So it turned out that I purchased the novice level entry at the very last minute, Thursday night before the dressage test I was to ride at 9:50am Friday morning. I gave my tack a quick wipe-down, packed the horse trailer, memorized my dressage test, and was ready to go first thing.
Friday morning Highboy eagerly watched me from his paddock as he ate his breakfast mash. When he was finished I tied him and got him put together in his shipping outfit. Then he leaped into the trailer and jogged to the front, reaching his long face out the window in happy anticipation of the day ahead. We got to the show grounds and it was a beautiful morning. I tacked up Highboy and got myself dressed, and our friend Debora Botting with Chameleon Browbands took our photo in Highboy's yellow beaded dressage browband.
The warmup for dressage with Highboy was fine. He mostly behaved and didn't try to fist-bump anyone, horse or human. When our test time was drawing near we headed over to the actual dressage arena, and Highboy even trotted nicely over there just before heading down centerline. Once that bell rang, however, Highboy decided that boring dressage needed to be spiced up a little. His stretchy trot and free walk were amazing, but his trot down centerline was more like a sideways scramble and his cantering was more porpoising than cantering. He also threw in a few heels-over-his-head bucks for good measure. I took some comfort in the fact we haven't been preparing for this for months only to have him choose shenanigans, and it was a literal night-before decision to come just for fun. Highboy certainly had fun.
Saturday was cross-country, which is Highboy's favorite part. He warmed up well, even when another rider's number flew out of her pinney and the white 8x10 piece of paper was coming directly at us. I do so much desensitizing with my horses and the Bit of Honey Circus is such a regular event here that Highboy barely noticed the paper skittering towards him over the tips of the grass in the warmup arena.
Kimberly Hale Photography came with us to the show and got some amazing shots of Highboy rocking the novice course. This event has several levels, going from easiest to hardest they are: starter, beginner novice, novice, training, preliminary. Though he has very comfortably schooled many training and preliminary questions on cross country, this was Highboy's first time competing at novice level. He did incredibly well, and only had some time faults because I made him go more slowly down the first hill to ensure he was listening and balanced for the rest of the course.
I was grateful to have some friends there cheering me on, Amy, Sue, Kim, and Sara were great moral support. Some of them had never seen me and Highboy go cross country, and I was really proud of how he went.
Sunday we headed back to Cheyenne again for the final phase, show jumping. Again Highboy warmed up well, despite absolute bedlam in the warmup arena with two divisions riding at the same time and awfully strong winds. Once we were in the actual show arena, though, he pretended he was a camel who had no steering. It's been a LONG time since I rode him doing that much running sideways. As I always say, "if you can't do it well, at least be entertaining," and we were definitely entertaining!
The thing about Highboy is that he is so scopey and athletic, he doesn't feel a need to approach the jumps from a good angle or a reasonable distance. He knows he can jump anything in the arena from a standstill, so it was up to me to get him close enough to the fence that I could say, "Highboy - jump THAT one!" and over it he'd go. We definitely had some time faults because of all the wasted time running sideways instead of straight to the fences, but there were no jump faults because despite the terrible approaches and angles Highboy didn't hit any of the poles.
Miles and Rizzo came to this show with us, too. It was Rizzo's first horse show and she felt a little overwhelmed, but Miles was able to coach her through and they were well behaved waiting in the truck out of the crazy wind while I was actually riding.
I was able to get on the list for the official horse show's professional photographer photos, so I'm eager to see those as well. I know they got one great shot of Highboy in his final salute after his dressage test, somehow capturing the one moment when he looked civilized and I'm laughing at him. I'm curious if they got any of his airs above ground, too.
After the long weekend Rizzo was helping me at home with teaching in the arena on Tuesday, and she said that she didn't realize being a horse-training dog would be so much work. She naps every opportunity she gets!