|We didn't do so well...but at least we looked nice!|
We did it! Last Sunday afternoon, Qrac and I got all blinged
out and competed in our very first dressage competition.
As I mentioned in my post last week, I had no idea as to how
Qracy would behave on a showground, how he would react to all the adrenaline
gushing through the air, whether he’d get himself into a total tizzy at the
sight of all the other horses. As it turns out, he was a total prince, backing
calmly out of the trailer, standing quietly for a friend of mine while my
daughter and I tacked him up. He didn’t prance, he didn’t dance, and he didn’t
shout his head off, despite the crazy antics of a horse seemingly destroying the
trailer parked next to us. That in itself was a victory for me!
I climbed onto his back and rode him towards the warm-up
arena where my trainer, Marie-Valentine, was waiting for us. He felt a tad
tense, but for reasons I can’t even begin to explain (could it have had
something to do with the herbal chill-pill I took?!), I felt utterly blissed
out, as though my horse and I were wrapped in a cocoon of cotton wool.
Marie-Valentine greeted us, her sunny, generous presence reinforcing my calm
state of mind. After she’d wired me up to her walkie-talkie machine, I patted
Qrac, took a deep breath, and guided him into the warm-up arena.
Within minutes my husband and my son arrived. My husband had
only seen Qrac once, last summer, and my son had never seen him at all. With
neither of them being horse aficionados, the fact that they’d made the effort
to drive all the way out there to watch me meant a lot, especially with our country’s
beloved Rodger Federer competing in the Wimbledon final an hour after I was scheduled
to ride, giving them little time to get back in the car, race home and turn on
the television! Soon afterwards my friend Heike and her husband arrived, having
driven all the way from Cologne, Germany (where they’d dropped off their
children with Heike’s parents forty-eight hours earlier for the summer
holidays)just to make it on time to see my first competition! Seriously! I was totally
feeling the love!
Goodness me, the warm-up arena was such a zoo! With two
tests taking place simultaneously, there must have been about thirty riders in
there, some seemingly clueless as to the basic rules of riding in company. Nevertheless,
initially at least, my cotton wool cocoon remained intact. “Have you two been
competing in secret?” joked Marie-Valentine in my earpiece, and I turned to
smile at her. Seriously, whoever invented those walkie-talkie earpiece thingies
deserves an Oscar or something! They are so reassuring.
The warm-up process went smoothly, although little by little
I must admit to becoming slightly unnerved by other riders cutting us off right
and left. Being far too polite (and far too worried about being ploughed into!)
to cut anyone off myself, I remained on full alert, weaving in and out of crazy
drivers, slamming on the breaks a number of times to avoid the inconsiderate
oafs ignoring our right of way. Qrac, bless his blingy saddle blanket, remained
impassive, only spooking once when someone with a big dog slipped and fell onto
his bum while running down the embankment on the far side of the arena. Generally
speaking, he felt pretty fabulous considering the circumstances, moving nicely
forwards and rounded. Granted, I didn’t have as much expression as I can
sometimes get at home, and Qrac was definitely sticking to my inside leg on the
right rein, but all things considered, I was thrilled.
The test Qrac and I were performing was ridden on a 20 x40 metre
arena (tiny! I couldn’t believe how small it was!), which meant that we could
enter the cordoned off extra 20 metres of the arena when the rider competing
right before us went in to do her test. There again, Qrac was great, trotting
around calmly while we waited for our turn. I tried to tune out everything
else, mentally going over my test one last time, taking deep breaths. I felt so
privileged, so lucky, so intensely happy to be here, riding in a dressage competition
on a sunny afternoon on my beautiful horse under the loving, encouraging eyes
of friends and family.
The rider before us finished her test, and Qrac and I
entered the arena. I trotted him around, ready for him as he spooked at the
geraniums and the begonias, feeling him tense as he eyed the judges in their
little chalets. Still, he felt good, and I was confident we’d be able to ride
the test without too many problems.
|It was supposed to be an extended trot!|
The bell jingled. I trotted a circle, changed to the left
rein and headed towards A. From what I can see from the video, our turn was
pretty precise, and it felt as though we rode relatively straight down the
centre line, halting more or less squarely at X, although he dropped his right
hip at the very last second. I saluted, patted him, and then proceeded towards
C at a decent enough working trot with a smile on my face. I turned left and
prepared for the extended trot on the diagonal. Within three strides Qrac
exploded, shooting forwards and upwards like a rocket, taking me completely by
surprise! I have no idea what happened, whether he saw something that spooked
him, or whether he just had one of those unexplainable horsey moments. Still
smiling (I think I actually laughed!) I closed my legs, rode forwards and more
or less got him back before we reached the corner, but after that initial
meltdown he was a little rushed, and no longer totally with me. Our turn on the
haunches was more of an “okay, screw this, let’s just turn around and go the
other way”, our ten metre circle in the left lead canter was a bit of an 18
metre hippety-hoppety head throwing muck-up. As for our walk to canter
transition, it was a Qrac super special: he struck off on the wrong leg, switched
leads in the air while swinging his haunches to the other side before even
landing the wrong lead. Which in my enthusiastic opinion was super skilful, but
definitely didn’t impress the judges!
Basically, we didn’t impress the judges at all, and finished
with a pretty lowly score. Nevertheless, I rode out of the arena with a massive
grin on my face, congratulating Qrac profusely, psyched by the whole experience,
proud of not having been paralysed by nerves, proud of having remembered the
test, proud of having remained so calm during the program despite Qrac’s numerous
mini-meltdowns, proud of having continued to ride forward. We’d done it! We’d ridden
our first dressage competition! Yippedy skippedy woohoo!
I was still on a high when I got home, and astonished myself
further by having enough energy to actually go straight back out for pizza with
my family at the local tennis club, where I drove everyone spare, yapping on
and on about how happy I was, and how well Qracy had done, and sending out long,
detailed text messages complete with photographs to all my horsey friends.
A couple of days later I signed us up for a show at the end
of August, although I’m not a hundred percent certain of being able to take
part as my poor son will be having knee surgery the previous day. Nevertheless,
simply having signed up gives me something to work towards, and forces me to be
a little more organized in my training. It’s
funny, but until now, when people used to tell me that they liked competing
because it gave them an idea of where they were at and what they had to work
on, I never really got it. As far as I was concerned, going to a show was just
one giant, scary stress-out. On Sunday night, when it was all over, I finally
And, guess what, I really enjoyed getting all dressed up and
blingy for the occasion!
What do you/did you get out of showing?
(My amazing daughter took all the photos! Check out her website: www.oliviabossert.com. She recently had one of her photographs on a massive billboard on Times Square in New York! Yep, I'm proud of her!)