This may not look like much. But it took two-and-a-half years, several vet bills, sleepless nights, and lots of tears to get here. Prior to this moment, the last time we rode a centerline to a judge was November 2011.
I haven’t been taking lessons, but I felt it was time for an independent third party without reason to either see or to ignore signs of lameness in my mare to evaluate our progress. Owners of horses with traumatic or prolonged injuries know that the mind is a powerful thing and it can deceive. Some days I feel a shortened stride when she is moving beautifully.
In the DC area, there are several options for spring horse shows. For our first outing, I wanted a relaxed atmosphere close to the barn. Frederick Area Dressage Shows fit the bill.
I packed everything the night before. Freezing rain and high winds greeted us as we hitched up on show-day.
My mare has always hopped right on the trailer. But the last two trips have been to the vet hospital. Ever the honest horse, she walked up the ramp obediently, but trembling visibly. While she had no interest in her breakfast, she was at least calm enough to take a carrot.
Our schedule got derailed by the weather. We arrived at Pleasant Ridge Farm just a little too late to warm up under saddle. And we managed to get the truck and trailer stuck in the mud. I unloaded my mare and began tacking her up in the warmth of a pristine barn aisle, safe from the elements, and tried to shut out my nerves.
My veterinarian and friend was up first. She had a lovely ride on her young thoroughbred and eased my worries with good advice as I entered the ring, “Ride her forward.” Off we went.
After the final halt-salute, I approached the judge. She promptly did the one thing that’s sure to make me like a person: she complimented my horse. And then she mentioned that I seemed tense, which made the mare tense. She recommended trying to relax my back and allow the horse to stretch into the contact.
For the next ride, I did just that. The judge noticed that I had taken her advice to heart.
We placed Third and Second respectively, just behind the vet who managed the very rehabilitation program that got us to this point. I am tickled. We’ve come from complete stall rest to a decent horse show appearance in a year’s time. And in one day’s time, my horse went from trembling on the trailer to calmly finishing her hay as freezing rain turned to SNOW on the drive home.
I am a very lucky girl. The day absolutely would not have been possible without the tireless support of my husband and my father. These two hitched up the trailer, extracted it from the mud, braved brutal weather conditions, filmed and photographed my ride, and kept me calm by smiling even amidst total chaos.
I see many more horse shows in our very near future.