. Thankfully these half passes aren't hard for us at this point, though these lacked some of the bend we've been working so hard to develop. Still, once we got started they were steady and relaxed. I couldn't ask for more. (Literally, my brain was not working. I could not and did not ask for more. Sigh.)
K-X: Half pass right
"Unclear start, needs cadence"
We rolled right from the half pass into the 10m circle right at X. The judge gave us a 6.0, commenting "More impulsion". I love how this circle sets us right up for the shoulder in on the centerline, a movement I am far less intimidated by now than at the start of the season. We rode it confidently, though I struggled to keep the angle consistent.
X-G: Shoulder-in right / C: Track right
"Too much angle at times"
With our impulsion a bit more ramped up from the shoulder in, we turned the corner to do the extended trot from MXK. While this trot was much improved for us overall, the judge wasn't impressed at all. She gave us a 5.0 with the comment "needs more power and reach". Fair enough. The transition score was another 5.0, "needs engagement." That score should have been higher, but again, I wasn't riding mindfully and blew through the transition completely.

Thankfully we had more trot work to help raise up our score. I rolled right around into another half pass, which felt better to me than the other direction.
F-X: Half pass left
"Needs lateral reach"
The following 10m circle had an astounding lack of dramatics, especially if you know our recent history.
X: Circle left 10m
"More thrust"
The shoulder in was much more consistent this direction, and our score reflects that.

I think it's kind of funny. This is a direction we struggle with more at home, but seem to have down better at shows. I'll have to think about the reasoning for that. It's also funny because Pig's left front is the leg with the injury, and if he was lame I would thing it would be more apparent in this left bend work. It wasn't an issue.
X-G: Shoulder-in left / C: track left
Better angle
Our walk work scores literally saved the day. I think that's an indication of exactly how little I was piloting the horse, and how good he was being.
H: Collected walk / S-R: Half 20m circle in  extended walk / R: Collected walk
"Rhythm clear, needs overstep"
We lost points in the pirouettes, however. Again, we should have practiced these and I needed to be more present during the test. The first felt okay, but I could feel how sticky Pig felt behind.
M: Turn left / Between G & H: Half pirouette left, proceed collected walk
"A bit large"
The second was worse. Seriously. I'm pretty embarrassed about this effort.
Between G&M: Half pirouette right, proceed collected walk
Thankfully, our collected walk was good enough to win us some points back.
(Collected walk) HS/RMG(H)G
"Rhythm clear"
All season I've talked about my worries about the initial canter transition in 4-1. It's onto the left lead, in the middle of the ring, and right in front of the judge. Pig was so quiet, I thought if I just actually put a moment of thought into the transition, we might actually pull it off cleanly. Apparently the judge thought my effort was worthwhile.
G: Collected canter left lead / H: Turn left
"Fairly prompt"
The medium canter in 4-1 is really pretty tough. It comes right after all the walk work, and immediately following the canter transition and sharp turn onto the rail. Our medium canter is often not big enough, anyway. This test didn't show it to the best of our ability, either.
S-K: Medium canter / K: Collected canter
"More power, lift"
With such a mediocre medium canter, the turn up the centerline for the first canter half pass was easy enough to prep and nail.
A: Down centerline / D-E: Half pass left
"Steady bend"
Our counter canter was fantastic, but unfortunately Pig anticipated the change. Every time he anticipates, I get left behind and the change is awkward and late. See for yourself...
E-H: Counter canter / H: Flying change of lead
"Late behind"
It was easy to put the change behind me, because I know this is where I tend to make mistakes in my test memorization. Thankfully I remembered we had the extended canter to do next, and did not turn down the centerline. Unfortunately, the extended canter was derpy and relaxed not big and fluffy. Ah well.
M-F: Extended canter / F: Collected canter
"Need much more volume and ground cover"
(Transitions M&F)
"More clarity and engagement"
I love seeing a higher score for an extended than a medium. It tells me a did a much better job of riding the extended and showing a bigger difference. Thankfully our downward was nice, and the turn up the centerline for the half pass tour right went smoothly. The half pass was a little sticky, though. Our right half pass as been failing for awhile.
A: Down centerline / D-B: Half pass right
"Needs more balance at start"
Thankfully things went very smoothly, right into the counter canter and change. Pig was waiting for my cue more, so while still late behind things were much smoother. The judge disagreed.
B-M: Counter canter / M: Flying change of lead
"Late behind"
The flying change is always so exuberant that I lose Pig for a bit. This makes prepping for our very collected canter super hard. Still, the test always goes on.
C: Circle left 20m, 5-6 strides of very collected canter between quarterlines
"Need clearer collection"
Now it was just a sprint to the finish, as we turned down the diagonal for our line of 3 changes... which did not appear. Like at all. I kept cuing, and Pig just pretended he couldn't hear me. It was... not our finest moment.
H-X-F: Change rein, three single flying changes of lead, near first quarterline, near X,, and near last quarterline
"Only 1 change of lead"
I was so horrified. I could get Pig to leap up in the air, but we just weren't doing any changes. His heart was set on the right lead, and he could not have his mind changed.

At least we were on the right lead for the turn up the centerline?
A: Down centerline / X: Halt, salute
"Quite straight"
I was quite happy with that halt. It was prompt and felt super square. Apparently the judge agreed. I never thought I'd see the day where we had a well deserved 8 for a canter centerline!

The scores were a bit all over the place, so I really needed nice collectives to help get me to 60%. They were okay, but not quite enough.
Those 5s really hurt. It's funny to get a 5 for submission for a test where I thought Pig was really quite cooperative!
When I collected my test later, I remember calling my score "the most heartbreaking score." A 59.189%. So close, and yet so far.
Find the full test here, or watch below:

Despite missing my 60, there's a lot to be proud of in this test. Pig and I went in unprepared. We hadn't schooled the level movements since the last show, nor was my head in the game. This tells me that Pig is capable of almost a 60 on his own. That just means I need to work a little harder to get our final score at 4th! A worthwhile lesson for the day.
The BEST cheering section.
The rest of the day was low key for me, but super fun. I just love hanging out at horse shows with friends. Jan had two rides, which she wrote about here. I took Pig for both of her rides, so he could graze while I took photos.
Jan killed it during her 1-3 ride, finishing up her qualifications for Regionals!
Of course, it wasn't just Penn getting pretty photos taken. I tried to take some updated nice conformation shots of Pig. Unfortunately he kind of done with me by this point in the day, and let me know he'd rather have a nap.
"Am I pretty enough with this expression?"
No. Pig. Ugh.
It's funny how much time you have to blow at a show when you ride only once at the crack of dawn. I let Pig take a nap, while I reclined and caught up on my reading.
Though I got distracted sharing part of my lunch with him through the stall bars.
I also spent time poking at his leg and making sure it was continuing to improve.
Watch out. Loose horse.
After the show was over, I hopped on bareback to keep Pig's leg from stocking up too badly.
Captain Pygmalion reporting for duty.
I think this might have been the highlight of the show for me. I know it'll be a long time before I feel like my next horse will be able to be ridden around an unfamiliar and empty XC field bareback in a snaffle. This horse is definitely special, and I appreciate him so much.
Such an amazing memory.
When I rode back up to the barn, one of the other riders remarked "now that's the dream, right there." I laughed, but honestly couldn't agree more. Here's a horse I showed 4-1 with moderate success earlier in the day, and then putzed around bareback on in the evening. What more could you ask for?
"I guess you could ask me to not shake out my braids?"
When I tucked Pig in for the night, I knew we'd already won the weekend. No matter what happened on Sunday.