I AM A USDF BRONZE MEDALIST!!!!!
Yay!!! I'm so, so thrilled. The weekend went amazingly; Ringo was as good as he's ever been and felt unbelievable. I was most pleased with how he came out on Sunday morning, as he's sometimes gotten tired and a little sour on the second day of a show, and while he was not quite as bright, instead of getting tense he just buckled down and tried harder. We rode Third Level Test 1 both days, a test we've done a few times now and that I was finally getting to feel like I've learned how to ride.
(Looking good coming in to our shoulder in)
So, to back up a little bit. Pa and I drove up to beautiful Essex Junction, VT (near Lake Champlain and pretty close to the Canadian border) on Friday night to get Ringo settled in. I'd never been to this venue before, and was pleasantly surprised to find it small but well laid-out and organized, with good footing and tons and tons of warm up. Plus, Ringo looooved his cozy stall, and settled in almost immediately.
The next morning was an early one to get ready for my 9am ride time, especially since I planned to ride him briefly in the morning before I got on for my official warm up. He felt great both times I got on him, but I have to admit that I was incredibly nervous. I wanted that last bronze medal score so badly. I felt physically ill with apprehension: not the weak legged, butterflies-fluttering, am-I-going-to-die nerves that I sometimes get before cross-country, but a dizzying and feverish weight of pressure that makes my head spin.
Trotting around the arena, I felt so weak I wasn't sure I was going to be able to sit the trot. Instead of torching and pressuring myself further, I chose to trot around the outside of the arena in an easy rising trot (where normally I sit and try to get one last run through of all the hardest movements), taking big breaths, wiggling my ears (a good way for me to make sure my neck is relaxed), and thinking positive thoughts. It worked! Ringo did not get tense at all, and when the bell rang, I simply walked a few strides, collected myself, and struck off in sitting trot.
(Trotting down the centerline)
The trot work went really well, barring the medium and extended trots, where I rode quite foolishly. I've developed a bit of a mental block about the medium trot and need an instructor's help to get over it. But our transitions in and out of shoulder-in were much improved, and I learned from my mistakes at Hossmoor and really focused on being clear and consistent with my bend and going deep into my corners (I could see from the tracks that I went deeper into the corners than anyone had before me! Score!).
(I really focused on my left wrist, too, per Kim's advice... but as you can see, I wasn't always perfect)
After a somewhat tense walk, we had one of the best canter tours I've ever had on a horse, ever. Ringo was lovely, and his changes especially were a highlight. It was a real thrill to get rewarded in the scoring too; Ringo scored all 7s and 8s for his canter, and got an 8 and an 8.5 (!!) for his two flying changes. Good man!! We finished on 67.7% and won our class by almost 6%.
I was so relieved, I almost cried. I then had a massive adrenaline rush and release, and got so sleepy that we went back to the hotel after putting Ringo away and I slept like a dead man for over an hour. We finished up the afternoon with a trip to the Ben & Jerry's factory, a long hand graze for Ringo, and dinner in town.
The next morning was pretty much the same routine again, though I chose not to do a pre-ride as I wanted to save his energy. As I said earlier, I thought he did feel a little tired, but I was really pleased with his attitude, as he just kept trying and trying. I wasn't nearly as nervous, as I'd already secured my bronze medal, so tried to practice maintaining intensity without getting stiff. I thought the test went well but I thought I made a few more careless mistakes and so wasn't sure how it would score.
(Nice collected canter)
Imagine my surprise, then, when I looked at the board and saw I'd gotten a 68.5%, for another win! I didn't get any 8.5s, but I got a lot of 7s and 8s and very few 6s and only one 5. I think the relaxation and consistency made up for the small mistakes this time.
So needless to say, I'm thrilled. This might be my last recognized show of the year just due to some scheduling issues, and I couldn't be happier with the result. Now we can head into the winter focused on moving up to 4th level and beyond! =)
Thanks again, Ringo - what a wonderful, perfect horse. I can't believe the amazing luck and kindness that brought him into my life. I'm truly blessed.