Last Place Never Felt So Good

It’s been a REALLY long 2 weeks down here in Ocala.  From the long hours at the barn, to the endless number of torture circles, to waking up with loose crickets in your bedroom……it has been a very long 2 weeks.

The good news is that it has also been a phenomenal learning experience.   I have learned more in the 2 weeks I have been here than I have learned in the last year, and the results are amazing.

This past Friday we loaded up all 6 horses and went to the Rocking Horse Stables Horse Trials.  Michelle and Pickles were doing preliminary dressage and show jumping on Friday while the rest of us just did flatwork on the property to get our horses exposed to the chaos a day early.  Michelle got a 40 on her dressage test  (which was not as low as his usual test).  Though she was a little dissappointed with her score, it put her into 10th place after dressage.  She had a great show jumping round with a double clear.  She moved up to 8th after show jumping. 

Gus and I took a lesson at the show.  Dorothy gave me my warm-up routine for the show on Saturday.  It went something like this…..

1.  walk and do torture circles in both directions

2. trot and do torture circles, but walk through the change of bend

3. trot and do torture circles, but TROT through the change of bend

4. canter and do torture circles, and trot through the change (both directions)

Pet him and put him away after 20 minutes of riding.

My horse never broke a sweat. It was 70 degrees, and my saddle pad was not even damp.  Who is this horse????


I was scheduled to do dressage at 12:15pm.  I got on at about 11:45 am.  We did our warm-up as if we were in a coma.  My test was sooooooo relaxed that I kept worrying he would break into the walk.  I had more time to think about where I was going than I have ever had.  You might even call the test “sluggish”.  It was unbelievable.

I was sooo happy with how he listened.  Dorothy was thrilled when she watched the video of my test, but I had yet to see my score.

I went to warm up for my 3pm stadium ride at 2:40pm.  We did our dressage warm-up for stadium as well.  After a few minutes of that, I went on to jump the crossrail, vertical, and oxer in the trot.  He was quiet as a mouse, so I went on and cantered a few fences.  Dorothy was finished with her last dressage test, and hid across the field to spy on me while I warmed up.  She was really excited, and told me that if he was that quiet I could canter quietly over some fences in my stadium.  I hung out at the in-gate, while Gus slept standing up at the gate.  They blew the whistle, and I quietly squeezed him into a trot to trot up over our first fence.  It was perfect.  He cantered slowly and quietly between the fences (in my french link dressage bit) and even got 3 perfect strides in the 2 stride combination.  We had one rail down at fence 2 because I was trying to decide whether or not to let him trot or canter it.  I finished the course with 14 time penalties on a novice stadium course!!!!  I laughed out loud like an idiot when I found that out.  I have NEVER had time penalties in the stadium before (unless I had major trouble with a fence) and especially NOT at novice!   Dorothy was thrilled again.  She was so excited at how well he listened to me between fences.  I have never seen the horse so relaxed before. 

So all was great on Saturday.   I went to pick up my dressage test from the secretary’s tent, and felt a tinge of dissappointment as I saw my score.  I got the score of 39.1 (which is not a bad thing), but the score put me in 22nd out of 23rd place.  Gus has NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER placed that badly in dressage.  I received straight 6’s and one 7 on my test, but that is not the funniest part.  The funniest part of the whole thing was reading the comments the judge wrote about EVERY SINGLE movement.   To quote the judge on every single comment… ” needs more energy”.  WHAT!!!?????  Did it really say that???  I had to laugh out loud again.  Never have a received that comment on Gus.  The torture circle had really worked.  I told Dorothy about it, and she said she had already seen it.  She wanted to rip it up so that I couldn’t look at it, but she didn’t.  She said that I didn’t come to Florida to ride Novice.  I came to Florida to get my horse together in order to get to Intermediate.  She is a wise woman.    My horse is fantastic and calm.  I was fantastic and calm.  We kept it together during the whole day without falling back into old habits.  It was a great day….though Iwas now in 23rd (last place )

Besides the day being a great success for Gus and me, I also got to chit chat with Leslie and Lesley Law, Jim Graham,  Jen Holling, and Robin Walker.  Karen O’Connor introduced herself to me and shook my hand!  Chelsie was really jealous of me.     It was a really great day.

Dorothy and I went out Saturday evening to walk our x-c courses.  It looked like a fun course.  Big enough to feel like x-c, but small enough to focus on our ride.   I could not wait to be in the start box with Gus again.


I was the first to ride on Sunday.  I got on in time to have a 20 minute warm-up.   The warm up for x-c was CHAOS.  Gus was a bit frazzled by all of the galloping horses around us.  I torture circled my way around all of the trees, jumps, and other riders.  He was still wound up, but mostly listening.  Dorothy warmed me up, and then helped me get Gus into the box.  I was surprisingly calm as he leaped around in the box.  Dorothy wished us luck, and off we went.  He actually trotted out of the box and up over the first fence  (in a french link snaffle—–in a TROT).  The rest was in a quiet canter.  He was listening like a champ.  We wound our way around the x-c course as if we were out for a quiet trail ride.  As I made the approach to our last fence I heard a strange noise…….what is that ?????   Gus was getting a bit nervous as I heard someone yell  “I’m coming up on your left!”.  HOLY CRAP!  I AM BEING OVERTAKEN BY ANOTHER RIDER!  I burst out laughing as I torture circled Gus off to the right to let the man pass by.   Gus and I composed ourselves and finished the course——about a minute slower than optimum time.  Those of you that know me and Gus know that that has NEVER happened to us ever before.  I think it sort of startled us both—in a really funny sort of way.

And that is how the weekend ended.  Dorothy was thrilled with all 3 of our phases.  Gus never broke a sweat all weekend.  I felt as if I had won the olympics……and yet we were dead last.  In 2 weeks we will do our first training level event of the season.  In 3 weeks (if all goes well) we will do our first prelim of the season.  In the meantime, we will be working our butts off in our daily lessons.  This is the beginning of great things for Team Wetherbrooke.

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