Trial, tribulation and triumph. That’s horse shows! For those readers who are not familiar with the realities of horse shows I will introduce you to some of them. Here is the “diary” of my show with Biasini last weekend. I was showing, Prix St. George level, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida. This was a recognized national level show that was taking place concurrent with a CPEDI ( an international level competition for the para equestrians).
THURSDAY March 9, the horses ship by trailer to the show grounds. My husband, David, and I go ahead and prepare the stall for Biasini. I was not alone, there were six horses in the Team Denizard group for this show. Once the horses arrived they were settled in, the tack room was set up, and I got Biasini ready to be lunged. Global has a specific area for lunging and at this show it was very busy as there was also a Hunter Derby taking place on the show grounds. As some of you may know the riders of the hunters want them to be calm so lunging is often used as a way to take the edge off the horses. For Biasini it is just a very short lunge of five minutes or so to allow him to get out any nerves he may have about the show atmosphere. This day he had none so it was only a couple of minutes on the lunge line.
Then I tacked him up and rode him into the arenas he would be showing in. David stood inside the judge’s booth and gave him some sugar lumps just to let him know the judges are friendly. After he had been introduced to all of the judges’ booths and the advertising signs around the arena we had a lesson with my coach Lou Denizard in the arena I would be showing in the next day.
Overnight the Equine Nanny service will feed the horses a night feed around 9pm and check on each horse, that has paid for their service, every hour through the night and feed breakfast at 5:30am. This service makes it easier for me to rest easy that Biasini is being watched during the night.
FRIDAY March 10 For that first day, it was very hot and humid so jackets were excused but still many riders wore their jackets. But not me. Comfort comes ahead of glamour for me! Our ride went quite well. Not our best but not our worst either. We scored a 62.5 for fourth place.
SATURDAY March 11 For each day, I plan the timing of what I have to do and when and I write it down on an index card. This was my plan for Saturday.
4:15 am Time to get up!
5:15 leave for show grounds
6:15 arrive at show grounds
6:30-7:15 Braid. I do my own braiding as I find it relaxing. I section the mane and then braid each section, fasten it with elastic and then roll up the braid, pinch it into a rosebud shape and sew it in with waxed thread.
7:15-7:30 groom and put on Biasini’s white boots. These are for protection during the warm up only.They will come off before I go into the ring for the test.
7:30 I put on my show boots , breeches .
7:40 Tack up. Put on the saddle and bridle.
7:50 I mount up and walk Biasini over to the warm up arena.
8:05 I start my warm up under Lou’s direction.
8:36 I ride my test.
How did it go? Well, the warm up was very good. But in the ring Biasini took over. He was not just Mr. Bully Biasini this was Brigadier General Bully! In the canter work he would decide that every time we turned to go across the diagonal it was time for the extended canter. Not what is wanted when in fact it is time for the canter pirouette. The pirouette requires the highest degree of collection and is the opposite of extension! We got through the test and nothing drastic happened but I was very annoyed and went, with Lou, back to the warm up to school some of the movements and remind Biasini that he had to wait for me to give him the aids to tell him what to do and not to take over, pull like a freight train and give me his version of the test.
Horses are smart. Some, like Mr. Biasini, are very smart. When we are at home or in the warm up if he gets too strong I will halt and maybe do a rein back for a few steps to remind him but in the show ring I cannot do that. Biasini knows this. Yes, he does. I expected a low score but the judge gave us a 60 and fourth place, which was not bad considering how the test had gone.
I was really very annoyed. When I got back to the stabling area I asked my friend Nancy Kleiner if she knew anyone who was looking for a Prix St. George horse. She laughed and said she had a student at home in Indiana who rode in the Pony Club who would love to have him. We both laughed. I was just kidding but it was disappointing that I could not turn things around in that test.
SUNDAY March 12 David and I got to the show grounds at 10:30 as Lou’s assistant Lindsay Sanderson had looked after Biasini in the morning. I took him for a lunge but this time I did a lot of canter to trot transitions. If he did not respond to my request to trot I would give him a sharp reminder. I took him back to his stall and braided him. Then we had some time for a break and a chance for me to watch my friend Nancy do an excellent job of riding her Prix St. George test in the professional division. I ate some lunch, sat down, pulled my hat down over my eyes (so the rest of Team Denizard would know I was in a ‘zone’ or sleeping). I relaxed and in my mind, I visualized the entire test. But not on Bully Biasini. I rode Mr. Perfect Biasini. He was up and light in my hand and the lightest aids were responded to immediately.
I tacked up. Went to the warm up. Reminded myself of that wonderful light and responsive horse and we did our warm up. We went into the ring and rode a lovely test. It was a different horse. And I suppose I was a different rider. We scored a 65 and….we won the Adult Amateur division of the class! The judge, an international level judge, gave us a nice comment at the end of the test sheet: “Nice horse, pay attention now to the details. Ride the corners to be more ready for the next movement.” What a great comment, useful and something for me to work on.
Back at the home barn the next day, Coach Lou came in and said to me: “The White Fences show at the beginning of April, I think you should do the St. George on the Friday and the Intermediare 1 Saturday and Sunday.”
The Intermediare 1. The next level up! Yes!
The horse show photographer Susan J. Stickle took photos of our tests and I hope to post some of them soon!