...Once the Academy class was in the arena, we walked Sport into the warm up arena. I don't know about you guys - but it is right now that I always experience the worst case of dry mouth ever! Thankfully Kari Ann had my water bottle in her pocket. Sport's (half) blinders were removed and he acted no different than he did with them on. I walked him about in small circles, never getting to far away from help.
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I am sure I must sound so overly cautious about all of this and now in retrospect, I feel the same way as you must - reading all of my emotions..but to me, in my heart - this meant so much. You see, so much more was riding on this other than it just being a show... just being the first show where I was riding Sport... and just being a show where I was riding Sport sidesaddle for the first time. I am so dilligently trying to carve out a niche for other American Saddlebred riders. If I were to go into the ring and have a spill, it would essencially ruin any chances that others would want to join in...any chances that one day our breed shows, like the Arabian breed shows, could also have sidesaddle classes. This is what I am working towards. I also am working with the best horse I have for the job, albeit his inexperience...and sometimes feel that I have to even push for this with the people who are helping me. In my life, this is one of the strongest definitions of determination, passion and reward I have so enjoyed. It has also parallelled itself with many other areas...my faith, struggling with my husbands illness, and endurance to not give up in so many other areas of my life.
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Walking around on Sport..my mind wandered a bit. Right before I had finished dressing, I ran to the bathroom. While I was washing my hands, a young lady aproached me, asking when I was going to show. I thought she thought I was with the Arabian show, but quickly realized I was srong as she continued. Apparently, she knew exactly who I was and proceeded to tell me that I had a sort of fan club who all wanted to see me show. My eyes widened and my mouth probably fell open. All I could manage to say and think was, "I had no idea." I think I thanked her for telling me that before she left... at least I hope I did.
I stopped when the Academy riders were coming out of their class and waited until the gate was called for mine. I do not like being the first one to enter the ring, just because I have such a disadvantage riding aside at the trot. Where I could trot astride for an hour, I have limited physical resources trotting aside before needing to stop to catch my breath. There were only 4 horses in our class though and after the second horse entered, I felt it safe to take my turn.
Gornio ran beside me up to the gate to make sure Sport did not balk at it as so many horses do. He was perfect. His ears were forward and he did not even hesitate. I was so pleased because normally both gates are open for a class coming in and they were only using one! We trotted in, heading toward the right rail going counter clockwise. Sport felt good but I was going to be very cautious with him. For the entrance, he must have been 20 feet off of the rail. His speed was a bit slow, but I could see his knees popping up in front of his chest, which meant he was going about level. We circled around the back side and trotted back to the gate, which was still open. Going by the stands for the second time, I let Sport get a bit closer.. about 18 feet away. Coming down the opposite side, I moved him about 15 feet off the rail. He was perfectly comfortable. We passed the in gate again and it was still open, meaning they were still waiting for horse number 4. We went around again and I nudged Sport a bit closer, maybe 10 feet off the rail but that was all I was willing to risk for this class. AGAIN we passed the in gate and it was OPEN! Back around we went and it occured to me that I was not exhausted. All those advanced Zumba dancing classes had paid off!
These 2 pic's were taken by Cathy Ruby.
The last horse made it into the arena we went another full circle before the judge called for the walk. I tried to acess my class mates. All 3 were young ladies - teenagers with boundless energy! One was a young girl with a wickedly talented horse. One was a rider whom I had seen ride for about 2 years with the barn set up next to Bluebonnet and the last was the young lady who had trouble getting into the arena. She was still having issues with her horse who seemed to really be fighting with her in the bridle.
The judge asked us to change directions but keep at the walk. Since we were at the far end of the ring, I very casually asked Sport to make a wide circle to the inside of the ring and he continued to flat walk. I saw one of the horses anticipate the next move and try to trot off with his rider. This happens a lot with show horses. The trot was called for. I shorted my reins and clucked to Sport. He immediatly squatted down. He wanted to put on a show and really trot. I held him back and kept him slow and steady... a decision that I have to admit ... I regret now.
These pictures were taken by my daughter Joy:
I now believe he was trying to tell me, "I got this Mom! Let me show them what I can do." My baby was ready... and I was not. I gave him the verbal que "Wup" .. which to him means to back off and he did exactly what I asked him to do. We trotted another round, again were asked to walk and then trot into the line up.
Sport stood there like the perfect gentleman he is and as I looked up, a huge crowd of people were cheering for me. One of my friends made the gesture - like she was wiping sweat off of her brow... which is exactly how I felt. I was all smiles. I leaned down and kissed My Sport on the mane and whispered 'I love you' to him. The judge did not ask us to back our horses and before I knew it, the announcer was calling out the placings. As usual, I had no idea what my number was. They called out first place, and it was earned by the young lady and her newly purchased show horse. The next number they called was mine. I was so thrilled.
I have come so far from those first shows where I was not sure I would come out of the ring alive. I honestly felt that if I had let Sport go on and show himself better the second direction, we would have been better competition for first place... but that gave me something to aim for on Sunday!
..to be continued