Grace and I just completed week 2 of 3 weekends in a row of horse shows. When I looked at our potential schedule for July I thought it might be a bit much, but also thought it would be the best way to prepare for the Region 1 AQHA show in August. Last weekend's show was good, Grace was much more consistent in both the pattern and rail classes with the exception of a very out of character spook in one of the Western Riding classes. During what was shaping up to be one of the best patterns we've ever ridden she stopped dead during the line changes to spook at a sun spot at the end of the arena. Only a Western Washington horse would spook at the sun! We recovered after that to win the next Western Riding class. The spook left me a little shaken, while it was very rideable it seemed to come out of nowhere I realized I have no clue what to do when Grace decides to act like a horse.
This weekend we hauled on our own up to a zone show almost 2 hours from home. My parents live 30 minutes from the fairgrounds so I knew I had a place to stay if I came up on Saturday and showed on Sunday. Saturdays at the zone shows are English day with trail classes at the end of the day. I entered in the 18 and Over trail and the Championship Trail class. I figured it would be good practice for Region 1 where I plan to ride in Rookie and Novice Amateur trail. As soon as I saw the patterns at this show I knew I would have to walk them both, they were 2 very different patterns, the Championship pattern was the most technical pattern I've seen at a zone show, it rivaled some AQHA patterns, it just needed a few more poles. One thing I learned this weekend is that I should be walking every trail pattern. I've gotten out of the habit since I haul alone at times and don't have anyone to hold my horse. This time I put her in her stall and still had plenty of time before I had to ride. I found someone to hold her for the Championship walk. The first class went well, we did get a bit stuck in the L and bumped the poles, we placed in the middle of a very competitive class.
You know the Championship class is going to be good when it starts with a right hand push back through gate, yes - I said back through! From there you picked up the jog and started a figure 8 over a series of poles, you finished the figure 8 at the lope which also included a lead change. It reminded me of something Tim Kimura would lay out. I must have walked that part of the pattern 3 times looking for the line to the poles after the lead change. I knew I had to give myself plenty of room to get straight for the change and still have time to get over the next set of poles. It had to start after the jog pole, I had to make sure I got to the right spot of the first lope pole to set up my line to the lead change. This meant using all the real estate I had between obstacles. Did I mention that the pattern was set in less than half of the arena? Even the judges commented on how tight it was as they measured it multiple times. At the end of the pattern you came out of a 270 in a tight box to step onto the short side of the bridge, turn right on the bridge and then step off into a fan of poles. The bridge was not wide enough for a horse to get all four hooves on it width wise,I watched as several horses before me stumbled off of it. Still, I loved this pattern - it was so technical and it asked a lot of great questions.
I made a mental note to take my time going into the class, we both needed to be grounded for what was coming. The back though gate was really no big deal and I was much smoother about changing my rein hand than I was in the first class. From there we started our jog over the poles, I came out the second pole and asked for the lope which Grace stepped right into. I loped over my first pole exactly how I wanted to, went deep into the corner so I could come out straight for the lead change. We only had a stride after the change before the next set of poles, which were set as a corner. Grace kind of hoped into the poles, but landed on the other side at a lope. I felt her get flustered for a second so I said out loud "You're ok, you're doing great!" We loped into the L, stopped and took a deep breath. This time she backed the L without touching the poles. From the back up we picked up the lope, loped out of the L, turned left - where I made sure to have her shoulder and loped over a line of 4 poles. I have to say it was a lovely line of poles! Then we jogged into the box for the 270. I again took a breath to settle, and then executed the 270 to the left. I was a hair short of the 270 which left me at an angle. The angle was exactly where I needed to be to get onto the bridge and turn. I made sure that Grace took her time so she wouldn't fall. We then stepped out over the fan of poles and were done. The pattern felt great and I knew it was the best I could do. As I walked out past the judges one of them said "Very well ridden!", there were people in the audience cheering and clapping. I was pretty blown away that I had just done that, it was by far the best pattern I'd ever ridden. There were still several goes after mine, a few of the riders left were the ones that I consistently place under. I didn't really care about the placings, I just knew I was one step closer to feeling like I belonged at AQHA shows. I untacked Grace and then came back to help put the course away. They placed the class while were were putting away poles, I had won the championship under both judges!
I went out of my way to thank the woman that set the course and told her that I appreciated how technical it was. She said I rode it exactly how it was written, I told her that I walked it several times trying to figure out the questions she was asking. The student judge also complemented me on the pattern telling me that I nailed it. I hope to have pictures soon and need to get someone to film next time we show, but even without footage I won't forget the feeling of that course, everything was clicking at the same time. It reminded me of years ago when I rode jumpers, every once and a while I would pull out a win on a super technical course because I would read a line and just get it and it seemed like no one else did. And to think a year ago I was struggling to lope over a single pole.