Temperature hovering a few degrees above freezing. Nor’ Easter blowing 50kph. It’s the “Snowflake” dressage show series. Yeah! Hey, that’s no problem for us ‘cause we’re Canadian eh. Eh?
That sort of Canadian “bring it on Winter” bravado should just be banned. Banned outright! I do not like the cold. In fact I loathe the cold. So the name “Snowflake” should have reminded me that this was going to be a cold October show. The show was held in a large and cavernous facility that, back in the day, hosted the World Championships of Dressage. The warm up ring is laughingly known as “the Ice Box”. But I was ready.
For me: Thermal underwear. Don’t laugh I’m serious! I wear a full set of thermal underwear made in a thin breathable fabric that works very well under breeches and tailcoat. I wear my LLBean thermal boots and, best of all, Alpaca wool socks. I cannot recommend these socks highly enough and they are made in Ontario by Lobo Loco Alpacas. I keep them on until the last minute before I get into my tall show boots.
For Biasini: a fleece liner blanket and a fleece full size blanket. We did not stay overnight but trailered in both days for the show, so he did not need a heavier stable blanket. As always, I gave him Omega Alpha’s Gastra FX Plus for his tummy before the trailer ride and again before being ridden. He gets that whether it is hot or cold weather.
The show organizer, Lisa Hossak Scott, generously allowed us to take our horses into the big indoor stadium during the lunch hour. Lynsey Rowan (who is my coach Belinda Trussell’s assistant) hand walked Belinda’s up and coming Grand Prix horse Tattoo. There was another Grand Prix horse being hand walked as well. He seemed to find the atmosphere or the cold rather exciting and got a bit exuberant but Biasini and Tattoo just ignored him. Biasini was very nervous about the advertising signs on the walls but I talked to him and told him it was quite safe. And he believed me!
With the cold and a strange wind rattling noise coming from the door at the end of the arena I had no idea how Biasini would react. But….he was great. From the minute we came in for our Prix St. George test he was focused. We came down the centerline and he was all work. I made a couple of mistakes in the four tempis (changes of lead every fourth stride) but other than that the test was good and we scored a 66%. I was certainly happy with that and happy with the fact that for an often spooky-at-shows-horse he had behaved so well.
Not quite as arctic on the Sunday but still downright cold. In the warm up however Biasini was on the Hot Tamale Train! I had flying changes at random moments, spooking at shadows on the wall and if I turned him onto the diagonal he decided to show me he could run the Grand National! Belinda was there to help me and she gave me some suggestions about how to deal with the situation. She also did some Tellington ear pulls on Biasini’s ears. I know from my own experience that they help him to be less nervous.
A year ago I would have decided to scratch from the class with this kind of energy and exuberance from Biasini but we know each other better now and I thought: “I’ll use this energy and see how it goes.” On the way down to the ring we had to travel down a long chute to the arena. This is a tunnel that makes many horses very nervous and I had David, my husband, walk beside us. Biasini marched along like a star.
This day the big door at the end of the arena was open with flags blowing and flapping outside. Spooksville! I knew that I had to get Biasini up to that end of the arena to see it and get comfortable with it before we started our test. So we passed by the judge, said a quick “good afternoon” and scooted up to the end of the arena. He looked at the door and did a 90 degree spin. Nothing too major and I could easily bring him back to take a second and third look. That was the end of that drama.
Belinda had told me in the warm up that this was going to be a day for a multitude of half halts. For those of you who are not dressage riders the half halt means putting my lower leg on the horse and creating energy and then with my fingers giving a second or two of “stay here with me”. During the test he responded to every half halt .He was focused and trying his best to do everything he was asked to do. Despite still being on the Hot Tamale Train with a tremendous level of energy he responded to every aid I gave him. His canter pirouettes were textbook.
I got the four tempis correct this time. Between us we had a very good test and scored a 67 for FIRST PLACE! The judge commented on the test sheet: “Very consistent test with a lot of good moments. Well done!”
I was so proud of my horse. I know he can be very nervous so knowing he had overcome his nerves, put his trust in me and worked his heart out for me was magic! When I got home I put his ribbons up on his stall, white for 3rd place on Saturday and red for 1st place on Sunday. The son of a barn friend had made a little sign for me :” Go Leueen and Biasini”. I put that up too!
The “Snowflake” series continues in November but I shall not be attending. Thermal underwear can only do so much. Biasini and I will be heading down the I75 to Florida for the winter season in December.