County Fair Open Show

What a fun day! It started so early with a 3:30 AM alarm (ugh) but it was totally worth it since there were a lot of scary things to see and work through in the warm-up. We arrived at the fairgrounds just before 6 AM and got on right away. Good thing — those cows, chickens and children were SCARY. It took a lot of circling, serpentines, bending and calming words to get into one particular section of the arena where there was a big wash stall for the cows. (Did anyone else realize that people bathe their cows? It never occurred to me.) We finally started relaxing a bit and got over some jumps, which always helps Husky focus on his job. We were going to be doing the 1’9″-2’0″ classes so we warmed up over much bigger fences, which served us well later in the day. He took them like a champ, although he looked at a roll-top covered in astro-turf a little. He didn’t seem bothered at all by a gate with a very bright flowerbox, and all the rest were simple verticals. Easy-peasy. Maddie jumped on for awhile but Husky still wasn’t sure about the cow corner, so I took him out of the arena to have a look and sniff at the judge’s stand, cow wash-stall and tractors. After that I got back on and he seemed a lot happier about the cow corner of the arena, and was much more round and balanced.

By then it was 8:00 and the show was starting with showmanship. We took the time to finish braiding Husky’s forelock and tail, plus took some green spot remover to his knees and belly. I guess that pep-talk about staying clean overnight fell on deaf ears.

Then it was on to Hunter Hack. Last time we did this class it was a complete disaster – no course was posted, no one seemed to know what was going on, and we hadn’t had time to warm up at all; long story short, we had 3 refusals and I fell off. So I was a bit apprehensive about this class, but there was no need to worry. We went over the two jumps beautifully with only a little bit of a look into the cow corner, had a decent hand gallop and stopped pretty much right at the cone. Husky has a nice soft back, so we did our five steps no problem and headed out of the arena. We returned to the ring with the rest of the class and had some nice flat work, ending up in 4th out of 8 riders – a good start to the day!

Then it was Maddie’s turn to ride in her classes and I got to sit and take a break for a few minutes. She did a nice job and they took home some ribbons!

Next were our over fences classes and they were just gorgeous. Although Husky didn’t always get his correct lead, he was so relaxed and wasn’t sucking back before the fences at all. It was just steady and forward, and he didn’t seem to care about the cows anymore! Our warm-up/un-judged course was so good, I wish it had been judged! But our hunter and equitation classes were just as excellent. We ended up 3rd in the hunter class (darn those leads!) and got 1st in equitation! I was so happy, proud and excited! Usually I don’t really care about placing as long as I feel our rides are good, but it is nice to be recognized occasionally for our hard work, and placing 1st in the class based on my riding form feels really, really great.

Things were going so well, we decided to enter the Mini-Medal class since we’ve been doing some more jumpers-style turns at home lately. My friends Michelle and Greg came out to watch and got to see me in this class, so that was a lot of fun. The course wasn’t too crazy, but it was a blast! We still missed one lead, but ended up 4th of 8. It was just a good time, and Husky was great.

Then we had a nice long break for lunch before the flat classes. Time for an energy drink and some food, as the long day was starting to set in a bit! Side note: cantaloupe is one of my favorite show day foods. It’s cold, filling, delicious and helps you stay hydrated.

On to the flat! We entered two open walk-trot classes, and one was a payback class. They were both enormous classes and we didn’t end up placing. But Lauren and Max got 1st place in the payback class! Go team! Next was Discipline Rail, which was a lot of fun. The very first thing we had to do was sidepass five steps toward the middle. Throughout the rest of the class, we also had to counter-canter, which Husky did beautifully – it’s the only time when our lead issue comes in handy – and another sidepass. I thought we did a great job but didn’t end up placing. That’s okay though; there were about 12 riders and I still felt we had a great ride.

Dressage Suitability was up immediately after that, and it was a blast! Husky can really lift his head and shoulders and get into a more elevated frame. He was happy to settle into that frame today and I didn’t feel like I was holding up his head at all. I did keep thinking about lifting his belly with my legs, especially at the canter, and it worked really well. Our extended trot tracking left felt amazing, and when they asked for an extended canter, Husky was game to lengthen without lowering his head. It was so cool. Unfortunately, when we were tracking right, he broke to the canter a couple of times when I asked for an extended trot. There was another horse nearby that I think he was trying to race a little bit. I’m pretty certain the judge was looking right at us when that happened, because we didn’t place and I felt we had a great ride. When we came out of the ring, Leanne said we had totally rocked the class. Even though we didn’t place, I’d say this was my favorite flat class of the day. It was so fun, and Husky felt very responsive.

Then came our Equitation Under Saddle class, which had 10 riders. We had to do a pattern, which was okay; nothing too crazy in there. The only odd thing was that the pattern was very small – the distances between the cones were short. I suppose that was the point, since it made the pattern a lot harder. Luckily we’d been practicing our stop-canter transitions because we did indeed have to do that. Our pivots on the forehand and hindquarters were so-so. Overall, I came out of the ring shrugging and saying, “well, that wasn’t fabulous.” Not terrible, but a bit messy. I was shocked when we nabbed a 5th place! I guess a lot of others struggled with the pattern, too.

Finally, we had our last class of the day, which was English Pleasure/Hunter Under Saddle. It was an enormous class of 14, and I didn’t expect to place at all since we hadn’t been doing well at all on the flat. I had basically decided that the judge wasn’t a fan of Husky on the flat, and I was okay with it. I can’t control someone’s opinion – I can only help my horse have a positive experience and give him the best ride I can each time I get on. What was really cool was that Husky got right back into his hunter form with his head long and low, but still elevated through the shoulders and round in the back. He was really moving out today and felt great. We had a lovely, consistent ride…and placed 6th! I was surprised and very happy that we placed in such a large class, and we had a lovely ride.

All in all, a great day at the County Fair!
All in all, a great day at the County Fair!

All in all, it was a fabulous day! After that long warm-up, Husky was relaxed and stopped thinking so much about the cows and other distractions. His jumps were smooth and even with no hesitation, and the medal class was a blast. All of our flat rides were lovely, in my opinion, and I was just so happy with Husky’s behavior. I am one proud rider! The only sad part of the day is that this is likely our last show of the season. It was so much fun, I just want to do it all over again! But at least we went out on a very positive note. There are some things we’ll be working on over the off season, like leads and getting ready to bump up to the next height division, and maybe even some dressage!

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