So, I made up a schedule the day before my show, as per usual. I stuck to my schedule and left the barn 3 minutes ahead of schedule. Not usual. I was super proud of myself. I should have known.
Got to the show, picked up my number, verified which rings were 1 and 3, and headed back to the trailer. Feeling very organized, plenty of time before my first test. Again, I should have known.
Then we dropped the ramp. And moments later it became painfully clear to all involved that the butt bar had come undone during transport.
Tucker stepped back, hit the end of his cross-tie, and panic-flailed until his halter broke. I was in the front of the trailer helplessly shoe-less, in the middle of putting on my tall boots. He backed himself down the ramp and we had a moment of eye contact as I followed him off.
Me: "You're okay..." [inching slowly toward him]
Tucker: "I'M NOT OKAY... OMG I'M SCARED I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO.... OH GOD MY INSTINCTS ARE TAKING OVER THIS IS TERRIBLE I'M A FLIGHT ANIMAL OH NO'S."
Me; "HEADS UP LOOSE HORSE!!"
Tucker: "OMG I CAN'T MAKE MY LEGS STOP MOVING EVERYTHING IS GOING BY SO FAST OMG WHAT IS THAT OMG WHERE AM I GOING OMG THIS IS SO DANGEROUS"
Me: *jog slowly behind so as not to further scare him and pray he stops before he injures himself or others*
Loudspeaker: "Heads up in the barn area, loose horse headed your way. Loose horse in the barn area."
Tucker: I NEED AN ADULT! I NEED AN ADULT! DOES SOMEONE HAVE A HALTER? PLEASE PUT ME IN A STALL OR SOMETHING I'M ALL BY MYSELF I DON'T KNOW HOW I GOT HERE OMG THIS IS SO BAD"
Me: *jogging and hyperventilating, relieved to see him cornered in a barn aisle*
Tucker: "ARE YOU MY MOTHER? OMG YOU'RE NOT MY MOTHER! STRANGER DANGER! WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME? I'VE MADE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE! I WANT TO GO HOME."
Me: *takes lead rope from kind stranger*
Kind stranger: "Well at least you don't have to lunge him now!"
Me: "Haha, yes he's all warmed up now thank you." *quietly dying inside*
Tucker: "OMG WHAT HAPPENED I BLACKED OUT! THAT WAS SO SCARY WHERE THE HECK WERE YOU? WHY DID YOU LET ME DO THAT?"
Me: "It's okay buddy, you're okay..." *tries to pat him*
Tucker: "OMG PLEASE DON'T HIT ME I'M HEAD-SHY NOW"
My warm-up was a hot mess. He was a bundle of nervous energy and try as I might I could not get him to chill. He had himself curled around my right leg like a pretzel, chin to his chest, and every time I tried to straighten him out or get him to go forward, he'd panic-flail and leap through the air like a giraffe shot with a blow dart. I lost count of how many lead changes he did. It was (a) embarrassing and (b) nerve-wracking. Then a trainer started shouting at his student and Tucker stuck his tail between his legs and scooted across the warm up because he was being yelled at. And I realized his poor little brain was just completely gone. I moved to a quieter warm up area and thought I might be getting somewhere, but right before we went in the ring I tried to do a leg yield and he had a melt down.
Needless to say, our first test wasn't pretty. I told myself trotting around the ring that I was just going to be as tactful as possible to avoid him exploding, be subtle with my aids, and just be conservative. I saw Amy do this once on a horse that gave her a huge spook just as she was heading into the ring. So I had a little "What would Amy do?" pep talk with myself. I remembered that Amy was very still and very quiet and gave her horse lots of little pats along the way. And I have to say, we got through it. He felt like a twitchy powder keg and looked like he was about to stroke out, but we got through it.
We did do a lovely line of fours in place of our one loop serpentine, unfortunately those aren't called for until Fourth Level. Still, Tucker felt he should have been given some kind of extra credit for them. I will say they felt like pretty damn great changes, so... there's that?
I could have predicted the comments. "Stiff," "Tight through the back," "Needs to be more supple," "Short neck," "Overflexed," "Conservative," "Behind the vertical," "A bit tense." We did get an 8.0 on our last halt. Which might have been because the judge was just so happy to see we survived. She commented "Steady ride!" on the back of my test, so I'm hoping it was clear that he was just completely on edge and I was doing the best I could not to upset him. We ended up with a 61%, for third place out of four. Not our best effort. I was a little frustrated and a little worried about him... but I took him back to the trailer for some water and a break in the shade before our next test.
Which I'll tell you all about tomorrow. Spoiler alert:
|Please take me home now, |
today has been super stressful I'm going to need a lot of cookies