Today was Ruby's first horse show. We went to a local Dressage schooling show and did Intro Test B and Training Level Test 1. Ruby was a super-star doing much better than I expected. She got scores in the low 60's on her first 2 tests and then a 55% on the third, earning two 3rd place ribbons and a 5th. In dressage, the color of the ribbon doesn't matter so much as the score. In fact, I once won a class (with 4 other entries) with a score of 56%.
That show was my debut at a United States Dressage Federation recognized show at the Prix St. Georges level. In the US, there are 6 levels of Dressage tests and then you are at the International level. There are 4 tests at the International level. Prix St George is the first of those. That was a long-winded way of saying that PSG is not small potatoes. It is very big potatoes. I was completely intimidated, especially after seeing names of riders in my class that usually are my judges. I was showing Raffles and anyone that knows Raffles knows that he is famous for two things: his big trot and his big spook. It would be tolerable if he was actually afraid of things or if he spooked at something once and then got over it (as Ruby, the 4 year old horse, does) but Raffles spooks habitually, purposely, and repetitively.
In the Dressage arena there are a plethora of choices for spooking. There is the judge at a table -usually with some sort of adornment at the end of the ring, there are flowers at each letter, the letters themselves, there are spectators, and the topper is the pickup truck parked next to the ring with a beach umbrella in the bed to shade the videographer. I was sure we'd have trouble with the umbrella. We did not. Raffles was so terrified of the flowers at M, he didn't notice the umbrella. Apparently, the flowers at A, F, B, C, H, E, K, R, S, V and P were not scary.
One of the major challenges of the PSG test are the sequential flying lead changes (tempi changes) on diagonal lines across the arena. On one diagonal, you have to do 5 changes every 4 strides. On the other, 5 changes every 3 strides. So not only do you have to count strides and time it so that you make the change at the right moment, you also have to count how many times you do that. Counting to 3 has never been so difficult. Anyway... off I go, on diagonal one and I make a change, start counting strides, lose track (was that 2 or 3?), make another change, hope it's right, start to worry that it might not be, realize I forgot to count, make another one in case it's due, count again but now have lost track of how many of done, make another just in case... and so on. Diagonal 2 comes right away, no time to reorganize - off I go counting successfully to 3 and make a change and feeling proud of myself, promptly forget to count for the next one thinking it must have been at least 3, throw in another change then panic and throwing all math to the wind, continue to make changes sporadically as I proceed, knowing that I at least have to end up on the correct lead for the turn.
After finishing my test, I fled the arena in humiliation and anxiously awaited the scoring so that I could quickly snatch up the copy of my test and run away before anyone recognized me. As soon as I saw people collecting test scores and ribbons, I crept over to the table (similar to that shady character on Sesame Street that always wanted to sell Ernie a letter) hoping to grab my test before anyone else could see it. As I collected it, the scorer said, "Congratulations! You got first!" Completely flustered, I stammered something along the lines of "Are you sure?" As it turns out, I got first because everyone else was worse.
The funniest part of the whole event is that on the comment line next to my score for the tempi changes, the judge wrote "Correct counting." Somehow, through all my muddling, I had managed to land the changes. Yet, on consecutive tests, when I was methodically counting, I got them wrong. Maybe I should have paid more attention to the numbers, rather than the letters on Sesame Street.