Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Championships Day 4, 9/18: Championship Test

We got to the show way early again for my 11:38am ride time. Penn needed to eat, go for a walk, be braided, get a good curry, walk again, then I needed to get ready and get him tacked up. Ahhhh, the to do list!

A friend I haven't seen for ages lives about 2 hours from the show, so she came up that morning too to say hi and meet Penn and watch some tests and see us go.

One of the championship warm-up rings.

I gave myself a half hour again to warm up for the Championship test. The first thing I did was stretch him low and make him super connected to unlock the base of his neck. I did a little overbend right, overbend left to help unlock his jaw. This had another interesting side effect- he focused on me and not on the clearing out show grounds. I kept his feet moving to maintain the focus I found. There was a scratch or something before my ride, meaning they had an empty slot and I could go early if I wanted. I told them I'd keep them posted, but for now I planned on keeping my time. Penn warmed up like a champ. He had adjusted well to the show by now, and the atmosphere of the championship area plus the atmosphere of people packing and loading and driving off really made him sharp to my aids.

I used the blunt, very square edged spurs too, which gave Penn a different sensation and he was quite prompt about everything, especially the leg yields. I really like those spurs! I'm going to keep them on hand as "show spurs" or something ridiculous like that. He tends to either be 100% on or ignores me a bit when we're in public. Warm up that morning could have gone either way- I think the combination of a new spur sensation and the extra effort I put into making him super connected really paid off. I can't use them at home all the time or else they won't be a different sensation anymore, and I don't want to revert to the smooth rowels I got. Penn is much too sensitive for that.

I gave the ring steward a heads up that I'd like to go early- Penn was so ON that I wanted to get him in the ring ASAP. I was careful to keep him trotting and cantering right up until I went over to the show ring (something very key in keeping him ON- make sure he's always focusing on something). I even remembered to flag husband over and give him my whip nicely instead of throwing it at him or tossing it on the ground (carrying a whip in a championship test is a no-no).

We walked past the judge at C, down the long side a little to the judge at B, turned around and walked back past C, then walked back and forth a bit while we waited. The bell rang, and off we went.

First off, I don't care that this isn't our highest scoring test ever. It felt like it was. Penn was available and willing and on task and better connected than he had been all weekend. Yes, we had mistakes, but I don't care. Anywhere else, I think this test would have been over 70%. Except this is championships, a level 5 competition, so the judges were super picky. It's just annoying that my test the previous day, that was not as nice, scored slightly better (one of my judges from this test was the same as the day before!).

I distinctly remember as I rode my 20m trot circle, "OK, be careful you don't make it too big. It's usually on the outer edges of 20m, even though no judge has ever said you made it too big. OK, where is the 20m mark? Before or after R-S? Umm, how many meters are there from the corner to R... Oh f-it, I can't do math right now, we're making the circle even with R-S." Guess what? I had a comment that I made the circle too small, whomp whomp. The most common thought going through my head during this test? "Don't screw up." That's not exactly an 'on task' thought, haha.

66.029% - 9th out of 29

I was so ecstatic about our test (I still am, I love watching it). I thought we had gotten the 68% we needed to go to finals or at least should be in the top 8 (and therefore eligible to get satin and participate in the victory gallop!). I was all tears and things after it. So many emotions running on high, and then doing our best when it counted.

Needless to say, when I looked up the scores and saw it was a 66% and 8th place, I was a bit upset. I was still sitting in 8th at the lunch break, and there were 3 horses left to go. I was excited about that, (I just wanted some satin at this point), but I looked at who still had to ride and realized there was a good chance I'd end up in 9th. One of the riders who had yet to go had been winning for most of the weekend and I fully expected them to score better than us... whomp whomp, she did and moved into second place (go her!) but that bumped me down to 9th and out of the ribbons.

It took me a while to find some perspective (which I'll talk about in the final post of this series tomorrow), but I did eventually find some and then set out to hug and praise Penn even more and enjoy the rest of the day. Getting my tests back and watching the video really helped me- there were only one or two things I could have actively done better (actually making my 20m stretch trot circle 20m for one thing), but there really wasn't any one thing that cost me the points. Out of all the marks between the two judges, only two were sub 6, which I thought was fantastic. Penn felt fantastic, came to work that day, I could have concentrated a little better, but I wouldn't have changed anything in how I rode the test (except that 20m circle). I wasn't about to push his trot lengthenings into canter like I had been doing. I wasn't going to push him for more ground cover in his one loops- I haven't really worked on counter canter with him and I didn't want to put him off balance and lose even more points. We did our best, and for once, that's good enough for me.

It helps that most of the people in the top 8 also rode in the AA Second Level Championships too... and scored well in that class too. Penn is not ready to ride Second Level yet. I don't know how I feel about that- coming in to this weekend I didn't think it was quite fair to be able to compete in more than one Championship level. I feel bad for the horses and riders in the lower level who aren't showing both levels. But it's not my call, and definitely no judgement on anyone who does that. Competing in two levels is great!

So I was a bit pissed about the pictures... I paid for my photos at the start of the show... and I thought that meant the photographer would have someone at all of my tests... nope. They decided not to shoot the CHAMPIONSHIP RING on the final day of the competition. Dafuq???? That was the only thing that really bothered me about the photographer. They took pictures of every rider, as they should... however I think if you have customers that paid already, you should make a point to get to all of their tests, you know? Anyway, I took screenshots from the video my husband got, so here you go!

Coming back from the first one loop.

Let's talk about this uphill canter.
I was so happy with the canter-trot transition at the end of the test!
Smile like a fool.
Hug the horse and tell him you love him.
And scare him just a bit.

I grabbed a couple pics Sunday afternoon with Penn and our two ribbons for the weekend, then took out his braids and gave him lots of love. The show was over by that point and people were hustling to get out and on the road. Husband and I were not in a hurry as we planned to stay over one more night (umm not driving 10 hours home starting at 2pm or later after being up early to show!).

Obligatory (gorgeous) head shot.
What you don't know is I'm wearing sweatpants instead of breeches.

Instead, Husband and I found a pirate themed indoor mini-golf place that made homemade pizza a short distance away, so we went back to the hotel to change...

... and found this. Husband named him Steve.
Common garden spider is not a malicious enough name for it.
Leg tip to leg tip was about 4" long.

We took a ton of pics of Steve then went off to play some golf! We had fun eating pizza and playing golf, then went back to the barn to pack up.

By this point, everyone except the one other overnight horse had cleared out, so we pulled the trailer right up to the door next to Penn's stall and parked it for the night. We walked into the barn and went "Whaaaaaaa!"

The great Mucking.

The farm crew had gone through every barn and mucked the stalls into the aisle, where we guessed they would come back with a skid steer and scoop them out.

We emptied the tack room and left the bare minimum hanging on the front of Penn's stall, tucked him in, and headed back to the hotel to get some sleep before the long drive home.


  1. I can't believe that they didn't take pictures of the championship class! You guys look awesome tho!

    1. I know! Of all the rings not to shoot! And thanks!

  2. That is so annoying about the photos! :( Happy to hear that Penn was so well-behaved.

    1. There will be more opportunities for pictures... and I really do prefer video at this point if I had to pick one or the other. Penn really came to work that day!

  3. Super annoying about the photos but he looks so consistent. It's hard when you have horses that are really so solid at the next level that they're showing at championships

    1. He was so consistent in this test. I think that's what really made me love it. It may not have been good enough, but he had an excellent attitude and was very on task. Once we have that more often in public, I can learn to go for the extra points. It's definitely tough to lose to people who are competing in championships at the next level, but it's nice that we were only beaten by more educated and experienced horses.

  4. What an awesome test and an awesome boy. You had a terrific long weekend of tests, but saved the best for last! He is oh so handsome. And I love the spider!

    1. I was so happy that he seemed to peak on day 3 of competition! Perfect timing. And exactly, it's not like the other tests of the weekend were bad (except that one... haha). It was a good weekend! That spider was scary! I guess I didn't make it clear though- it was outside our window, not in our room!

  5. Sorry about the photos. I hope you complained about that. Congrats on the good showing though.

    1. I did complain about it... they said they had to pick and choose which rings to shoot and they were trying to get pictures for people that they hadn't gotten to shoot yet... I'm like, if they paid, you should have highlighted their rides and made sure you were there before the last day of competition! The rings were set up so you could get away with 4 photographers if you had to- one at each champ ring and then one at rings 3 & 4 and one at rings 5 & 6. Oh well though. They still got some excellent shots and it was a good price. And thanks! It was a good test.

  6. Congratulations Jan!!! I LOVE that pic of you hugging Penn at the end of the test - way to go, you must be so proud of that special little horse, he's all grown up now!!! Glad the show was such a great experience for you and those scores are damn impressive in that kind of company!!

    1. Thanks! I love that too. To be honest, the lack of photographer at that ring upsets me most because I don't have a good quality pic of that moment! I was so pleased with him. I still am!

  7. Congratulations!! Amazing scores for champion ships and he's looking great!

    That is frustrating that the photographer didn't get the pictures that planned on :(

    1. Thanks! He felt great! The picture thing is frustrating, but there's still plenty of horse shows to get more!