Long story short: My horse is a genius, I need a little work, and we're now halfway to the silver medal!!
(Yay!! Good boy!!)
So basically I was a wreck all week; my back is doing a lot better in a basic pain sense (as in it doesn't hurt to breathe anymore), but now I'm just incredibly stiff and tight and feel like a creaky tin robot. As a result, I didn't ride very hard all week, and I was increasingly in two minds about whether or not going down to Mystic for our (hopefully) last attempt at Fourth Level would be worth it.
Then, on Thursday night, the skies opened up. And it proceeded to tip down rain for all of Friday and into Friday night. I tentatively packed up the trailer and cleaned my tack, but as I lay in bed on Friday night and listening to sheets of water lash against my window, I couldn't help but feel pretty fatalistic about it. I had visions of impassable quagmires of tendon-ripping mud sucking us down into oblivion. I made up a ton of excuses as to why I wasn't going to enter, then finally drifted off uneasily to sleep at 3am, ready to back out the next morning.
(Look, the judge was actually smiling as she watched us! Definitely better than the grimaces I've occasionally noticed in the background of some of my less illustrious tests...)
But then on Saturday morning, between checking the weather and my dad's positive wheedling, I decided to pull on my big girl pants and at least give it a shot. If we got there and the arenas were awful, sure, we'd scratch. But why not give it a shot? So I quickly cleaned up Ringo as best as I could (having not given him a bath the day previously in my negative attitude).
And, of course, it turned out to be a perfect day - the sun shone, the footing dried out just enough to be absolutely lovely, and Ringo was a total star despite a pretty nonexistent prep earlier this week. The show was pretty quiet so I had my warmup all to myself, and while I wasn't feeling up to really pushing Ringo to his absolute best, I was pretty thrilled with how loose and relaxed he felt.
As we walked over to the arena I got a big blast of nerves: had I made the right choice to come? Was I adequately prepared? Did I have Ringo in the right frame for the test, or was he too low? But the only way to answer those doubting questions was to go in the ring, so I took a deep breath, wiggled my ears (my pre-test ritual to test to see if my neck is relaxed enough), and headed in.
(Mouth open, but I really like this one for some reason)
So the good about the test: Ringo was perfect. Perfect. PERFECT. It was one of the few tests I've ever had where I felt like he was absolutely relaxed, absolutely listening, absolutely willing to do whatever I asked him to do.
(What a perfect fancy beast)
The bad? I asked him to do some pretty whack things! Seriously, it was one of the least accurate and poorly planned tests I've ridden in a while. All my half-pass angles were wrong, I almost forgot several movements, and I always felt like I was a half step behind every aid I was supposed to be giving at any given time. Ugh. Not the best feeling. Fortunately Ringo just sort of kept muddling along and covered a lot of my bad piloting, but I left the arena pretty unsure of my score, and quite certain that a bad score was going to be completely my fault.
Mercifully, thanks to Ringo's AWESOMENESS, we still managed to score a 62.5% even with my totally wonky riding. Hooray!! Not only does that mean that I've gotten both of the required 4th Level scores for the Silver Medal now, but Ringo's relaxation and attentiveness in the ring also really gave me confidence that, with some better riding on my part, the move up to PSG this coming weekend might not be totally embarrassing and laughable. So a total success!
(Another show, another great extended canter from Ringo - I actually thought this was one of our best extended canters ever and was a little bummed that the judge thought it was too quick; oh well...)
Now I'm off to get as much instruction as possible in the coming week so that I can hopefully improve on my performance a hair at GMHA - Ringo doesn't need to change a thing, I just need to catch up with him! Definitely not the worst problem to have :)
(A little blurry, but Ringo trying very hard in our second flying change)