After the mixed results of our first two tests, I wasn't too terribly sure what I would get on our third day at the show. Overnight the weather turned colder and very windy. I woke up to a gale warning on my phone. Great, that's always fun when there's a bunch of tents around. Trainer A texted and said she wanted them both to do 20 minutes on the lunge first thing in the morning. Sounded like a good idea with Theo raging about his continued incarceration and a cold, stiff wing blowing his butt around.
Then it was time for mucking and braiding. I was setting up to braid when I got another text from Trainer A. She wanted me on my sassy beast 1.5 hours before my ride time. Ugh. That completely threw off the planned time table for the morning! Fortunately a friend showed up and helped get Theo ready while I finished braiding Miss Thang.
It turned out to be a good call, since Theo still had pent up energy. He gave me a couple of good sized temper tantrums in the warm up ring. It didn't help that the tents along the warm up area were trying to escape. The entire NEDA tent was down and they were trying to gather it up while we were warming up. We got sand blasted during the big gusts. Theo really struggled to focus in the beginning with so much noise and motion all around him. We ended up having the equivalent of a full lesson in warm up to get him focused and soft. Then I moved him to the area for on deck horses to start the process over.
As soon as we walked over, all of ring 3 blew over sending the beautiful warmblood inside leaping from his ring, into ring 2 (fortunately empty at that time), out of ring 2, and veering off toward ring 1. The very secure rider got him stopped before he managed to barge into the FEI test going on. Then she bravely dismounted, let someone take her fire breathing dragon, and started laughing while we applauded. It was probably a 45 mph wind gust that sent ring letters tumbling into the woods. Fortunately mi papi wasn't overly affronted by this and chilled while they reset the ring and got big rocks on the letters. But that's how windy it was.
Theo was scared when it was his turn. There was no one in ring 2 and very few horses in warmup. He was all alone. The L program was training judges and the tent they were in was billowing like a breathing beast full of people with rustling papers. Rails were wiggling in the wind. A runner kind of fell out of the judge's booth while we were walking up. He completely froze at one point, heart pounding. I stopped worrying about my test and swapped to survival mode. I sat as deep as I could, wrapped my legs around him, and did everything I could think of to make him feel like it was going to be okay.
Theo - Training 3
What a brave baby. Just one real spook and he recovered within seconds. Trainer A liked this test the best of the weekend because it's the first time she's seen me actually ride in a dressage ring. I was riding out of my head to get him around without a repeat of the broncing on Saturday. And Theo responded. We were cantering toward the judge's booth on the right lead and I felt him start to suck back. I rode that canter hard and he decided to take my word for it and very bravely marched forward. Now I know the ride we need for days like this.
After that very brave ride, I scratched him from his second test. He was completely wiped, mentally and physically. So was I. The wind wasn't going anywhere and it was time to go home.
He learned everything there was to learn for the weekend, so no point in ruining his great accomplishment by sending him back in while that tired. We now know a lot more about what Theo needs at an away show and how to manage him when his ring is just terrifying to him. Most importantly, he finished all three tests with numbers, not letters. Perfectly respectable numbers two times out of three. He got his first qualifying score. He got a 5th place ribbon in a class of eleven. We got a lot of sevens and a lot of positive feedback. Theo fits in beautifully at these shows, even if he's not a jaw dropping mover. He looked content and happy at several points and I feel we can build off of that.
Last night he slept in the biggest stall in the barn. Today, he and Miss Thang will be spending all day out in the Ritz being horses instead of show ponies. I will be treating my sun burn and taking Advil. Riding that much broncing in one weekend is hard on the muscles. But it's a good ache. First show is in the books.