Ah, horse trials. I always look forward to them with eager anticipation and dreams of blue ribbons dancing in my head, but they always seem to turn out... not that way.
Dino and I headed out to a horse trial, and got stuck in traffic on the way. If there's one thing I can't emotionally deal with at a show, it's being late. I began to sweat profusely and have heart palpitations, gripping the steering wheel of my truck as if squeezing harder would make us get to the show faster.
I arrived just 20 minutes before my dressage time, and sprinted to the show office to collect my number before sprinting back to the trailer to throw some tack on my pony and get to the ring. We proceeded to warm up for approximately three minutes, which did not at all prepare us for our test.
As we trotted down center line, I was still hyperventilating, and Dino responded in kind by laying his ears flat back on his skull, swishing his tail, and gnashing his teeth. Homeboy was not amused. By the time we got to the free walk, I began to relax a little, but of course at the very moment I started to let the reins out of my fingers, a small child on a tricycle holding a balloon came racing past the dressage arena loudly honking the horn on the handlebars. Dino was already pissed off by my poor riding, and the tiny tyke on the trike sent him into a full-on bolt across the diagonal.
Somehow, we made it to the final halt, but the end score was not pretty. Judge's comments included "Tense" and "Free Walk - Not Shown".
But the great thing about eventing is that as long as you stay in the dressage arena, and attempt all the movements, you get to move on to the next phase!
After walking the stadium course and trying to find someone who could give me a Xanax, it was time to get ready to jump. Dino had still not forgiven me for the disaster that was dressage, and was crawling like a slug to every warm up fence before heaving himself over and barely clearing the rails. This round was going to be interesting.
We entered the ring for our round, and as soon as the buzzer went off Dino slammed down to a halt. I beat him into a western pleasure jog, from which he stopped at the first fence before lurching over from a standstill. He proceeded to repeat this maneuver for fences 2-10.
With so many penalties, it's a wonder we weren't eliminated right there on the spot, but that my friends is the beauty of schooling shows. They let you keep going as long as you probably aren't going to kill yourself.
We headed straight for cross country, since at this point I just wanted the day to be over with. I realized on the walk to the start box that I had not looked at the course map, nor walked the course itself. But it would be fine! The jumps are numbered!
Dino, bless his heart, had finally gotten out of his show-day funk and exploded out of the start box like his tail was on fire. Thankfully, the first four jumps were laid out more or less in a straight line, and I found my way over all of them in one way or another while trying my best to reel Dino in, who apparently had found purpose and joy in life again. Jump 5, however, was not in my line of sight, so I circled aimlessly around until a benevolent jump judge yelled out, "FIVE IS IN THE WOODS!" and pointed dramatically to the right.
By the grace of God, we made it around the rest of the course and through the finish flags for a last-place finish. It was a terrible, exhausting, nerve-wracking day, and I didn't even get a ribbon. I can't wait to do it all again!