Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Adventure Continues..........The Class.......

The Adventure Begins

With all the chaos in the warm-up arena I was glad to hear that final call for our class. When I heard those words, "Your gate is now open." I looked for the quickest, safest possible route to get my horse over toward the in gate.

Normally, riders are always hanging back not wanting to be the first to enter the ring but with all the confusion around us, several riders had the same idea as I. Instead of being the first to reach the in gate, Legs and I found ourselves about fourth as we headed through the short aisle way and into the arena.

The minute I got my horse aligned behind those other horses, his head raised up as he braced himself. Whatever relaxation I'd managed to achieve in the warm-up immediately left. The horse resisted my request to jog and maintained the higher stance. We entered the arena with Legs looking more like that parade horse Doug Stewart had mentioned than the soft round horse I'd been riding.

With twenty horses in this class, it would be a while before the gate closed. Since the judging isn't supposed to start until that happens, I had some time to fix this issue. Although I needed to do my fixing in as subtle a manner as possible. Judges can tend to carry their first impression on into their decisions. Still I was glad I'd have some time to school Legs down before the gate closed.

Just trying to push the horse forward into his face was not working. Instead of rolling over the horse was bracing and raising up before he'd roll over. Then that roll over would stop at the first sign of a release. Getting my horse to soften was going to take more.

Legs really is very good about moving laterally off my legs. I'd spent a lot of time in my schooling sessions working on that here but most of the time that was a two handed ride. Now I was hoping Legs would remember all that schooling and respond even though I was riding with just the one hand.

I was really glad I was wearing my spurs. I don't always ride with them. My first request for Legs to move into the wall the horse totally ignored. The second request I asked by applying pressure from my spur only to get something of an acknowledgement of the pressure without the movement I requested. For the third request I made sure I had a firm hold of the horse and I poked him hard. Legs responded with a small sigh and moved laterally off my leg.

It still took a complete lap of the arena before my horse rolled down over into the bridle where he belonged. Thankfully the gate had not been closed yet by the time we finally achieved this goal. It was halfway down the wall before I heard the announcer, Carol Lee, call out "Your gate is closed." Now it was time to see how my horse fit in with the others at this level.

I looked around the arena to see how the horses were spaced and to judge how Legs was rated next to the other horses. To my surprise there really were only a couple of horses jogging any slower than Legs and many of them were moving faster........even though a number of them looked like they were walking in either the front or hinds instead of a true jog.

Even though Legs was moving about the right speed, I felt like he'd speed up if I gave him the chance. That and the usual wanting to get long were always right there. I had to pick my horse every few steps just to keep him together but that's the way he's been for the whole season. It was not something new for this class.

They asked us to walk before they called for the lope. While the normal sequence is usually right from the jog into the lope, I was expecting this change. It's a common practice to throw the amateurs off guard. Legs and I had worked on both transitions so we were ready for either.

When they called for the lope, I took some extra time to set my horse up. I knew with a stressed horse it would be easy for him to take a wrong lead. Legs acted a bit frustrated with the extra hold I took before I asked him to depart but he took the lead correctly and he rolled forward into it instead of raising up and jumping off. It was a nice transition.

Once into the lead, Legs has the tendency to want to string out instead of staying round. This time, however, he stayed square beneath me and loped nice and slow as the horse knows how to go. Even though he needed to be picked up every two or three strides, I was pleased with how the horse was going. He was clearly giving me the best he had.

It was interesting to look around the arena and see how Legs compared with the other horses. I was surprised to see that many of these horses were loping faster than my horse. At regionals Legs had been loping the same speed as most of the horses, now he was one of the few going slower. It was good to see......especially this direction which is the horse's hard way of going.

The transition down into the walk was not the best. While the horse was round and didn't raise his head, he did jog a few steps before he hit the walk. Ideally the transition should have been a butt tucking movement right into the walk........but that would have to come another day. This was still a good transition for Legs.

It was the second way of the arena that was the ride that really got me. When they asked us to lope, I was at the back of a pack of about eight horses. I waited for the other horses in front of me to lope. I asked my horse to follow immediately. Then I watched those horses leave us.

Most of those horses were rounding into the corner and Legs and I had not hit the halfway point on the rail. I also noted that many of these horses were four beating as well. It was an impressive measure of how my horse is loping compared to the others in the class.

Not only was the lope felt as smooth as glass. This was the lope I have been working so hard to achieve and here it was showing up in our nationals class. Even though I was still having to pick my horse up every few strides to maintain this incredible lope, I felt the pride well up in my throat. I knew we looked like we really belonged in this class.......even if we weren't on a draped rein. That day will come.

Our transition down from the lope into the jog was much better than the transition down from the lope the other direction. Legs stayed nice and round and hit the proper speed with the first step. Then he faltered a step or two but it was still a good transition for him. There was nothing about it that would take away from the glow of that amazing lope.

From there they called us immediately into the line-up. Instead of circling around the arena like the rest of the riders, I looked around at the position of the other horses and decided I would turn my horse in the corner and bring him back down the way we'd come. Legs tried to tell me I was going the wrong way with a little resistance at the request. Then he did what I'd asked on moved on through the corner rounding up nicely. I was glad I'd had the opportunity to mix it up so he wouldn't be out thinking me later.

I ended up in the line-up between two men. That may not sound like anything important but around the regions I ride we rarely see more than one man in an amateur class so I began looking around the ring and realized, there were several men riding.........probably a third of the class. When the ribbons were handed out, men took half of them.

and........NO, I did not get a ribbon. I've been saying all along I probably wouldn't unless the whole class fell apart. This class did not fall apart.

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

Moving On

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  1. It sounds like an amazing ride. Congratulations!

  2. I just wanted to let you know that I was there and saw your class! I've been waiting for you to write about it so I could comment! I thought your ride was very good, I particularly remember your upward canter transitions being very good. I noticed the young woman judge with the short blond hair was looking at you every time you went by her, but the other judges didn't seem to notice you. It seemed like you got caught on the rail behind other horses a lot and just didn't have the presence to get noticed. Which is a shame because it was a really good ride! I think you and Legs really did belong in that ring with the others.

  3. I'm so happy to hear that you had a great ride, even if it didn't result in a ribbon. With all that you went through leading up to your class it sure sounds like a win to me!