Ah, but that lesson was a while ago. I've got to talk about State! Yeah, so I left school on Wednesday afternoon so I could get ready to leave early on Thursday. When we got to the showgrounds, I had to get ready for showmanship that evening. I turned in my project book and then started to braid Stella's mane and tail. Stella also had to be clipped, which was an ordeal. She's fine with clipping as long as we don't touch her mule ears. We had to have two people hold her--one with a twitch (I don't necessarily like seeing them used, but I don't like seeing horses and humans hurt and killed.)--and one person clipping her. Stella ended up stepping on my foot, and all I remember was shoving her and then yelling "Get her off! Get her off!" because I thought she was going to break my entire foot or the ankle itself. I couldn't do very much because she had stepped on the foot that was farthest from her and I couldn't turn around. I thought something was broken because I couldn't put weight on it for almost ten minutes, and then I thought my big toenail was going to come off because my big toe was covered in blood. Everything's okay now, though, and I just have some places on my foot where the skin got scraped and/or ripped off.
Sorry if you thought that was disgusting. Hahaha.
Showmanship went really well. Stella wouldn't go into the chute without exploding, so I requested to wait until I could go straight through without waiting around other horses. She still got upset, but no one else was around to get hurt. I got her to calm down once we were in the arena, and then we executed a decent pattern. I was really expecting a red ribbon, but the ring steward handed me a blue. Hunter showmanship at State really is a lot easier than Western, as there are less hunter people who've been taught how to do it. Lucky for me, I have a trainer who specializes in all of that fun Western stuff and thinks I ride in a "wussy" saddle :) I had to memorize the callback pattern after I got out of the ring, so I led Stella around with the book in my hand. Larry held her for me while I practiced the pattern on foot (I look like an idiot, but it helps a whole lot.) and then we practiced a few key parts of the pattern. Our callback pattern was actually pretty good. I overshot a cone by a foot or so because we were backing and I lost track of where it was; it was totally my fault. Stella also didn't want to come directly into a trot from a halt. We took a few extra strides, but it was all okay. All in all, I was very pleased. Stella even started to fall asleep while we were in the lineup. She fidgeted a little when people started to clap, but she was very good. I got 11th place, so I didn't get a ribbon. I was still happy, though.
Friday's schooling session was amazing. I tacked Stella up in Larry's old Western saddle and worked her in one of the outdoor rings. We did a lot of bending and leg yielding. Her trot was amazing. Her canter was brilliant. She was so soft and rounded, she accepted the bit, and her stride was long and slow. I felt centered, relaxed, and focused. I couldn't believe it, and Larry said that it was awesome.
I had my first go of pleasure on Friday. We had an excellent ride, but, once again, we got the wrong lead both ways of the ring. I caught it immediately both times, but the judge saw it at least one way. I don't know why she got the wrong lead. I asked correctly and she got the right lead every time while we were schooling. It was a great ride, though, so I was happy with her.
One of my schooling sessions was a disaster. Some idiot came flying out of the bushes on a bike and scared over half of the horses who were working in the ring. Both of my seatbones were on one side of the saddle at one point, so I have no idea how I stayed on. I saw the kid and tried to keep Stella focused, but when he came out of the bush, Stella just gave a massive leap and I tried to follow her. I got her to calm down after a while, and then we started to work again. I heard a little thud and some mad hoofbeats, so I looked and saw that someone's saddle had slipped and their horse was running madly around the ring. Stella usually freaks out when people fall off and their horses run around, so I halted her and hoped the horse wouldn't come near us. Sure enough, the horse came running toward us, and I started cussing and trying to get it to run away from us. The horse kept running straight for us. I hoped that the horse would run out at the last second, but I turned around and relaxed my body just seconds before the stupid horse galloped right into Stella's hind end. Stella, being a good-natured creature, didn't kick or even pin her ears. She just stood there and was very nervous and surprised. It took me a long time to calm her down again. People kept riding up on her, and Stella would get nervous and pin her ears. I felt so sorry for her. I'm realizing how alike we are. I used to be terrified when people would drive behind me after I got into my second rear-end crash.
Equitation was a blast, though. I felt so good, and Stella was excellent. The only catch was that the judge favored the two-point-cantering, butt-poking, crappy English riders over those who ride correctly. Yeah, we're supposed to be able to take a jump should one pop up in front of us, but as long as there's enough distance for the horse to make it, there's enough distance for me to get up in a two-point. Larry thought it was a great ride, and I personally think I would have placed high in the class if the 4-H trend wasn't to ride in an excessively forward seat. I was happy. I was especially proud of Stella. When we were working, a girl fell off right in front of us. Stella spooked and whipped around, but I got her under control and got her to calm down. The horse ran to the other side of the ring and everything was good. Stella also had a problem the first time we cantered because another rider rudely cantered--or should I say hand-galloped, perhaps bolted?--up behind us and barely made it past without running into us. Stella rightfully spooked and became upset, but I calmed her down and she went along fine after it.
Mindy and I stayed in the trailer on Friday night. Our friend John, whom we met at Southern Regionals a few years ago, came all the way from South Carolina to watch us at the show. We went to the hotel to take a shower and then we went to the barn to play with the horses. Mindy wanted to school Gemini in the trail arena before her class the next morning, so we went to get her saddle from the tack room. We ran into a little problem when we realized it was locked. Mindy decided that she wasn't going to ride, but John said that he would get it. We stood and watched as he climbed on a tack trunk, climbed on the stall bar, and hauled himself up and over the top into the tack stall. Mindy and I started to laugh when we wondered how he was going to get the saddle out. He told us to throw a lead rope over, which he brought under the swell of the saddle and clipped onto itself. We held it while he struggled to climb back up and out of the tack stall. I wish I'd had my camera, because it was very impressive! Mindy did get her saddle and rode for a few minutes. A show official made her get off because the EMTs had left for the night; I wanted to let the show official know just how hard we'd worked to get the saddle, but I understand the rule. We messed around with Leo's stable management card ("Remove bot eggs. Horse needs water. Clean stall. You suck." Sigh. The joy that a simple practical joke can bring...) and then got Abby from the trailer and played on the hill. I almost fell down the hill because Abby jumped on my back while I was sitting down. It was so much fun. Eventually John had to go back to his tent, so Mindy and I went into the trailer and got ready for bed. We brought Abby up into the gooseneck with us and gave her a spot between us. It was so nice and warm in the trailer. We hadn't realized just how cold it had been outside, and we were especially cold from sitting in the wet grass on the hill.
On Saturday, I had my final class, second go pleasure. I schooled Stella in the arena where the class was going to be held, and she was perfect. I rode her around a lot, and we had fun. I gave her a Gatorade, and we had to play tug-of-war so that I could get the bottle out of her mouth. I don't regret teaching her how to drink out of a bottle :) When it was time for the class, Stella freaked out in the chute again. Larry led me into the ring and Stella was calm again. She was actually being very good. I thought the class was much too large for the arena, but I figured everything would be okay. When we were asked to canter, Stella exploded. I don't know what caused it, but she simply exploded. I had to use her neck to help me balance because she was going absolutely insane. She wasn't bucking, but she was throwing herself around, backing, turning, and whatever else she could. After that, the judge called to split the class. Stella went well the second way, but the damage was done. The judge selected a few numbers to be excused, and we were one of them. The crowd applauded and cheered loudly for us, which caused Stella to explode again. I reined her in and sent her out of the ring, where she exploded again in the chute. A woman who was stupidly standing in the center of the chute with the horses saw Stella getting upset and started to shield her face and scream. Of course that didn't help, so Stella's explosion carried on into the schooling ring that the chute led into. I schooled Stella for a few more minutes before I got off and took her back to the barn. I untacked Stella, groomed her, gave her some hay, and picked her stall. I was really upset about what had happened. See, I really wanted to go to Southern Regionals this year, and I actually thought I could make it this year. The best laid plans don't always work out, though. I was upset that I had no clue why Stella exploded in the middle of the class like that. Larry walked with me to the coliseum and talked to me. He asked me if I was disappointed, and I told him that I was. He said that he was disappointed for me, and that my time would come someday. Then, he jokingly said that he could sell Stella and buy another horse for me to ride. He kind of wants me to start doing Western again, but he promised me a long time ago that he'd never again sell a horse from under me. I don't know. I always seem to feel a lot better when I talk to Larry. We went shopping in the coliseum for a birthday gift for Jean.
On Saturday evening, we went out to dinner at Ruby Tuesday. As usual, I had a terrible time finding something to eat, so I opted for a plain baked potato and unlimited trips to the salad bar. I made a gorgeous salad and ate every bite of it, and then I topped my potato with items from the salad bar and made a gorgeous baked potato. Guess what. I ate every bite of that too :) We came back and watched drill team performances. There was one that I really liked that was done to some very awesome techno.
On Sunday, I played with Stella and Abby for most of the day. Stella insisted on eating my cookies and picking up and dumping out the muck bucket when I was cleaning her stall. I was a total rebel as I walked around the showgrounds with Abby. The show officials discriminate on the basis of species, and Abby wasn't supposed to be there at all. But she walked around with me, played with little kids, came into the barn, sat in the tack stall with me, and even came into the bathroom with me. She hated that. I had to tie her to the hand rail.
This year was excellent. I can't wait until next year! And I can't wait until I get to ride tomorrow, either.