Time Flies!

Where has the month gone?  It seems like just last week I wrote about being excited about our first show of the season and now we’re done with two!

Success at Saginaw Valley State!

The first double header meet was hosted by Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) at the Midland County Fairgrounds on October 8th.  The morning show went really well for everyone and all of our new riders performed spectacularly.  It seemed like we had a good group of horses and I was really looking forward to my classes.  Following tradition from last year, I had Michelle, a sophomore on the team, draw for me and I was optimistic about both horses she pulled (one for horsemanship and one for reining).

My horse for open horsemanship was a little Appaloosa mare named Bella.  She was a very cute young horse and her owner was there holding her so she went over the basics with me.  (Basically, Bella was her five year old project horse, and she had just started showing her this year.)  They ride her in a snaffle bit and she had most of her training down pat but just needed reminders to stay off her front end.  Going into the class, I was a bit nervous that she wasn’t as finished as the owner said she would be, but all in all, Bella was good during the first half of the class. After we reversed though, the judge had us drop our stirrups and requested counter canter.

Now I was really nervous.

I wasn’t sure if I would be able to pull it off on such a young mare, but I tipped her hip and she willingly picked it up.  (Good girl, Bella!) Then, when the judged asked for it, she quietly performed a simple lead change and continued moving around the ring.  I was very impressed with her and also excited about our ride because I was the only rider in my class who was able to pick up (and keep!) the counter canter.  Sadly, the judge was not too impressed with my maneuvers though, because I only placed third, but even then, I was satisfied with my first ride of the season.  (Even Bella’s owner complimented me on the ride, which is always great to hear.)

Next up was reining and SVSU had chosen one of the longer, more difficult patterns for us to execute.  My mount, a huge black Quarter Horse named Dude (not joking) was also a snaffle bit horse, so I had the advantage of being able to ride with two hands – but the disadvantage of having a young horse again.  As I started my pattern, it was obvious that Dude was one of those big clunky horses that would take any opportunity he could find to stop, so I did my best to keep him moving, though it was quite a struggle.  By the end of my ride, I was out of breath and a little disappointed because  knew I would have been able to pull off a much better pattern on a more willing horse, but I had done the best I could with what I had.

It turns out, however, that I was lucky.  Several of the other horses in my class were of similar stamina to Dude and a few riders messed up the long pattern, so I was still able to place second in the class.

Overall, Albion was High Point team for the morning show and my fellow open reiner, Chelsea Utt, was the High Point rider.  Then, for the next show, I did the unimaginable – I drew for myself!  (And, even more importantly, I drew good horses for myself! The curse has finally been broken (hopefully)!)  My reining horse was a gelding named Champ, who was actually a trained reining horse.  He didn’t have his sliding plates on, which was a little disappointing, but we were able to lay down a solid pattern.  After I left the ring, I had to quickly go find my open horse, Josh, so I could get ready to go back in the ring.  As I sat there waiting for them to announce the placings, I got situated on Josh and my coach helped me adjust my stirrups and reins.

Sadly, I placed third after my solid reining pattern, but I shook it off.  Then, Josh’s owner walked over to give me instructions about her horse.  He was in a bosal and only four years old, but she confidently told me that he was fully spur stop trained.  I could tell that she had been doing some showing with him because he had a roached mane, which is a trend the University of Findlay has been following for their show horses.  As I walked into the arena, he seemed calm and ready to go but I quickly found out that he was far from spur stop trained.  In fact, I went to set his head and he lurched forward.  Then later, when I asked him to transition down from a lope to a walk, a slight squeeze resulted in a much faster gait.  (Clearly he was not as finished as his owner implied, so I reverted back to the basics.)

The rest of the class went decently, and we ended up with yet another third.  Overall, I was happy with my rides, even though I think I should have placed a little better.  The second show left the team in fourth place, which was a little disappointing, but we rode hard and knew we had the next weekend to make up for it.

Future cowboy Caden with Tuffy.

I spent fall break resting and working.   My older sister, Heather, came to visit on Sunday and brought my absolutely adorable nephew, Caden.  The second he walked in the door, he was begging me for a horsey ride, so after dinner, I saddled up Tuffy, and took him for a ride.  He was completely ecstatic and refused to get off.  (I think my sister may have a little cowboy on her hands!)  Then on Tuesday we loaded up the trailer and brought Image to Denise’s to get ready for the upcoming home meet.  I spent a good four hours at the barn on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in preparation and Image got a lot of attention because almost everyone on our team had a chance to get on her and try her out.  (They don’t call it “home field advantage” for nothing.)

Friday morning I woke up bright and early and met Danielle, the dressage coach, at Denise’s to start loading horses to take over to the Held Center.  Five hours later, we had 18 horses and half the contents of Denise’s barn at the show location and, with two more loads in Denise’s trailer and my own, we had everyone there and, once we had everything unpacked, I kissed Image goodbye and headed back to my room for a well deserved nap.  After that, I went back to the barn for a lesson with the entire team.  We got out all the horses and swapped numerous times so we all had a chance to get on the horses we might draw at the show.

It was another bright and early morning on Saturday as we all scrambled to get the final details set for the show. All the competing teams checked in and then it was on to the draw.  For the first show, I drew Jewelz and Dillon and the first couple of classes went really well for most of our riders, but sadly it was the point riders who had the worse rides and by the time my classes rolled around, there was no hope of a team ribbon.  Still, I had a nice quiet ride on Jewelz and I ended up placing second.  Then, in reining, I ended up fourth.  (That was a bit of a bummer since I had drawn our coach’s own reining horse.  He’s only three though, so he’s got a long way to go till he’d ever be considered finished.)  The team walked away with another fourth, so we were bound and determined to kick butt on the second half of the double header that afternoon.

That's my girl! Image (right) carries AC first-year Elle Root in the Intermediate I division. (Left is sophomore Michelle Miele on Carly.)

After the lunch break, my draws left me with Carly for reining and Jipzy for open.  Carly absolutely loves reining, so we had a nice clean pattern and ended up with a second place ribbon.  Then, my ride on Jipzy went almost as well and I placed third.  It had been a long day, so I left the arena to go change out of my show clothes, but as I unzipped my show shirt I realized that I had nine points for the second show and, since the placings had been so sporadic, I thought maybe I had a chance at High Point, so I zipped back up and went to find our captain, Amanda.  Sure enough, there was a five way (!) tie for Reserve High Point.

As a result, we quickly added a ride-off class and drew horses.  My horse was Sonny, who is a good rail horse but not always the most patient of pattern horses – which, of course meant that, as we entered the arena, the judge assigned a pattern.  With the exception of a little buck and his attempt to back at the end of the pattern despite there being no back required, we did ok and we absolutely rocked the rail work that followed.  I was not awarded Reserve High Point in the end, but I was really happy with my ride anyway.  In addition, we redeemed ourselves as a team and won the High Point award.

In the current standings, I am fourth overall in our region and I only need 11 points in each class to qualify for Regionals.  With two double header meets to go, I should have no problem getting there!

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