About that Last Show...

Remember when I told you guys about my insecurities about my goals and my total panic over our upcoming last show of the season? Well, spoiler alert, we survived! Hooray!

How's that for the face of survival?

Once we safely arrived at the show grounds, my anxiety actually started to drop off. Though I did panic my horse would lame himself pawing the trailer to death when his friend left him to show in two classes in the morning. Eventually my worry turned to annoyance when his banging on the floor would not stop, and he did not lame himself.

Our tests were grouped together late in the afternoon. Since our show friend's classes were in the morning, we were at the show grounds an awful long time. When tacking up time came around, I was so ready to just get out there and do the thing. I ended up getting on almost 40 minutes before my ride time, which might have been a smart move.

Everyone loves warming up in a crowded spooky indoor. Right?

If y'all remember, Bast had struggled the week before the show with a vaccine reaction at the base of his neck. While the swelling had improved, we hadn't yet worked out the stiffness from earlier in the week. My first few laps around the ring, I realized I'd have to work hard to limber the boy up in the neck before going into the ring. I had so much time to create a more supple horse, I actually was hoping the ring would open up for us before I wore him out. Luckily, it did.

Coming up to the judge, we did have some tension to work out. See, Bast had spotted a murderous bush and photographer. This corner had caused issues for multiple horses all day. In an attempt to avoid some spooking during the test, I asked Bast to face his fear. He was so very brave about confronting the bush, sorta. Watch...

Clearly this bush has murdered before, and might strike again.

Luckily we didn't end up destroying the entire ring before going in! (I'm still not sure if leaping in the ring at M counts as entering before being rung in by the judge. Haha!) My pushing the envelope paid off. Bast never looked at that corner of the ring again. Success!

Unfortunately the rest of the test continued to be a thing. See, I thought I was supposed to be doing 1-3 first. As I turned across the diagonal for my first lengthening, the judge whistled me off course. Turns out, I was actually doing 1-1. Ugh, annoying. Not a catastrophe, though. I had 1-1 well memorized, and simply started on the correct test.

A quick reminder to all of you to check and double check which freaking test you're supposed to be riding before you enter at A.

In the moment, I thought the test rode well. We had no huge mistakes (I mean, once we figured out where we were going), and Bast was pretty responsive to my lateral aids. On a second watch, it lacks a lot of the uphill balance we had earlier in the year. My riding is quite sloppy, too. That lead to Bast's overall lack of engagement and thoroughness. We ended up with a 62%.

Watch the test below or here:

Our second test was only 30 minutes later. I didn't do more than offer Bast a drink of water before heading back into the warmup. I was worried about his energy level with these back to back tests. At previous shows this season, his stifles had begun to slip in his second test. Once his adrenaline wore off, he seemed to really lose strength behind. To help with this, we spent a lot of time conditioning between shows. Other than shaking off his bridle in the warm up, Bast didn't blink at the work. I think the conditioning paid off a lot, but I needed to push him for more from behind. Overall he was just lacking impulsion all day.

I can't tell if my unstable position was the biggest problem, or if we just weren't on the same page with the activity behind. However, the whole lack of thrust issue was an ongoing issue in our 1-3 test.

I mean. What exactly is he doing with those hind legs? Napping?

Hilariously, Bast and I started our test with a little too much "go" when he cantered out of our halt instead of trotted. Whoops. That was 100% my fault, as I pushed him forward too much with the leg and not the seat. Getting a trot up transition on this horse requires whispering, which I did not do. My bad!

I thought our lengthening was unimpressive and a little out of control (though totally normal for us), and I was frustrated to lose the haunches in the first leg yield. However, my favorite moment of the test came after the second leg yield. While on the 10m circle my brain literally fled my body. If you watch the video below closely, you'll see me completely forget if I have finished the circle. Instead of going straight, I just continue to circle repeating the 10m circle twice. The judge didn't even notice. If you're really perceptive, maybe you'll hear me saying aloud "I don't know where I'm going".
Don't mind us. Just terribly lost out here.

The 10m circle hilarity kind of threw me off. Our stretch circle was exceptionally drunk, and our walk work felt off tempo and very slow. The judge apparently hated all of it, but not for the reasons I thought she would (more on that in a second).

At this point in the test, I was not riding mindfully anymore. Our first canter loop swung way past the centerline, as I somehow got lost on my line. Swinging past X does make the counter canter part of the loop much harder to execute, so I'm really proud of my pony for just going with my mistakes. He's a good boy.
Pictured: a v good boy.

Then it was time for the judge to screw up. She rang me off course after the lengthened canter, for no reason. She then apologized and sent me back out to repeat my canter lengthening. It was about now that I started just giggling with the absurdity of this entire day. Thank god our second canter direction was mostly uneventful, if on the forehand and a bit wiggly. We finished up the test quickly, and I immediately pleased we'd completed.

Watch the test below or here:

As I'd been telling people all day, I only needed to survive these tests in order to qualify for All Breeds. Our scores all year had been between 64%-66%, meaning these scores were unlikely to change my median score at all. I simply needed two more scores to finish my qualification.

As it turns out, it's a good thing I didn't need a good score on this test. The judge awarded us a 59% for last place. I won't lie, I was pretty annoyed with the score. While we were far from perfect, I wanted to know what this judge saw to dislike so much. Mostly, it turns out she hated Bast's busy mouth.
Not going to lie. It's busy. Annoyingly so.

Almost every comment was about Bast's mouth, which started to get old. I was especially annoyed to see that she wrote to tell me she didn't like the bit placement in the mouth. I found that comment to be on the inappropriate side. Tell me my hands are unsteady or my position isn't great. Or the horse is resisting contact. All those are fine, and valid, and true statements. I can't even really be upset about the score, because it's true that his mouth is open a lot and that's allowed to be dinged quite a bit. But don't tell me my tack is wrong. I think the only time I think a judge should say something about tack is if there is a safety issue, then the rider should be stopped at the issue addressed.

Have a photo of our support team manning the truck to break up this wall of ranting text.

I think the reason this bothered me so much is the vast improvements we've made in Bast's mouth this year. Which the judge wouldn't know. Bast actually travels with his mouth closed a fair amount of the time now, as opposed to the constant gaping of last winter. Plus, this is the first bit where we've been able to address his contact issues. Being told my bit is causing issues just made me frustrated.

I couldn't let the frustration get to me, because we had done what we came to do. We'd left with two more recorded scores for our qualification and a sound horse. I was proud of my horse for how much he matured (he didn't scream ONCE in the show rings). What more can you really hope to have? So I made some plans to continue to address the ongoing mouth saga, and slapped on a smile. That's showing horses for you!

Just so pleased with him.


  1. I'm sorry, that's frustrating! Sometimes judges get hung up on the weirdest things. I scribed a test once for a horse whose tongue was hanging out on and off, and the judge dinged the rider for that on every.single.movement. and had me write "tongue hanging out" for every comment line. It was excruciating for me to write, because lots of things about the test were quite nice.

    1. Oh that had to be so frustrating for the rider! I've seen upper level horses with tongues that kinda flop, and was so amazed they made it work.

  2. That bush is clearly hulking and up to no good. Even I can see that. :) I once had a judge ring me off course for not doing a move that I just finished. I think she zoned out. She then said 'oh well I missed it, do it again'. And then gave me a crap score for it. sigh. Carmen has a really busy mouth too but it's so much better since I switched to a thinner bit. But when she's really thinking hard she chomps. it's frustrating.

    1. I've had a judge do that to me as well. She asked me if I knew what movement I was supposed to be doing and I was like, Yes...the one I just did. Which was correct. I've pretty much given up hope on all judges at this point lol.

    2. I scribed for a judge once and she and I got off course about a million times during a test. That experience taught me that if I get a row of solid 6s without comment ... the judge got lost. Haha.

  3. What a frustrating showing exprience, but your takeaways were quite good - yay sound horses that don't scream!

    1. Sound and quiet is basically my favorite thing after this year. Haha

  4. Thats an odd comment about bit placement. Don't think I've heard that one before. Sheesh. I guess just shake that one off. However, and I'm dearly sorry, I did giggle quite a bit on your double 10m circle! LOL!! That's something I would do.

    1. I was tempted to repeat it a 3rd time just for giggles. Haha

  5. I did once completely forget to do a canter circle with release of contact in an elementary test. Clear as day on the video - I didn't do it.
    I still got a 6.5 for it so clearly the judge was paying as much attention as I was lol


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