Show Report: Pro Am 2015, On Being Muddled

Stepping Stone Farm Ribbons
Stepping Stone Farm Ribbons

Pro-Am Benefit Classic Horse Show of Georgia
April 1-4, 2015
Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter
Perry, GA, USA

Saturday, April 4
111. Academy Equitation WTC Adult, Trump, 2nd of 4
112. Academy Showmanship WTC Adult, Trump, 1st of 4
120D. Academy WTC Championship, Roberto, 6th of 11
Thank you to Ashlyn Seagle and Reagan Huguley for the awesome horses.

Show Photographer Doug Shiflet. My photo download rant, including a message from Mr. Shiflet. Intellectual property, it’s a thing. WIPO

After the performance classes, Sam decided he was done showing for the weekend. I would ride Trump in the regular classes and Roberto in the championship. I had to jettison all the preshow visualizations of the clever maneuvers I was planning to execute [Show Today: Pro Am]. Instead, I began to worry about the show when I failed to get my canter leads with Trump [Report: SSF] and about the pressure of riding my coach’s horse.

The show was not my finest hour:
Me: Was my first class as bad as I think it was?
Coach: Yes.

In hindsight, I blame the leg lessons [Repercussions]. For the last three Wednesdays, I had joined the group equitation lesson. We did no-stirrup work, sitting trot, two-point, and so on. It worked. At the show, I felt balanced over my feet. My upper legs were tighter on the horse. I was able to dig my knees in and swing my lower legs away as required in saddle seat.

Unfortunately, these improvements came at the expense of every ounce of saddle seat from the waist up. We had thought we might be able to mitigate the damage. I didn’t look too bad in lessons. Even in warm-up, I had moments. However, once I went in the ring, the small changes opened the door to allow decades of showing in other styles to swamp my tenuous grasp of saddle seat showing.

The trot wasn’t immediately awful. In Mr. Shiflet’s photo 112-008-PA15, you can see I am trying to lift my hands & look up. However, the saddle seat window dressing is having no influence on my core forward seat position. I’m not unhappy with the body position. It looks balanced. It looks strong. It just doesn’t look saddle seat.

At the canter, my bad habits came roaring back. Suddenly, I was leaning forward to get the canter and thundering around once I’d gotten it. Pitching one’s weight onto the horse’s front end is not a useful signal in any discipline. It is particularly unuseful in saddle seat. The rider is expected to stay back, out of the way, so that the horse can be light and fluffy in the shoulder. In addition, saddle seat judges expect a horse to execute a contained, dynamic canter, not to gallop flat out as if making up time during the run-in after the last jump on cross-country.

Furthermore, I was out-of-proportion upset by the switch in horses. Why? Trump is a sweetheart. Roberto is a blast to ride. I posit that being physically muddled led to being mentally muddled. Therefore, by extension, physical confidence influences mental confidence. Score one for mind/body unity versus mind/body dichotomy.

No more leg lessons. This is not an excuse. A few exercises should not have caused me to fall so completely apart. However, it is an action item. I had a bad show. I have identified an avenue to get back on track.

I think (I hope? I wonder? We shall see.) that I will be able to continue with saddle seat if (when!) I start riding my own horses. The Thoroughbreds will be ridden in suitably Thoroughbred styles in suitably Thoroughbred hunter/jumper or dressage saddles. Saddle seat time will be reserved for saddle seat riding. The problem comes when I execute alien maneuvers, i.e. two-point or sitting trot, in saddle seat.

Don’t cross the streams.

Update: Coach’s Comments
While my Coach does not disagree with the theories above, she thinks my problems at the show stemmed mainly from not adjusting to the last-minute horse swap and to stressing about getting my canter leads with Trump. She says it’s all in my head. She’s not wrong.

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