|It was in Tulsa, OK, which was a 10-hour drive UP there and a 12-hour drive
home. Definitely the longest trip I've ever made with my ponies.
Making the trip were my 17-year-old half Arab pinto, Sonnys Mona Lisa+/ and her coming 6-year old daughter, Flying Colorz.
Lisa had a foal last June, which wasn't weaned until December, so she is still not quite up to speed - so she was signed up to show Training Level. Flying Colorz (Fling) was going to do the two First level test offered, and just for the heck of it, the one Second Level test, despite the fact we've not actually showed it yet. Or even ridden through it all the way, for a matter of fact.
I have never been to this show, and although I knew they had a R licensed dressage judge officiating (Wayne Quarles, who is Activites Dir for USPC and did a GREAT job) - I knew that Pinto does not follow USEF rules and things could possibly be..um...different. However, their rule book SAYS they follow USEF rules for dressage, and the gal I quizzed on the phone prior to sending in my entries assured me as well. Well, okiedokie!
We get there - HUGE facility. I mean GINORMOUS. Five huge barns, five air conditioned arenas - the place is larger than our Houston sports complex, containing the Astrodome, Astroarena, Reliant stadium, etc. To give you an idea, the venue had the horse show facilities, a RACE track, a WATER PARK, a hotel, an RV park and probably other things I did not notice. I was told they had 1300 horses entered.
The warm up arenas and lunging pens consisted of sand dumped in the parking lot with panels around them. It was much like warming up on the frontage road of the freeway, as freightliners towing 8-horse trailers, bobcats, forklifts carrying manure dumpsters, etc. flew by within feet of the arena. My old gal, who has "been there, done that" was not bothered, but Fling just about lost her mind.
We got there two days early - both for THEM to rest and ME to rest. I was scheduled to ride six tests in one day. Let me point out I will be 50 this year.
My trainer and I found out quickly that we were "strangers in a strange land." We especially liked the CROWNS that the "Pinto Queen" candidates wore - not only on their western hats - heck, growing up in Texas, I've seen that - but now they wear them affixed to the front of their HUNT CAPS too! And then there were the fake tails... for a mere $250, your horse, too, can have a lovely tail in any color you fancy. And the SEQUINS for the WP outfits.
Warming up in one of the arenas on Friday we finally spotted another "dressage person"...riding in a DOUBLE BRIDLE (no third level dressage was being offered at this show!) with DRAW REINS through the CURB bit. We were aghast, but obviously no TD at this show. The guy was trying to show off by doing two tempis, incredibly badly, on a saddlebred type.
My trainer and I decide to ignore it, since there's nothing much we can do. Later that night, the dressage types congregated at the show office, waiting fot the ride times. The word went out that the show was going to be held in the SMALL arena. One person said "all the rides will be in the small arena." I replied - "they can't be - you can't do first and second level in the small arena." Mr. Saddlebred guy was standing next to me and he said "Oh, those are just GUIDELINES." I look at him, incredulously, and say "No, you CAN'T do a second level test in a small arena - the letters wouldn't be in the proper place." He sneers down at me and says "I ride Prix St. Georges." I wanted to say "in your backyard maybe." Finally, it gets sorted out and the training level rides are in the short arena - despite the fact that everyone was told they would be in the large arena beforehand. Never mind. I am riding from 7:24 a.m. to 3:39 p.m. - with about 1 hour to 2 hours between rides - except they have scheduled my 1/3 ride and my 2/1 ride BACK TO BACK. Not only that - they scheduled one poor guy riding THREE different horses BACK TO BACK in EACH of his classes. So i track him down and we trade some rides which helps both of us. IN the meantime, I run into some dressage people who have driven TWO DAYS to come to this show. They tell me HORROR stories about "pinto" dressage where they come from - they actually DO have dressage at some pinto shows and it's judged by the WESTERN PLEASURE judge! She said she got a ZERO on gaits once from one of them - and generally the scores end up in the 20s to 30s because the judges don't have a clue how to score - and that they usually just leave the collective marks scores blank because they don't understand what they are!! I asked her WHY she doesn't show at schooling shows put on by her local GMO and she says it's because you HAVE to show at pinto shows to get pinto points! She says at these shows the 'arena' is often ROPE laid out on the ground!
I get NO sleep the night before. I am exhausted before I begin and it's RAINING. Fortunately we find an empty covered arena to warm up in. Lisa goes first with her three training level rides and they go ok. I was so worried about how stiff she'd be and how she'd make the trip, but she felt really good and loose - for her. YOu may not remember, but she was beat up badly in the pasture by my husband's endurance horse in April - she had more than 20 bite/kick marks all over her, and a bone chip in her ankle. My vet gave her the RVI shots, we injected her ankles and she recovered better than I ever hoped she would.
She got 68.8 on one ride a 69 on another and a 64.something on T4 - I did not bend her properly for a canter depart and we got it wrong - but immediately corrected it. So she ended up with a WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP in Training 1 Amateur, a Reserve CH in T2 Open (the 69 - with a _9_ for free walk) and a 3rd in T4. The largest class was T2 with 23; I think T1 had 12 and T4 had 16 or 18. I could not watch anything but my trainer thought the scores were quite reflective of the rides.
An amusing note: As I went into my first Training Level class, I could not HELP but notice that the gal coming OUT of the TL class was wearing a SHADBELLY and TOP HAT!!!
Also, the "arena" consisted of PVC-clad BOARDS laid on the GROUND.
Fling had had ENOUGH by now - a long drive up, 3 days confined in a stall (mine are out 24/7 at home) and the warm up arena just did her in. Nothing in her show experience could have prepared her for the Bobcat scraping sand all the way around the perimeter of the arena, banging the panels as it went, the motorscooters, golf carts, forklifts, etc. zooming by. She was fried. She got a 64. on 1/1 and was barely 3rd out of 10 and it went downhill from there. They got way behind and we had to spend nearly an hour in the arena from hell (it had stopped raining and the arena we used in the a.m. was being used by classes) before her 1/3 ride and she was spooking everywhere by the time we went in for our test. She got a 56 and was 6th out of ten. I should add she DID beat "Mr. Prix St. Georges" even with her spooking. I went ahead and rode 2/1 just for experience and could not get her NEAR the one long side. There was a roll-up door that had been open during our warmup the day before, and now it was closed. I think that's what 'got' her. All our figures that side of the arena were performed near the center of the arena - and we got a 50% but still ended up 3rd out of 6 - and again, beat "Mr. Prix St. Georges." Snigger. Judge wrote on the last two tests "nice horse, too bad about the spooking." I got an 8 on rider for my 1/1 ride. If she'd JUST done SOMETHING right on that long side we could have come home with a Reserve Championship. But that's OK. She is young.
I am sure Mr. Prix St Georges thinks the judging absolutely sucked. I am equally sure Judge Quarles is telling stories to his judging friends about this one.
The people we met at the show who were stalled around us were very, very friendly and nice. It is a very family-oriented group - we did not see the "prep stall" and zillions of "grooms" like I used to see when I showed the Arab circuit. Riders and their families did all the 'grunt' work themselves. The facility was really, really nice. Except for the parking lot arenas.
In retrospect - we probably could have found a vacant indoor arena to warm up in - but we just didn't know enough to do so.
I don't think I will ever go back - I am pretty wimpy about driving such long distances. But it's something I always wanted to do - so now I did it. And, for my dressage "World Championship" I have a honking big silver belt buckle. Think I should wear it to the next dressage show???