Last Sunday there was a "social" horse show at my stable (here, a "social" is a non-federated, non-official horse show) and Starbuck and I finally made our debut on a 60 centimeter course of 11 jumps! Since I've had so many days off from work thanks to the holidays and some recovered overtime, I've been able to ride her nearly every day for the past two weeks or so which has really paid off. She's been much more focussed and obedient and has hardly spooked at all during all this time, so I was pretty confident about the show, even though that little voice in the back of my head kept telling me our good streak will end at some point and that there were lots of things (paper tablecloths, lots of spectators, loudspeakers, applause...) which could potentially set her off.
I got there bright and early to dress her up (orange orange orange!!!) but even so I was too late to view the course on foot with Marina, so me and two other girls went around it with José Luis. Then I was finally able to put the finishing touches on her getup (I learned how to put on polo bandages just for the show and even did her mane and tail with orange rubber bands) just in time to get ushered into the warmup arena with the rest of the folks in my class. In the warmup arena she was cool as a cucumber - there was one corner she was a little worried about but we were able to ride through any potential antics and apart from a few warmup jumps with José Luis coaching I mostly just did lots of transitions to keep her fresh and interested.
When it was finally our turn we trotted into the arena, posed for the photographer and then set off towards the first jump. I had a hard time getting her into a canter for the first three jumps and the third she jumped nearly from a standstill, but then it was more or less smooth going (well, for us). I tried to make our turns wide enough to go straight towards the obstacles, keep her cantering with energy between jumps, use my outside leg to create more impulsion before each jump as well as leading with my hips instead of my shoulders, using my outside rein, relaxing my seat, keeping my weight in my heels and keeping my chin up. Needless to say I failed utterly at the majority of these things but I like to think that I was able to do at least one at a time and sometimes two. But she didn't refuse any obstacles, we didn't knock any bars down, we didn't have any fights or bucks or drama or spooks and we didn't even come in last - we actually finished 7th out of 10. And for me the two greatest achievements were:
1.- Even though it wasn't terribly cold that day (I ended up taking off my jacket and rolling up my shirtsleeves as soon as I got off), Starbuck was hardly sweaty at all when she finished which for me means her mental and physical condition has improved a lot.
2.- I was really concentrated and a little anxious during the first half of the jumps, but actually enjoyed the last half and by the time we took the last one I had a huge smile on my face.
All of the 60 cm contestants got a prize for participation which ended up being a free private lesson with Marina so I am pleased as pie and excited to use it. The photos were taken by my extremely generous husband (all 300 or something photos here), as usual with his photos I absolutely love most of them but others make me cringe - sometimes I wonder if he's cataloguing moments of conflict or terrible riding on purpose, if he's really that clueless about equine body language and rider posture or if he's just messing with me. I guess the difference is simply that when I take photos I consciously try to tell a fairy tale where Starbuck is always happy and pretty and I always ride well, whereas he doesn't have the same ulterior motives. It's always a fantastic reality check though since I tend to look at everything through rose coloured glasses and assume Starbuck's as thrilled as I am about stuff (she's usually not unless it's edible). For instance these are the two photos he posted to his Flickr account - flattering? I think not... and Starbuck's mouth looks horribly painful in the second photo. What is NOT visible is that she was actually pulling down on the reins herself to try to eat the grass I had decided to pose in.
Still, it's always interesting to see how other people see us, especially non-horsey people. And it was a marvellous day and a terrific experience. Can't wait for next time!