It may have been the moon. Or maybe it was something I ate. Or could it have had something to do with the Cosmo I knocked back a little too quickly on my terrace with a friend? All I know is that at some point last week, in an élan of exuberance coupled with a temporary lapse of judgment, I signed up for a dressage competition.
You see, I’m not the competitive type. The mere thought of riding a program in public generates sleepless nights, unpleasant digestive issues, nausea, palpitations, zit attacks and ludicrous amounts of sweating. And then there’s the fact that I absolutely loathe those adrenaline rushes you get prior to entering the arena. So why the heck did I fill out the online application and press “enter”?
I guess it had something to do with feeling mega comfortable at my new stables, with Kwintus going so well, with feeling encouraged by my friend Stephanie, the owner of the stables, with knowing that my fabulous trainer, Marie-Valentine Gygax (who used to teach in America!), will be there to coach me. There’s also the niggling sentiment that Kwint isn’t getting any younger. He’s eighteen now, and although I know he’s not Methuselah, he’s no spring chicken, either. If I’m going to try to make a little hay, now’s the time.
The thing is, I’m proud of my horse. I’m proud of how great he looks for his age, of how well he uses his back, of how he swings in trot, of how he brings his hind legs so far underneath him in canter. I love how he almost always corrects himself when halting at X if not completely square. I love how he’s always eager to please, how he always does his best to understand what I’m after. I love his laid back, positive attitude towards life and his sense of humour. Sure, he needs a little motivation to do more than the bare necessities once in a while, but who doesn’t? Call me nuts, but despite my fear of public performance , I want to show the world what a wonderful horse I have.
As for Kwintus, he loves going to shows. All you have to do is plait his mane for him to start preening like a Grand Prix superstar. Last year, at the annual show at my old stables, a friend of mine rode him in one of the more advanced classes (I have yet to sign up to pass what, here in Switzerland, is called a “licence”. I guess I should…but it’s…, well, you know, a test. It has the same effect on my inner-life as a competition). She’d only ridden him a couple of times beforehand, and had no idea he was going to go into show-off mode the moment the bell rang. Imagine her surprise when he decided he knew exactly what he was doing, and that of course the three tempi changes on the diagonal were followed by the two tempi changes on the next diagonal (there were no two tempis at all in that program, but he just loves doing them!)!
No, they didn’t do very well… But the overall effect was ever so cute! And you should have seen the enthusiasm he put into his pirouettes!
Kwintus and I won’t have to do tempi changes for the test on July 10th, which is a pity, really, as they’re definitely his party trick. There’ll be no fancy footwork, no pirouettes, no appuyés, nor even any backing up, come to think of it. The main difficulty will be the series of canter-walk-canter movements performed on a serpentine on the middle line, so we’re practicing those, trying to keep the fluidity in the walk after the transition. I’ve noticed that if I make a conscious effort to breathe into the downward transitions, Kwint executes them far more smoothly. Problem is, as I’m already forgetting to breathe during our practices, chances are I’ll be apoplectic on the day!
But then again, maybe I’ll be fine. Maybe, this time, I’ll be as laid back as Kwintus. Maybe I’ll sleep like a baby the night before, and wake up to face the day with a head filled with resolve instead of a stomach filled with dread. Maybe I’ll be preening like a Grand Prix diva. Maybe.
I’m hoping that, having given myself plenty of time to prepare the test, I’ll feel far more confident than I’ve felt in the past. I’m hoping I’ll enjoy the moment as much as I know Kwintus will. More than anything, I’m hoping I’ll do him proud, maybe even come home with a ribbon and some decent scores and nice comments on my test sheet.
I’ll keep you posted on our progress, as well as on further developments relating to the state of my nerves. And I’ll definitely let you know how the competition goes...
Meanwhile, I’d love to know how you feel about competing in shows. Do you get nervous? And if you do, why do you still sign up? Any words of wisdom you’d like to share?
Lots of love,