When we left off yesterday, Presto had completely and firmly lost his brain when we were schooling because he had friends. I woke up Sunday with a heavy sigh and a “if we could not do THAT again today, that would be great…”.
First order of business was getting the tips of Presto’s mane and tail sprayed pink, to match my mohawk. Priorities. I didn’t have dressage until 10:50 but I did want to get there extra early so that Presto had time to chill at the trailer. So at 8 we loaded up and off we went to Florida Horse Park, with Presto pawing angrily basically the entire way there (the “entire way” being like 35 minutes – FHP is one of the furthest show facilities from me around here, and my Texas self hates my Ocala self a little bit for even daring to think that it’s “far”).
He came off the trailer with a few screams but settled into his hay net pretty quickly. This gave me hope. I figured he’d either devolve completely, or he’d settle down and get over it. Luckily he seemed to choose option B. I got on him for dressage around 10:20 and first headed for the further away, grassy area that only had a couple in it, vs the smaller busy warmup ring. But that grassy area was closer to cross country, and his focus kept drifting into the distance, so I quickly changed tactic and went to the busy ring instead. That worked much better, and he instantly had to focus on me in all the hubbub. Every show I learn a little bit more about this horse and how to handle his brain. In a lot of ways he’s very opposite from Henry… bigger/louder/more is what gets Presto’s attention and settles him.
When it was time for our test, as we were trotting around the outside of the ring waiting for the bell, the judge stopped me and asked if I knew that we were supposed to be doing Novice Test B. As I’d been in the warmup ring I did notice a couple people getting rung for errors, but I guess it had been happening A LOT. I said yes I knew it was supposed to be Test B. She asked me if I knew Test B. Me, who had been 99% certain 5 minutes ago, was now like “Yes. Yes? I think so?”. She seemed skeptical. So was I, now. To be honest I hadn’t even ridden this test one time before… I’d just realized a few days prior that we were doing B, and learned it via the Ride iQ read-along. Now all the sudden I was second-guessing my whole life. This is why dressage is by far the scariest phase.
But on with it we went, and turns out I did in fact know Test B. After how much of a come-apart Presto had had the day before, my whole goal for this show was to have a quiet, boring day. I wanted a quiet, boring test with no yeehaws or screaming, and if that meant that I “went for it” a little bit less, that was fine by me. Let’s dazzle them with mediocrity.
To give Presto credit, he’s now 2 for 2 at being easier to ride at shows than he is during schooling or at home. Also very different from Henry. I think its finally enough of a pressure situation to make him want to pay attention. It was not a fantastic test in any way, but it was very consistent, scoring all 6.5’s and 7’s straight down the sheet. Quiet and boring, achieved. Our score of 32 actually somehow put us in 2nd out of 25 horses. Note to self: it helps to know the test.
After that I had a couple hours before stadium and XC, so I went to learn the stadium course and watch a couple friends go. The arena at FHP is MASSIVE, I was like “why it gotta be so big though, this is just a lot more room for Fuckery…” but the course was very basic and the jumps seemed small. Again I just really wanted a quiet, boring round.
I did learn from the last show that stadium warmup is not a place where Presto thrives (he feeds off chaos, and that is always supreme chaos) so I deliberately got on a bit later. Still had a bit too much extra time, but I was able to keep him occupied. I’m figuring out all these little things about Horse Show Presto, bit by bit. Knowing when to get on and how to warm up is such a big part of the whole strategy.
We went in the ring and took the long way around, so I could trot him past all the banners and spectators on the far side, then picked up the canter. My instructions from Steph were to keep him busy and not use too much of the ring, so I picked up the canter, asked him to be active and connected, and away we went, directly to the first jump. He jumped that first single oxer a little wonky because he was looking off at the warmup ring, but that got his attention, and after that he actually put in a really good round. He paid attention, he did what I asked, he stayed in his rhythm, and he even gave me a couple flying changes. Clear round! Steph called it an equitation round… considering this horse was a flailing hot mess like 3 months ago, I can’t be more pleased about that.
We kept our 2nd place standing (I didn’t even know that at the time because I never look at scores during the day) but really I was just happy that it had been what we set out for – quiet and boring. It felt easy, he stepped up and listened, and we both stayed cool in our heads. This is so new for us as a partnership, that’s really the whole point of doing these shows. Brick by brick laying a foundation that will hopefully serve us well for later.
After that we had a 30 minute gap before XC, which we’ll talk about tomorrow!