I walked Tucker down to our next ring and checked in with the ring steward for the next class because I
am neurotic and still don't really believe that dressage rings run on schedule, and after confirming that I had just under an hour, I hopped off, loosened my girth, parked him in the shade and mentally rehearsed my next test.
Side note: there is a theory of sports psychology that if you picture your performance going well, it creates the same neural pathways as though you really are practicing it, so it will improve your performance. Amy says this: "knowing your arena and the test as a large movie in your mind's eye is very important. Visualize yourself and Tucker making the movements exactly the way you want them to be.... in detail... as you practice your test." (Isn't she great?)
Ethan found me and we talked over the last test, I told him Tucker was being really difficult, hard to steer, ultra-sensitive to my aids, tense, explosive, etc. We discussed that his romp may have upset his sensitive tummy and Ethan made a call to the nearby Tractor Supply to see if they had Ulcer Gard. They didn't, but I had given Tucker a dose before we left the barn so that would just have to do. I appreciated the gesture nonetheless. Since we had plenty of time, I brought Tucker up to the trailer and he took a long drink of water and fell asleep under a tree for a few minutes.
I climbed back on, and headed back to the warm-up. He was content walking on a long rein, but I felt a bit at a loss as to how to prep him. So I just said screw it, and hacked him around like he was about to go into a hunter undersaddle. I figured at that point the day was probably already blown so at the very least if I could just get him to go in the ring and relax, that would be a win.
I got to the in-gate and realized they had waived jackets, so I pulled off my jacket and a very nice person told me to undo my collar so I wouldn't be eliminated. (Someday I will fit in. Someday. Until then I will rely upon the kindness of strangers, Blanche DuBois style.) I picked up my reins and trotted around the outside, and to my surprise, Tucker was no longer hanging on my left rein but pretty steady in both reins. So, I sent him a little forward and hoped for the best.
We got a 7.5 on our centerline ("nice entry"), and 7's and 7.5's on our lengthening and working trot work. 8's on both leg yields, which were lovely considering he exploded every time I asked him to move over earlier in the day. His medium walk and free walk were a 6.5, he still wasn't quite relaxed enough to stretch. The judge said we had "precise" and "prompt" canter transitions (7's, amazing), but we got a 6.5 on his 15m circle and lengthening left because he just couldn't give me as much lengthening as usual. He was keeping a really close eye on the grandstand seating to the right of the ring, which he has always believed to be suspicious as hell. Fair enough buddy.
His right lead canter work scored well (7, 7.5), but unfortunately when I went for the downward transition in the corner from lengthened to working canter, he broke to trot. I don't know if we were both tired, or if he was spooking at the judge's stand, or if I let him get off balance in the lengthening (or all of those), but that mistake earned us a 4.0. His stretchy trot was "conservative," a 6.0, which seems to be the best we've got right now in any circumstances. And we finished with an 8.0 on our centerline and halt, which did feel nice.
Of course, I'm a perfectionist and I'm really hard on myself, so I walked out of the ring feeling like that didn't go well at all. My 15m circles weren't as accurate as usual so I thought they wouldn't score well, and I was annoyed about breaking to trot, and I knew his canter lengthenings weren't up to the quality they can be, so I wasn't sure how they would score.
I was a real treat to be around. let me tell you. I felt like the whole day was a giant waste of money and I let my horse get loose and stressed him out and then expected him to perform and it didn't go well and I should probably just freaking quit showing already because the hunters were stressful and now I've managed to make dressage stressful too and this poor horse and waaaah, waaaah, waaaah.... (Poor Ethan, is all I can say. I apologized profusely later for my generally appalling behavior. And blaming him for my horse getting loose. Which was clearly an accident. I can be a real jerk sometimes.)
So in the middle of my sulking, pouting, whining, pathetic little pity party, we heard over the loud speaker: "Results of First Level Test 2, in first place, with a score of 68.4, number 155, Marissa Quigley riding Moon River...." Ethan and I just looked at each other open mouthed in shock. "Did they just announce that you won?" "Um, I think so?" "But I thought you said it didn't go well...?" "Well what the heck do I know!"
Good Tucker is very, very good. Marissa could use a little adjustment in the positive attitude department. We'll blame it on the residual stress of seeing your pride and joy go cantering off toward god-knows-where unaccompanied. Regardless, though, now that I watched the video and read my test, I am very pleased and I have definitely stopped pouting. I even got a 7.5 on my collective score for Rider Position & Seat. So maybe I'm learning to sit up and sit down?
We have 3 more shows before the end of our season, ESDCTA Championships, ECRDA Championships, and BLM Championships. (Yep, I'm shamelessly bragging here, and I invite you to freely roll your eyes at me for it, but I qualified for those.) We also now have enough 60+ scores to submit for a USDF Rider Achievement Award at First Level, which is not too much more impressive than a participation award, but still... we did technically earn it. (We also earned the first 1/3 of our bronze medal scores but I'm not publicly admitting that I'm chasing bronze yet so I won't mention that. If you get me.)