To say I’ve been waiting a long time to go to an away show may be downplaying things a bit. I’ve been with my current barn/trainer for 10 years this month and until this past weekend I had never gone elsewhere to show with them. In fact after Phoenix was sold in 2001 I showed off property exactly twice until this past weekend. Once with a lease horse the summer of 2002 (coincidentally at my current barn) and once when Stampede went to a small local schooling show in 2006 about 6 months after I bought him.
After my fall with Stampede in early 2007 I was off from riding for months, came back to riding slowly, Stampede was sick, and then we moved barns. Stampede struggled a lot in the show ring at home so for a long time it wasn’t worth it to even try showing off property. Then he got diagnosed with his back issues and I knew why we struggled to show – the extra amount of time spent with my weight on his back was hard on him. So I just took that off the table all together.
The arrival of Maestro last year really changed things for me. Having an able-bodied horse is an amazing thing. On my list for 2018 was to do at least one away show.
So last Thursday, after three trailer loading practice sessions over the last couple weeks, Maestro stepped politely onto the trailer and headed off to his first away show with me. He stepped off a couple of hours later sweaty but quiet, having somehow ripped down his nylon hay feeder on the way. Since he seemed pretty quiet we decided to have my trainer just get on. First she flatted him in the schooling ring where he was a bit forward but didn’t have any issues. The moment she went to flat around the hunter ring though he got a bit upset and cantering included many lead changes. When she came by I suggested I could just go lunge him a bit. He was a gentleman on the line but definitely had some nerves to get out. We got a nice rain shower and lunging break while we hid in the indoor before going back out in the now mud for a bit more lunging which was much more focused. Trainer got back on him and he looked much better and jumped around well, just a bit quick. I got on after and did a quick loop around the course myself in her saddle.
Friday morning I was up at 5:30 so I could go out and get a quick lunge in and let trainer school him around the course again. The lunge didn’t last long and he schooled nicely. We had decided to have trainer take him in a blue/red warm up then switch saddles and have me do one as well just to get an idea what he would be like for my actual classes over the weekend. Maestro got awarded a blue ribbon warm up with trainer, had a quick break for my saddle change, then went back in and did a red ribbon warm up with me. I was so happy with him as the mistake in my course was that I moved him up to a long spot into a line then waited a bit too long to get him back causing the line to be a bit tight and tense out. I’ll take it!
Friday evening I mentioned to trainer that I had also signed up for the equitation classes and they were being held in the other ring, so we decided to school over them. Looking back I probably should have just let it be and gone in the ring cold as his issues are more atmosphere than jumps, but I was worried about all those really colorful jumps. Maestro was quite tired from everything else he’d been doing and while he was good and went around he was very behind my leg.
Saturday all of my equitation rounds were before my hunter rounds. I asked trainer to do him in a blue/red warm up in the equitation ring and of course she got a blue (someday I’ll riding better, lol). I went in myself for an equitation over fences trip where we seemed to be in slow motion. We added up the diagonal line but otherwise they were all singles or bending lines so it worked out okay. Had a slightly late change in there too. Got 5th in that. Then we got 5th in the equitation flat class, where he was so much better with spurs but decided he must poop and could not transition to right lead canter while pooping, lol. We then had our medal class where we again got 5th and added in that diagonal line. Pony got a short break before coming back out for a warm up and our hunter class for the day. Going into the warm up we kind of figured I would not make the strides on the diagonal line going away from home in the first trip and we definitely did not. The hope was I’d get him away for the other lines and my hunter round. Otherwise the round was okay but with skippy changes since he was behind my leg. For our hunter round he was a bit more awake as planned, got his changes, but I got tight coming into that diagonal line and didn’t trust myself to get the strides coming out so sat up and added again. Despite my error we still won the class. My hunter division was smaller and I did see one person have a rail so I was the best of the worst possibly? I was very frustrated with myself afterwards, having failed to get the strides in the diagonal line in either ring all day. I know Maestro can do it and it just takes me not giving up.
Sunday I came out determined to go for it and get the strides done on the two outside lines headed away from home in the hunter ring for the day. My warm up started with a single diagonal coming home to an outside line away. I made sure I had pace, was looking down to the end of the ring, and getting in the half seat Maestro likes. Except it was going to be very long coming in and the poor guy had to fit a step in there for us, oops! The rest of the course went well and I decided to stay in for our first hunter trip. The first hunter trip we got all strides but Maestro was resistant going into the opposite outside line going away since it’s closer to the gate. I got it done but you can see him sucking back on the video my friend took and then getting a less ideal spot into the line because of it. Our second hunter trip I felt like I finally got it all together. I switched what side my crop was on and there was no issue passing the gate and we got all our strides. To be picky I was a little tight to the first fence and our one lead change was sticky behind, but overall it was a good round. We got 2nd in the first round, 1st in the second round, then 3rd in the hack. The hack was also his best hack to date. Transitions were prompt but he was a bit tense when he first started trotting both ways before relaxing and stretching down. Spurs are definitely the answer and I’m sure it will keep improving.
So in the end Maestro was champion in our adult hunters for the weekend. I’m so proud of my boy and I look forward to continuing to improve. Good boy baby Maestro!
Below is a video from our last round on Sunday.