Williamston wrap-up day 1: Riding on the surface of the Sun

The weather set 61 year old records this weekend–the high hit 102 degrees yesterday (the heat index being even higher)–and I felt.every.degree. The heat was definitely the “talk” amongst the competitors at Summertime Blues this past weekend July 24th & 25th in Williamston, NC, but from what I could see, spirits remained high, no one succumbed to major heat-related illness, and a good time was had by all.

This was a competition of many firsts for me: first time without my coach, first time showing barefoot (Bravo, not me!), first time “cowboy camping” on the grounds rather than getting a hotel, and first time performing my new (as in, music-finished-24-hours-before-leaving) First level Musical Freestyle.  I came home exhausted, but happy with myself and the Super Pony (Bravo).

The trip was completely non-eventful.  I left Apex about 9:30 am, and had no traffic obstacles.  One straight-shot down 64 East and 2 hours later, I was pulling up to barn F, one of the newly completed barns at the Senator Bob Martin Eastern Agricultural Center (SBMEAC).  The barn (which adjoins new barn E via the wash stalls and AIR CONDITIONED bathrooms) has airy stalls, blacktopped aisle ways, and a large amount of ceiling fans.  It was quick, but sweaty, work to set up Bravo’s stall, my tack locker, and the rest of our various accouterments for the weekend.  With the little man quietly munching hay, I parked my rig eager to set up my weekend’s accommodations, too.  Now, I don’t have a fancy trailer with living quarters–I have a standard issue, 8 year old Sundowner Sunlite 2 horse straight load with a dressing room.  Recently, I purchased one of those plastic Burlingham upright tack lockers for the shows, and it is so roomy I no longer had anything significant stored in the dressing room of my trailer.  In the interest of saving money and being closer to my horse, I thought I’d try to convert it to a workable, albeit spartan, horse show weekend bedroom.  An electrical connection was installed by Becky at Wheel Works last week (she’s AWESOME!), and this was our maiden voyage.  I put a 3-tiered shelf unit inside to hold a tiny microwave (Ebay), a coffee pot, and storage box for toiletries, towels, staples and such.  I fashioned some low-budget curtains with a horse motif, and scored a carpet remnant for the floor.  The piece de resistance is the portable AC unit from Lowes, vented out one of the front windows and held in place with duct tape.  I know what you’re thinking–classy!  To sleep I had a camping cot and a twin inflatable mattress, which could be stored in the morning and replaced with a small table and chair.  I’m happy to report the AC worked well (I even had to turn it off in the middle of each night) despite the worst-case conditions, and that with minor modifications, this will be my new SOP.  Camping at this facility will be even better in November when the temperatures are more reasonable!

The key to a successful test is a successful warm-up.  I have not figured out how to best warm-up with Bravo under ideal conditions, but I’m getting closer with each show.  These were not ideal conditions by any stretch of the imagination, so I wasn’t really sure how to proceed.  Too short and I risk resistance and snarkiness from freshness.  Too long and I risk resistance and snarkiness from tiredness. Add the heat and that magic number of minutes was anyone’s guess.  Luckily, for day 1, both my classes were completed before 10:00 am. And lucky for me, I hit the warm-up sweet spot–he was compliant and I had plenty of horse left for my first test, First level test 4.  I definitely had some bobbles, and had not practiced the test since the last show over a month prior due to choreographing my freestyle (ie, not great planning).  However, the canter work was much more uphill than last time, and despite my foibles we earned our second qualifying score (and my personal best at this test with any horse) under Janine Malone (R) with a 71.053%.  In many parts of the world, this would easily have been a winning score.  However, those parts of the world are not inhabited by a fancy moving buckskin.  I was narrowly beaten out by my “teammate” Karen Young on her incredible Quarter Horse, Sunny’s Golden Lynx (aka Mo) and happily settled for second place.

With about an hour until my second test, I hosed off Bravo and put him in front of the fan, and then did the same for myself.  I decided on a super-quick second warm-up for my First level test 2 class, under Sarah Schmidt (S) in the coliseum.  Once we were put back together, I headed to the small ring just outside the coliseum entrance about 15 minutes before our ride time.  I figured a couple trot and canter circles, a few transitions, and we’d be good to go.  Not so much.  On our second or third pass around the ring, Bravo pulled out his patented duck-the-left-shoulder-and-exit-stage-left-out-the-door-bucking routine.  Lucky for me, Anne Aloi happened to be nearby and I heard, “Get that horse back in here NOW!”  She proceeded to not cut him–or me–any slack and kicked our butts for the full remaining 14 minutes.  Without pulling any punches (I think the politically correct term is no nonsense), she got us back on track, riding forward and confidently.  I can say with certainty that I went in there and rode every single stride of the test.  His trot felt awesome.  (Somewhere along the line when I “found” this new trot, I also “lost” his canter, but I’m sure that’s a balance thing and I’ll find it again.  Soon, I hope.)  Bravo didn’t bat an eye at the coliseum either (only his second test in there ever), and we finished with a very respectable 68.611%.

By 10:30 we were cooled out, and I cleaned up to support, cheer, and spectate!  Together with my friend Karen Young, junior rider Keni Kerin on her fancy mare Idolace (Laci), and petite and perky professional Karyn Becerra on Janice Aquino’s young horse Royal Quest (Quest) we formed the winning Pro-Am challenge team “The Hot Flashes” with a winning average over 70%.  Not a bad day’s work!  The competitors party (pictured below) wound down the day and preparations began for competition on Sunday, details to follow!

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