Continued from Part 1...
I finished my lonely lunch of shame. Armani fell asleep. I guess he was feeling more relaxed with the whole show thing. I shrugged off my self loathing. I love being at shows and I was going to make the most of it. I spent the middle of the day wandering around, watching people I did not know ride. I saw some great tests and some bad ones. I took inventory of the male riders. I noted which were attractive, which were too attractive, and which wore rings. I even shopped for my mother as well.
I also noticed that for some people, dressage requires the same amount of prep as a Super Bowl. I saw many coordinated teams. The trainer and the "prep" rider wore headsets. Just before the class, the prep rider dismounts and the nervous owner is thrust aboard. A groom wipes her boots and adjusts her collar. Then after some parting words of wisdom from the trainer the horse and owner go through the motions. More often than not, the horse had a more unpleasant expression after the rug was pulled out from under him, so to speak. They would go through the test wringing their tail and occasionally resorting to hopping as the out-of-shape owner pants and flops about. Then as she exits in tears, the team is ready to support her and exclaim that it was the best ride so far.
I began to wonder if some horse people really are like used car salesmen. And I began to feel pretty proud of myself and other owners like me, doing it all ourselves and smiling as we lost out to major league teams.
My instructor finally arrive. That's right, I was a volunteer groom too. I followed her around with my magical bag of stuff: rubber bands, safety pins, tape, baby wipes, drinks - you never know what you'll need just before she goes in the ring. I observed that the ring I would be riding in was partly under water. I also watched a friend get disqualified after her horse shied at the water and left the ring. Hmm...
My mother arrive with a friend and my brother. I wasn't expecting my brother too. Finally, I had my own entourage! I pranced about with my chin up as we watched. When it was time for me to get ready, they offered to help. Suddenly I felt a need to "be my own man". "I'm OK." I insisted, "You guys watch the show."
I hustled through my process. Armani and were ready much too early. I was concerned about warming up too long and not having enough horse left. So we took things easy. When I found out my ring was running ahead, I happily told the steward "I'm ready as soon as you all are." The judge, probably just as happy to keep things moving, agreed.
I briefly considered a self inflicted "no joking at the judge before the test" policy. Na, I was doing things my way or be damned. "Good Afternoon!" I said. The judge was eating a pastry. Armani was drooling as he often does. "That looks yummy. And I think Armani is hoping you might share." I winked. She smiled and laughed. "He does look like an easy keeper."
We began our test. I rode as if I were at home. I didn't care of my corrections were subtle, I just wanted to make them and get things right. When I ride a test, everything else goes away. There was no puddle. My mother was not there looking nervous. My instructor was not watching shrewdly at E. My friend was not taking photos. My brother was not sitting nearby trying not to look bored.
As we left on a long rein, reality came back. My instructor, never one to butter me up, said it looked like a pretty good ride. My friend took some family photos. The scores were running late. So I untacked and let Armani relax. "You did well, Stinky." I told him sternly. "I suppose I won't ship you off to the sausage factory." A lady rider about to leave in her finery glanced at us with horror. "Yet..." I added ominously.
I kept myself away from the office for a while. We watched some more friends ride. I felt in my element. Finally, while my family made a potty stop, I slipped over to the office - alone. I needed to "man it up" again. My score was posted. I did not have to scan down very far. I was second in my very large class with a score of 63.93% - less than 1% behind first. Well I missed out on an engraved vase. But I was still very happy. I retrieved my red ribbon and my test.
"Capable pair." the judge had commented. She'd given us 7s on our canter, free walk, and halts. "Those are my favor things too." I said to myself. I met my family back at the bathrooms. Not one to boast, I kept my ribbon in my pocket until we got to Armani's stall. I nonchalantly hung it up. "That's not yours is it?" my mom asked in disbelief.
"No, I stole it." I pointed to the next stall. She looked upset. "Just kidding. Anyway, I guess we might as well hang it up." There were rainbows of ribbons up and down our isle. "Have to keep up with the neighborhood."
Next... Sunday... and a managarie of photos.
14 hours ago