Early Sunday morning Eddie and I went with a friend and her horse (also a friend) to a schooling show in our area. This was a new experience for Eddie. He's been to many dressage shows and clinics, but never to a regular horse show where he was required to work in an arena with other horses all doing the same thing in the same direction at the same time.
Horse shows are a bit different from dressage shows. In a dressage show you have an assigned time to ride. You perform a test, solo, in front of a judge who never blinks and gives a score from 0-10 for each segment (called "movements") of the test. There can be upwards of 30 movements in an advanced level test. An error may cost you a few points and affect your over all score, but you may end up scoring well, anyway. High score wins.
Anyway, after warming up, schmoozing with the other folks there, doing some sightseeing, and a whole lot of waiting around (you're never quite sure exactly what time your class will be called in at a horse show). We entered the arena for our first class, and Eddie tossed his concentration aside at the in-gate. Apparently one of us thought it was play time.
After some intense negotiations at the walk and trot in each direction (where I sporadically convinced Eddie that I wasn't going to give up my efforts to direct his energy) the judge called us all in. She divided the class in half for the canter work—good thing, since there were 16 horses in the arena.
We were in the second group. Eddie watched the first group with interest, occasionally neighing his approval (or egging them on—I'm not sure which).
Then it was our turn. Eight of us rode out to the rail at the walk and Eddie may as well have shot me a look over his shoulder and said, "Don't worry, I've been paying attention. I know exactly what to do."
Yeah. Right. I wasn't born yesterday.
Rule #1: Never abandon leadership to the horse. They have fewer skills in that area than the average teenager.
The first part of the canter went fairly well. However, it was the call to "hand gallop" (a faster version of the canter) where things got interesting. Eddie chose to accent that transition (which I hadn't yet asked for) with his own particular flair. He launched upwards, added a couple of twists, and hit the ground with the intention of executing a full-out gallop. The judge stopped the class and—much to the relief of the other terrorized competitors around us—I stopped Eddie within a couple of strides.
…Must have been something to see—a huge, white, ball of fur flying through the air….
Had we been in contention for a ribbon in the class, that one impromptu, free-form interpretation of the transition into hand-gallop blew away any possibilities of an award.
Happily, Eddie is smart enough to figure out that his ad-lib was not the required routine for a horse show class. The second class proceeded in a more conservative manner, and we came away with second place. Good boy, Eddie.
So, what did I learn? Wow, many things—but primarily reinforcing my conviction to keep my shoulders over my hips. You just never know when something unexpected may happen that will challenge your balance.