Ok, so the first day was a wash, but the second day would be better right? Nope, a wash too.... almost literally....
The second day we got there much earlier, no rushing today we were going to ride until he got it right. I even planned it so I could ride for a while, give him a break, then do a quick warm up just prior to the test. So we get there ~3 hrs before my first ride and I notice the warm-up is half under water. I guess it had rained quite a bit. The warm-up has moved to the indoor, which is half taken up by temporary stalls, so it is slightly larger than a small dressage arena. I'm not complaining, no one can control the weather, it was just an unfortunate set up for such a large show.
By the time we started our pre-warm up there were about 10-12 horses in this small arena, all about the size of Dexter.... huge. So we were more focused on how to steer and dodge vs relaxing. After about 15 minutes I realized it wasn't working and went outside to walk in the muddy warm-up. We would at least take some time to look around and get that out of the way.
For our real warm up they had moved the warm-up ring back outside, mud puddles or not. I'm guessing after watching a few too many close calls between novices and gran prix riders they thought it would be best. This is where I realized Dexter's real fear of mud. I knew he had an aversion to it, and always thought it was cute how he would steer around the wet spots in the pasture. But now I saw it, he would not canter through the mud, and he would shorten his stride at the trot. I get it, when I first got Dexter he wasn't all that balanced and he used to slip all the time with his back legs, even on dry dirt. So he's smart, and doesn't want to slip. I let it go being as the test arena looked better.... I was wrong.
First test of the second day actually started out pretty good. He was relaxed across the back or better than the day before and he was paying attention, probably because he didn't want to slip. Then we came to the canter section.... or to Dexter, the canter-break-canter-break-buck-canter-break-lengthen trot section. Every time we had to turn he broke into the trot, and was completely tense and anxious the rest of the test.... drat.
We had about an hour between tests so before I gave him a rest we went back to the warm-up and I MADE him canter through the mud and puddles to prove that he in fact could now do it. He wasn't the same lanky uncoordinated horse he was 8 months ago. I'm sure I scared a few people in the warm up as it took quite a bit of momentum to keep him going. But he did it, it took some convincing, but he made it through the mud with no falls, hopefully I had proven to him he could do it, short term anyway.
Second test started out good... again. Then the canter, again. This time at least he kept going, only breaking twice, once after he decided to leap over a suspicious spot in the ring vs go through it. But in order to keep him going we weren't all that pretty. And we ended up with the lowest score I've ever gotten with Dexter.... worse than his very first show. Every now and then you get a comment from a judge that sticks with you. Hopefully its a positive one, this one was not. "Need to work on canter basics for the safety of all involved." - OUCH!
Over all the show was pretty disappointing. Yes, the weather was a huge factor, and it was evident it affected a lot of the horses. But I feel Dexter and I were more affected than most. I'm sure I was affected by the weather and other horses, there by losing Dexter's confidence in me. And its disappointing to fall so far back from where you've come.
To top it off, I'm pretty sure that was my last show this season. Between his high spirits, the energy involved and my growing belly, I think I'll be staying local until the baby is born. Most of the time Dexter is fine at shows, but all it takes is one rainy day, one slip/buck and my center of gravity being altered to take a fall, and that's a chance I dont' think I can take anymore. I still plan on riding and still plan on taking lessons, but showing is done.
I think it was a good first season, although short. We both learned, grew and developed. We were starting to get some confidence near the end, maybe we will just erase this last show from our collective consciousness.