They say life is what happens when you make other plans. (I know...there I go quoting "them" again. One day, I'll figure out who "they" are.) Recently, I heard someone comment that dressage is a metaphor for life. It seems Sammie caught wind of the concept, because my grand plans for Sammie's debut into the local dressage show scene have gone to hell in a handbasket.

At the beginning of the year, I vowed to set the dressage world on fire. My local chapter of our state's dressage society holds four shows a year: schooling shows in March and October, and recognized shows in May and June. Scores from recognized shows may be used to qualify for the annual Regional Adult Amateur Competition ("RAAC"). While I didn't plan on competing at the 2010 RAAC, I secretly hoped to qualify. It's always nice to be invited to the party, even if you don't plan on attending, right? I figured if I could enter the March schooling show at Intro level, we would be ready to show in June at Training Level (the lowest level for qualifying).

Oh, and you'll remember that I had previously gathered the gumption to put my name in the hat, for a chance to be selected at my chapter's rider at the April Adult Amateur Clinic, conveniently held at my barn, where my dressage idol Debbie McDonald was the clinician. Yes, I had grand plans for my little debutante.

By the end of January, I was already lamenting about the lack of progress, due in part to an apparent change in Sammie's attitude, and a lack of saddle time for me. The latter was, of course, related to the former, though sprung shoes, bad weather, and busy schedules intervened as well. I maintained high hopes, however, of riding more in February and readying Sammie and I for Intro A and B in March. Since the March show was being held at our barn, I figured it would be optimal. How scary can show grounds be when you're on home turf?

By the end of February, it had become clear to Meg and I that Sammie's slow-to-mature baby draft brain needed more time to absorb the things Meg was trying to teach her, so we dialed back the training a notch. Sammie's attitude improved immensely, and I felt good about the decision to back off my plan to show her at the March schooling show. I decided it would still be a good opportunity to expose her to the hustle and bustle of things, though, and to that end, got her comfortable with the judge's stand in the arena after it had been set up, the day before the show.

I wish someone had been there to capture the scene on video. Sammie was so cute. Our judge's stand is a table and chairs set up on hay bales, with pretty potted flowers adorning the front. Rather than risk a freak out under saddle, I hand-walked Sammie into the covered arena and up center line, heading straight for the scary object. Sammie stopped about 10 feet shy, puffed herself up, and started snorting. I wanted to laugh, but needed to keep a good grip on the reins in case she opted to bolt! Just then, Kathy walked up with her granddaughter. What's this? A tiny human? It was almost too much for Sammie to bear. She's never quite understood the concept of minis...whether they be mini donkeys or mini people. Kathy and her tiny charge each grabbed a small handful of the judge's platform, and offered it to Sammie. That's all it took for Sammie to understand neither judge's box nor mini human is to be feared. Now my only worry was making sure Sammie didn't equate the judge's box with eating! New Intro test movement: Enter arena at A. Proceed down center line, rising trot. Halt at X. Salute. Proceed to C, rising trot. Halt suddenly and put on cute face in hopes of being fed a treat. Luckily, once our lesson commenced, Sammie understood that there would be no further dalliance at C.

The day of the show, I donned riding clothes, hoping to perhaps walk Sammie around the grounds, and then ride a bit in the warm-up arena. My hopes were quickly dashed, when in an attempt to just hand walk Sammie around the barn, prior to heading up the short hill to where the arenas are, turned into a therapy session. Sammie didn't just spook at every turn...she exploded. Clearly, I was not going to get her away from the safety of her stall that day. After several attempts at reasoning with her and trying to reassure her, I caved in and put her back, where she quickly and happily resumed her planned activities for the day: eating and pooping. (A girl's gotta do what she's good at, right?)

With March's show plans dissolved, I still had the potential to ride in the April clinic. The drawing for the rider from our chapter took place at a Board Meeting on March 3rd. I tried not to visibly display the great relief I felt when my name was drawn in 9th position, from a pool of 10 hopefuls. As it turned out, Sammie started displaying signs of discomfort in her hind end and was tender on her back, and by the end of March, Meg and I were taking the steps to figure out why. Between equine massage therapist, equine chiropractor, saddle fitter, and our regular vet, we narrowed the location of the discomfort, and agreed with recommendations by both the chiropractor and vet that it was time for Sammie to start wearing shoes in the back. (She had been shod in the front for a year, but I had held off on the back, since she seemed to have such tough feet.) The farrier put on her new shoes just last weekend, and she's still getting used to them. The vet will come out in a couple of weeks to recheck her. I am hoping beyond hope that he finds the shoes did the trick.

So, here it is, April 30th, and it's clear we are by no means ready to show in May, at a different barn. And while my initial goal had been to show at Training Level at the June show (again conveniently to be held at my barn), I have yet to have started cantering Sammie. Did I mention the June show is going to be judged by my former trainer, Brent Hicks? Brent trained me and Cuatro, my first horse. I really wanted to be able to show for Brent, but I wonder if (a) we'll be ready to show at any level, and (b) whether it is worth it to me to show in a recognized show at Intro level. Horrible, I know. Ego should have nothing to do with choosing a class to show in. But I can't help it. I don't just want to show for Brent...I want to show off!

I guess the lesson in all this (and there has to be a lesson, doesn't there?) is that if dressage is a metaphor for life, and life is what happens when you make other plans, then I need to be more flexible in my plans. So there it is. If flexibility is called for, just call me Gumby.

From my blog: Green on Green

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Comment by saddlebroke on April 29, 2010 at 4:55pm
Thanks, Jackie! Through it all, though, Sammie has been the best teacher I could imagine. I am learning so much, not just about "bringing up baby" but about myself. Being flexible is a good LIFE lesson for me!!
Comment by Jackie Cochran on April 29, 2010 at 4:53pm
I am sorry your year has been so frustrating, I remember years like that with my horses!

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