Here there be dragons...

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First show with Athena

First show with Athena today.  Didn't feel prepared enough for PT so only signed her up for Entry.  Every once in a while I can be reasonable *g*

As with any show we start with the basic arithmetic which calculates the key detail of how sleep deprived I'll be.  Alright well 9:36 in dressage, that means aim to be there by 8:30.  It's a two hour drive from the farm, so need to leave by 6:30.  Athena doesn't load well, so plan to load at 6.   If I want to load at 6, I need to be there by 5:15.  Means leave at 4:30.  So aim to leave at 4:15.  Up at 3:45.  Fun.  You don't have to be crazy to do this, but it helps.  Please keep that time in mind as you read this and consider yourself forewarned!

So my schedule was accurate -- after years of showing at the same locations I'm reasonably good at doing the calculations.  Except...  You may remember I recently got a puppy?  :)   She's not in the calculations yet.  Oops.  hahaha adds 15 minutes to everything *g*  But I had that figured in with the aim for 4:15 so net result was me getting to the barn at exactly the right time.  Sweet.  And as she's still recovering she was staying home, so once I was out of the house puppy calculations weren't an issue.

Went out in the dark to get my pony out of the field.  Yes you read that right.  The field.  After I bathed and braided her I turned her out. hahaha - put health and sanity above beauty.  And sure enough she came in with mud thoroughly embedded into the braids.  *sigh*  Ah well - at least the braids were still in!   Let her eat while I go hook up and pack the trailer -- there's an art to the timing :)   Then a quick groom and the bobbling of the braids and Athena's ready to go.
Athena the night before
PC - Emily Martin
Now as anybody who's been reading the blog for a while might already know "Athena's ready to go" always creates an "uh oh" moment; she's not known for loading well.  But so far she's been getting better every time -- today took all of about two minutes.  I was amazed and very excited :)   AND because of that we were now ahead of time again...

Which promptly got lost when I realized my current barn is 20 mins west of every barn I've ever ridden at -- and so we ended up again with a net result of exactly the right time.  Ok not too bad :)   Athena unloaded perfectly and took the girls on a walk around the parking lot while I went and got my number and walked the course.

Course looks good - tiny.  None of the fences were maxed, even for entry level but sobeit.  Quite slippery because it was wet grass, but I had high hopes it'd be dry by the time I jumped.  So the only actual concern was the hill -- balance isn't *really* something Athena's grasped yet and we haven't done much (read *any*) hill work...  Oh well.

So off to dressage warm-up.   And to be honest -- once I got there, I was a little puzzled what to do next *g*   You see, everything I've *ever* shown Entry level has been super-green (read barely-broke) and almost always either four years old or straight off the track.  So I'm used to dressage warm-up *really* being "get the sillies out" in an effort to get something that vaguely resembles the right gait and the right direction in the ring.  But Athena was calm.  Serious advantage to an older horse I guess.  hahaha or a non-TB.  Or a combination of both.  Foreign world here.   So I just schooled her flat the same way I would at home and she was going quite nicely.   But quiet - too quiet.  I actually had to energize her, which is far from normal.  But otherwise ok.

In the ring unfortunately she slipped in the first corner we went in and then was *very* tense in every corner.  She also seemed to feel one particular corner was really an interesting cavelleti exercise and kept preparing to jump it.  Sheesh.   But other than that she maintained her rhythm and generally did what was asked.  It was a little sticky and certainly far from brilliant, but it wasn't horrid either.  And no show ring issues which leads me to believe at some point in her history she's done dressage before.

Ok so finish up in dressage and head back to the trailer.  35 mins till we jump.  Quick brush and switch tack.  She wouldn't drink anything and was pretty much even ignoring the grass, but at least she wasn't pacing to the same degree anymore.  More just hanging out.   Got up to stadium and watched a few rounds -- fence two was coming down a lot and there were some icky spots, but otherwise it seemed ok; certainly nobody seemed to be having footing issues so I figured the grass had probably dried.

Jumped a couple w/u fences -- they were sticky.  I wasn't thrilled with them and worse - I could feel a massive bout of nerves kicking in.  Which was definitely playing with my little brain since I was sitting there trying to figure out why on Earth I was nervous when a - I never get nervous once I'm riding (occasionally on the way up or even in-between phases, but never once I'm on) and b - it was an *easy* course.  A lovely, inviting, first-show-of-the-year type course.  Tight turns were all optional -- in every case there was a nice wide option.  And the jumps were small.  Anyways - while my brain was busy analysing itself, somebody had made the w/u oxer PT height; this, of course, is technically illegal.  But that's a rule I don't entirely agree with *g*   AND it's a schooling show so why not school.   So I called the fence just as the coach went to put it back down to E height for everybody else and we had a silent eye-to-eye conversation in which she warned me it was bigger than it should be, I acknowledged and confirmed that was a *good* thing, and she agreed to leave it there for one more jump before returning it.   Well Athena cleared it perfectly.  Perfect rhythm, striding, balance.  It was beautiful.  Clearly we just need bigger fences :)

Ok go to the ring to jump our course -- but they've had ordering issues and now we're back to being several away *sigh*.   So I sit and watch for a bit, during with Athena's totally chilled.  Understand this is the horse that won't stand still even at HOME.  So I was a little disconcerted by this behaviour, but ok.   When we're one away we go canter around the w/u again and she seems good - forward and in front of my leg.  Ok, time to go.   By this point the butterflies have long since left and to be honest I'm mostly bored and just want to have my turn and get out on xc :)

In and salute, pick up our canter and head to the first fence.  And I'm fully expecting her to try to take over -- that's our usual game: she grabs the bit in her teeth and charges, and I try to convince her I'm supposed to be the one in charge.  But instead she sucked way back; I basically dug my heels into her as in "you *will* go" and she beech-balled it.  It was ugly, but we were over.   Reorganize, fix our lead, rebalance, get going again.  The "hill" that seemed so brutal when walking was a complete non-issue riding -- even with Athena's lack of balancing abilities, so other than accommodating for it naturally, I basically ignored it from that point on.   And we jumped around the course.  It was sticky.  VERY sticky.  Had lots of trot bits.  Couldn't get a decent forward rhythm for anything.  At the end I finally pushed her for a long spot just to get her moving (she usually *loves* the long spot) -- but that ended up being a very poor decision as she pulled the rail.  Stupid rider :(   I was very disappointed in myself for that.  BUT after that round, very glad I had downgraded her.  We clearly need some practice.   I watched the PT course later and it was set at actual PT height and on a normal day would've been a joke for her, but I think today it was good that we were doing the baby stuff.

But what was not good was how tired she was.   Came out and she was clearly done.  No respiration issues, but standing still and just occasionally grazing.   Which I realize sounds like normal horse behaviour, but it's not really normal Athena behaviour...  So I deem that we should probably skip xc.  Boooo :(

So take her back to the trailer to untack.  And being a good pony-clubber I leave the reins over her head as I go to put the halter on -- and she promptly wallops me in the face with her head and then throws it in the air and leaves.   Worse - she left first in slow-motion.  At just a fast enough walk that I could pull uselessly on the reins but couldn't get in front of her to actually stop her.  And then she left.  At a gallop.  With my bridle flapping between her front legs.  Frig.

Now most horses who get loose in the parking lot, run around the parking lot for a bit and then eventually stop.  But would I have a normal horse?  Oh no.  She runs out.  Ok, I think she's going up to stadium.  And she went part way there -- but did my herd animal go to the 20 or so horses in the stadium?  Nope.  She gallops on by and heads back down the hill to the trees.   Ok, maybe she's going to cut through to dressage. But when we finally get there (this is well out of sight) there's no chaos in dressage; she hasn't been there.   Follow the path in the woods till we see the very dramatic sliding stop from where her path t-boned and she wasn't sure where to go, and the galloping prints off the other direction.  Did I mention she has a *huge* stride?   So yeah, in the end we found her WAY at the top of the hill, essentially as far away as you could get from any other horse on the property. Grazing away. They'd been able to see her almost the whole time from stadium, and one of the wonderful ring crew went up to get her and got there before we did.   The bridle was thoroughly tangled around her, but she hadn't moved since she got there.

So yeah - the horse who won't leave her pony at home and is SO nappy I have to carry a crop if I want to pass the driveway back to the barn w/o turning, will quite happily leave ALL the horses and go off on her own adventure.  Only in my world.

With profuse thanks to the guy who caught her, we got her untangled and checked her over.  She seemed fine and *very* full of herself.  Trying to invade my space and/or trot away as we walked back.  As though to say "see, I AM fit enough for xc!"   I'll consider myself told.  Athena my dear, the next one is a full HT -- you'll have three phases!   But, when we got back to the trailer she parked herself and didn't move more than about an inch for almost an hour.   Standing quite happily in the sun.  Occasionally grazing.  Drank only a couple sips - not enough, but I wasn't surprised by that.

So I suspect the oddness of today was a combination of adrenaline being balanced by not feeling 100%.  Not sure what was wrong; certainly when we got home and turned her out she behaved normally in the field.  But such is life.  Loading on the way home?  Walked on like a pro.   Didn't need any extra encouraging at all.  That alone made up for the mad gallop around the property :)

Also got to see Sienna take her new rider around the PT course like the pro that she is.  She's looking in good weight and healthy and happy so that was super-nice to see.  The girl's going to have a fun summer :)

Supergrooms unbraiding Athena when all was said and done
So HUGE thanks for the day to my supergrooms Nicole and Olivia (how I got so spoiled as to have TWO amazing grooms, I have no idea - but I'm incredibly grateful :) AND just as importantly to Kirby and Brena who stayed home and took care of the barn for me during the day and Katrina who brought all the horses in for me at night, so I wouldn't have to drive all the way back.   You guys are awesome!

Oh and end result - we finished in 5th.


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