|Buddy (a.k.a Shalisahn)|
Thanks to the supreme efficiency of a mother-daughter team who managed the list of who was in what, wearing what, and when, and juggled tack, riders and horses accordingly, Eric was free to stay near the warm-up area either riding or coaching, dispensing encouragement and displaying an amazing amount of patience, not to mention endurance. The exact horse count eludes me, but there were between 15 and 20, and of the 80 classes, he was either riding or had horses and riders in well over half of them. No halter horses, which at least made the mornings a little less early and much less hectic.
Classes ranged between one and six or so entries, so they weren't huge, which was nice. The judge on Saturday was a bit more leisurely with her pacing than Sunday's. Even so, Eric's class with Buddy snuck up and bit us in the butt. Back-to-back classes right before left him no time for warm-up, and a too-loose braid (my fault) on Buddy saw him doing a quick re-braid as they called his class. Luckily, a gate-hold gave him just enough time to be on and in without too much delay.
Even with a very forward Buddy who was still channeling his inner English Pleasure horse, Eric made earning his blue ribbon look easy. I made mental notes on the judge's timing for gait transitions, not that it did me much good, as the judges both days were fans of changing up the order.
I didn't ride until after the supper break, but I kept busy enough during the wait before my class that I didn't have time to be nervous. Mom and daughter were politely cautious, and properly, cautious of my offer to assist at first, but as I said to both of them, "If there's something you think I can do that needs doing, point me at it. If I'm in your way, tell me to get out of it - I won't take offense." And once they determined that I a) meant it, b) knew which bits of a horse to stay out from under, and c) could take direction, they gradually assigned me more responsible tasks.
It seemed like no time at all before Eric was braiding Buddy again while I was off scrambling into breeches and blouse, stabbing myself with the stockpin, and struggling into tall boots. Why does it seem like if they fit properly, they never want to go on - or come off?! Helmet, gloves, and Oh, CRAP! I need a number! Which was still pinned on Eric's hunt coat and thankfully easy to locate, although getting it pinned on resulted in more pin pricks. What felt like no time at all in the warm-up arena, and they were calling my class.
Buddy and I trotted in first, and with no idea who or how many were following us, (and I'm still not sure if it was 5 or 6!) I simply sent him forward at a working trot, trying to keep my rate even. The judge called almost immediately for a canter followed by hand gallop, walk, reverse 4 steps, canter, hand gallop, trot and then had us line up. Rate was a challenge the entire class, and I couldn't quite keep Buddy low enough. Still, I managed to find all my diagonals correctly, we caught both leads, and hand gallop was definitely a GALLOP. I mostly remembered to look up and around my corners, and did my best to make it all look effortless.
It felt like no time at all start to finish, although from taping a couple of classes for other riders earlier in the day, I'd guess it took somewhere between 6 and 8 minutes. I was soaked, Buddy was not. The announcer called Buddy's number - second! - although I had no idea they meant me until I heard my name, as I'd not even looked at the placard I'd pinned on, and probably wouldn't have retained it if I had.
After a minor altercation in which Buddy wanted to exit the ring slightly more hurriedly than I did, Eric expressed himself mildly surprised at our second - he thought I'd be pinned first, but I was more than satisfied with our first outing. In the brief few moments before he turned his attention to the next rider going in, we agreed that I needed to work on rate and not let Buddy build speed down the long sides. Other than that, I was happy, he was pleased, and that was all there was time for.
I'd forgotten to ask anyone to tape my ride, and the light level combined with the dust hanging in the arena made taking pictures of the actual classes pointless (I'd experimented earlier in the day, and I have numerous blurry shots to prove it). Too bad, too, as it was probably my best ride of the weekend.