…the wreckage of a crash and burn.
Ah, the finals are now just a faint memory. This could be either because I am choosing NOT to remember the carnage, or because I damaged too many brain cells at the Ribeye’s bar Friday night and Saturday night.
The big picture about the show in general was two huge thumbs up. The footing was immaculate and perfect at all times, the rings ran largely on time, the management and volunteers were friendly and effective, and the competitors meals/parties EVERY night were awesome. A huge thank you goes out to Martie Healy, her family, and her team for running the show; and to the town of Williamston and Martin County for their gracious hosting.
I had planned before the show to end this blog with a play-by-play of each class, but I’ll spare you the grim and overwhelmingly boring details. I had 5 classes, and I basically chunked 4 of them. Thursday there were Stakes classes–I entered First level and the Musical Freestyle–I got my lowest score ever with Bravo on the former, and a decent score for a 4th place (and no money) on the latter. Friday were the MFS finals, which I will actually talk about below. Saturday I had the Training level finals and didn’t place, even with 8 chances. By Sunday I was spent, exhausted, but finally feeling like I could get it done. Er, no. I had a mistake-ridden test with some high highs and lots of low lows. Movement scores from 4 to 8, and a final number just above 60%. Amazingly, this was actually a 9th place score–the vast majority of the class was in the 50s. Yikes. Overall, I would say we were just not consistent. The connection was inconsistent. Bravo’s attention was inconsistent. My riding was inconsistent.
So, the best part of the weekend competitively was the MFS finals. There were only 5 entries, so I knew I would place. I didn’t ride until 6:15 pm, which was BRUTAL! I just hung out and helped and watched all day, while most of my friends did their things, got showers, went to dinner, etc. And I was still waiting…and waiting. It wore on me. I planned on a solid 30 minute warm up with Dawn. As I began to get dressed and tack up, the anxiety started–not the good kind of stress–I actually joked that I was stroking out. My hands were shaking, my heart was racing, and I had to walk up and down the aisles taking huge deep breaths so I wouldn’t puke or pass out. I managed not to pass out, but I did puke. Seriously, what am I, 12? I got myself under control once I was in the tack, and the warm up went fine. I even actually went in a couple of minutes before my time as the ring was running ahead.
And I really enjoyed myself. Bravo was a bit fresh and forward, but obedient, although we did have a little buck in the right canter. About 1/3 of the way in, I realized I was hitting the music dead on (having had a slight problem with that the day before), and I started to breathe, smile, and enjoy myself. As I picked up my right canter, I began to think…”Hmm…should I or shouldn’t I go for the ‘Yee Haw’ moment with one hand?” Then Bravo gave me a little buck and the answer was obvious! This actually drew some laughs and applause from the spectators (and NOT just my friends, although they were whooping it up for me!). When I finished, I knew it was not the best I had ridden it–a lack of whip translated into a lack of leg yield, our best movement–but I had a great time. I ended up 3rd by a minuscule fraction behind Evelyn Susol, and a percent or so behind winner Jeanne McDonald, both professionals. Bravo behaved for the award ceremony and victory lap, even though he got a little scared, and honestly, I couldn’t have asked for much more from him in the behavior department in general all weekend.
Some consolation for not winning the freestyle came from WNC photographer/owner Bob Cieszenski, who told me that in his years and years of watching these things, he really enjoyed my freestyle because it was fun, the music was recognizable and energizing, and I put on a show! He cracked up at my one handed wave, and even got it on film (which I have seen and coupled with my huge smile it makes a fantastic photo). Kudos also came from veteran, well, everything–judge, TD, announcer–Charlie Musco who also commented to me how much he liked it, and that he hoped I created my future freestyles with the same feel and energy.
But enough about me, and lets move on to my friends! It was a tough show for everyone on the aisle (and yes, we took up one entire section), and together we’ve definitely had better results. I’m not sure, however, if we’ve ever had as much fun. The weather was cool in the mornings, but sunny and generally nice all day. The snacks and food were plentiful (I took almost everything except the chili back home, which has never happened before). I brought a bottle of Dom Perignon I had received as a present a year or so ago and never opened–just waiting for the right occasion–which I uncorked and shared with the whole group on Saturday night (except Anne and Joe, who had to leave–we missed you!). I wanted to celebrate the best part of these shows, regardless of the scoreboard–the friendship, camaraderie, and support we all give to each other. Like a family, we feel it when someone isn’t there, or someone is having a tough time. We find the positive in even the most disastrous of tests (“Your halt was good.”), we stay late or after we’re done to watch when we can, and we’re quick to lend a hand (requested or not). I truly can’t think of another group of people I enjoy spending time with more than these guys.
Of course I am disappointed to not only not win a jacket, but just to not really bring my “A” game at all. But honestly, I was really OK with it, which surprises no one more than me. I think it’s because I’m seeing the big picture, and realizing that this show was just simply not our show–and there are many more to come. Bravo behaved, by and large, with minimal outbursts even with no longing, while a year ago he had to be longed an hour before each test to be rideable. And receiving a call from the Dressage Foundation congratulating me for winning the Carol Lavell Gifted Fund scholarship grant gives me 1000 more reasons to ease the sting.
You may notice I haven’t even mentioned the frivolity and after-parties. That’s because what happens in Williamston…stays in Williamston!
As a side note, for me this blog was almost a continuation of the training journal I had already been keeping for myself at www.bravodressage.wordpress.com. Feel free to check in there to see how we’re doing, how my funded week of training with Jules Nyssen fares, and how next season goes!