Thursday, April 17, 2008

Baby Boomer Dreams - Dandy's Story - The First Class

Part 1

By the time I finally did hit the ring to ride a real class, I still had not had one single clean ride in the warm-up arena or any other arena for that matter. But things had improved dramatically. At least now the horse was listening and really trying his best even though he was still intimidated by the traffic and the intensity in the air.

The horse was no longer tuning me out and seeking his own solutions except when the traffic just got to be too much. Then he would briefly try to take over. The attempts were short lived but still not what you want at a show horse. While I wasn't over joyed about the situation, I at least felt like I wasn't embarrassing myself anymore.

That first class we were to ride was the Bonanza Hunter Pleasure division. There were 88 horses entered in the Bonanza program that year. So many it was necessary to divide the classes into sections. The section we were riding had 29 horses in it. For a horse and rider team to make the cut, they had to appear on two of the five judges cards. The class was being ridden in the secondary arena.

I remember the warm-up outside the arena was the best ride I had had on this horse at nationals. He had actually progressed to a beautiful flowing trot and a respectable canter. The canter could have been a bit softer because the horse was still bracing just a bit as other horses approached, other than that, it was awesome. But with 29 horses in our class and the smaller of the two show arenas, this was going to be an interesting ride for hunter pleasure.

Waiting on the ramp to go into the class, I decided if the horse was not totally soft in the canter I was not going to hand gallop. I would save myself the grief of having the horse jump out from underneath me in he felt trapped. I didn't want to be one of those riders that hits the dirt in any class let alone at nationals of all places.

I made sure on our entrance into the arena to give the horse in front of us plenty of room. I didn't want my horse to start off the class feeling crowded. There was going to be enough of that in this huge class.

As we came through the gate my horse looked around the arena. He actually turned his head in just a speck to get a better view. I think the sight of seeing all of those horses in front of him going the same direction at the same gait and speed must have been a relief for Dandy. I heard and felt his deep sigh as the horse softened and dropped back into his frame in a breath taking trot towards the rail. Dandy was back!

It seemed like the call judge kept us trotting forever. My horse stayed consistent throughout. When asked to canter Dandy rolled up into the most beautiful canter I could have asked for. His transition was flawless and he stayed soft and round. I knew it was going to be safe to hand gallop.

Then unexpectedly from across the far side of the ring a horse came riding straight into the wall in front of us, cutting us off. The rider was oblivious. The horse hit the rail head first and the slammed its butt around right into Dandy's face.

But Dandy didn't falter, he rolled up underneath me in an instantaneous halt and waited for direction. When there was enough room for us to continue. I asked my horse to canter off. He departed softly and willingly.

I had no idea if the judges had seen what caused the wreck but I could see at least a couple had seen my horse had broke on the wall. I didn't know if we were now out of the running or if we still had a chance. I took a deep breath and went back to riding. The horse appeared unflapped by this intrusion. I was still having an awesome ride. I was going to keep riding like my life depended on it.

Then it was time to hand gallop. I didn't even hesitate. I shortened up my reins and bridged my fingers on the crest of Dandy's neck, just like Kelly had taught me. Then I moved up into the two point position and asked my horse to go forward. He obliged willingly in the most beautiful hand gallop I have ever ridden.

I let the horse stretch out and show his great flowing stride. To this day I can feel the power yet soft responsiveness of that hand gallop. A silent tear rolled down my check as I realized how impressive this sight must be. I knew how impressive it felt and I knew we belonged out there in that nationals arena showing against the best horses in the country.

They called us back to the canter. I sat down on my horse just enough for him to roll back up into a soft fluid canter. I didn't even touch his mouth at all. Just the request of my seat and probably a tension from my thought down my arm called the horse back to where he belonged. From there they asked us to halt and he rolled up underneath me so carefully that we stopped within an instant in a totally fluid soft halt. By this time I was beaming, if there wasn't a smile on my face, there sure was one in my heart.

To be continued...........

The First Class continued

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  1. Fantastic, I almost feel like I was riding with you. Thanks for that :)

  2. Sounds like a terrific ride and it would have been absolutely perfect except for the oblivious rider. People who can't control their horses or are just plain rude should not be allowed to compete until they can control themselves. Hope it didn't cost you a top spot in the competition. Even if it did you know you and Dandy had an awesome round.

  3. you are so evil!!!!! It sounds spectacular, do you have a video of it?

    Cant wait to hear how it turns out.

  4. MiKael, this ride sounds so beautiful it's making me want to go tack up and ride! Wow. I love when a movement or gait is so good we remember it in our muscles. This one must be a gold standard for you and Dandy!

  5. Oh my...sounds like ya had a wonderful ride! Can't wait to read more!! :)

  6. That sounds amazing! What a good boy Dandy!

  7. Hi MiKael
    Just caught up on the last two posts and this has me beaming from ear to ear too LOL.
    I am hoping that this cliff hanger is one of those with a good outcome and it sure sounds as if it will be.


  8. Congratulations. You certainly made this cut. I could just see those lovely stops.

  9. Triumph!

    I've been following this story on and off. He's gorgeous.

  10. Wow, how cool is that that he did that when it mattered most!

  11. waiting anxiously for the next installment...

  12. beckz, it was such a cool ride. I just couldn't believe it.

    grey horse, I was really proud of my horse for the way he handled that. He could have wigged out and been a nut but instead he acted like a trained horse.

    beth, I wish I had a video but I don't. Not even one picture.

    billie, you are right, that ride is locked into my muscle memory and every ride I compare to it.

    equinespirit, he was such a good boy after all he'd been through. I couldn't have been more proud of him.

    onethebit, it was such a special experience. I can only hope that I'll have another like it some time.

    lori, you just never know what life has in store.

    molly, his stops were very cool, but then the horse's favorite word is "whoa" lol

    heidi the hick, after all the crap in the warm-up, triumph is a great word for how it felt!

    L, he sure did!

    kathy c, it's coming, I promise.

  13. Oh, my heart is in my throat and my eyes are teary. I've had those rides, and they stick with you forever.

  14. Awesome. Just awesome! I hope you made the cut! You gave me goosebumps and had me out there RIDING WITH you!

  15. It's good to know that Dandy could overcome his fears. What a nice ride. As far as all the tension in the air, the high stakes and all the hard work it takes to get to Nationals, it's a wonder that riders don't get into brawls after classes the way they do in NASCAR when someone causes a wreck.

  16. Awww...that made me tear up! ;) like everyone else, I'm dying here, to see how this ends!

  17. Oh my gosh... I can't wait to read tomorrow's installment!

  18. you are .killing. me!

    gotta love it when a plan comes together like that!

  19. That sounds absolutely amazing!

  20. Terrific! I can't wait to read the rest!