I had so much fun at the Downeast Horse Congress. I had been looking forward to this show since late winter, when I had contacted the show manager to see if he was adding a Standardbred division. This was a double judged show, so each judge got to pin the class. I ended up with double the set of ribbons! I am going to write all of the exciting news, then do another post with just the pics. There are so many photos that I will drive myself crazy trying to get them all to look right in with the words.
Thursday was my last day at school. I had planned to get all of my packing done, then bathe and braid Dreamy, and be in bed at a reasonable hour. Well……anyone who knows me also knows that as much as I try, the reasonable hour thing never happens. With a young son and too many things to do in my house, I ended up headed out to bathe and pack at 8PM. Yeah, so I was back in the house at midnight. Great.
Friday morning I headed out at 7:45 AM to drive to
We arrived at Skowhegan around 11AM (aka “Skowtown” and “Skow Vegas” just as an FYI to any non-Maine-ahs. LOL!) The fairgrounds are a nice place to show, with a covered ring and pretty decent temporary stalls. We lucked out and ended up in Barn 2 (which I will request for next time) which had nice gray boards instead of ratty red canvas on the stalls. We got the stalls set up with four bags of shavings, seeing as the floor was concrete (only downfall of the stalls). I ended up doing up her legs (putting standing wraps and rubbing alcohol on them) both nights, which I think helped too.
I put Dreamy in her stall and she settled in very easily. Of course, because she is a Standardbred! I would have liked to walk her around more than I had, but it was pouring buckets. We got the tack stall set up and began socializing! There were two STB mares from the
My first class was Dressage Suitability. I knew that this would be our “blow off” class, seeing as Dreamy is usually a little looky, if not full blown nervous, for the first time in a new ring. Top off the fact that the ring is scary to MANY horses in general, and I knew not to expect much. Of course, the silly part is that Dressage Suitability had to be the blow off, seeing as we actually DO DRESSAGE and not hunters. But oh well. LOL! Of course, it was pouring and I kept hoping it may let up a bit so I could get a good warm up. No luck. I had to warm up in the downpour. By the time I entered the ring, I felt like I had fallen into a swimming pool in my show clothes. I was slipping all over the place in the saddle. I have never been so soaked in my life! Dreamy was so good in the warm up, which was really just a dirt area between the barns and the covered ring. There were massive puddles and little running streams everywhere, but she trotted and cantered through them all. Our right lead was sloppy, but I figured this class was just for the sake of doing it. I know our canter is really only good for 20-m. circles right now, so cantering around the HUGE ring was going to be a challenge, if not impossible.
And she was so nervous in the class! The bleachers were pretty full of spectators, which she oogled at. The far side of the ring had a huge puddle just outside the rail, which was obviously incredibly scaring and ate horses. We had a nice counter bend on that side of the arena. BAH! And she was so nervous and not paying attention that we got both leads wrong. They were perfect in warm up, and she has been getting them at home 99% of the time, but oh well. That is showing for you. But at least I got her in the ring, and I figured had gotten the foolishness out. I was wrong….more on that later. We ended up in third, which sounds great until I tell you there were only three people in the class. LOL! Oh well. Back at the barn, I stripped out of my wet clothes, took care of my mare, and got to relax until the Standardbred demo at 6:50PM. S and I just ate at the show vendor, which was actually pretty good, but rather expensive.
The demo was something I helped to organize, with six Standardbreds total. It was the first ever demo (OK, it was our first ever “anything”) for our new organization, the Standardbred Performance Society, and it was a resounding success. First we had the two UMares (DoRunBlueFortunate aka “Dewey” and Skittish aka “April”) do part of a drill they have done at the University. The announcer read our script about the two mares while they performed. Then we had four members of our new organization, the Standardbred Performance Society, in the ring. First was Bruizer’s L’il Star, then Slam Dunk Lobel, and then McKeever Hanover. “Bruizer” and “McKeever” went hunt seat and trotted around doing circles and changes of rein. “Duncan” went western pleasure, showing off his running walk. Again, the announcer read the script about the horses and riders, complete with major racing/showing accomplishments. Last, I entered the ring to jump! I opted to stay at the “less scary” end of the arena because 1. I knew Dreamy was a bit afraid of the scary puddle at the other end, and 2. All the horses before us were congregated down there. We went over a little gate once in each direction, then I cantered (on her LEFT lead…LOL!) around the arena once. At the very end, we all lined up in the center.
I was very pleased with the demo, except for the fact that the sound system would not work properly, so our fun and upbeat swing music did not get to play. But that was OK since overall the horses looked great and everyone seemed to really like it. We got a lot of positive comments, as did the show manager.
Saturday morning was less rainy, but it still showered on and off all day. This was my busy day. I was hoping to get my Standardbred In-Hand class done frist thing, so then I could do my three jump courses. But instead, the hunt ring steward recommended I go jump and THEN do my in-hand. Oh great. Just what I needed was running around like a crazy person.
The hunt ring was to be held in the covered arena and the in-hand and pleasure classes would be in the infield of the track. There was so much rain in the infield, however, that they were not able to hold the in-hand and pleasure classes there at all. YIKES! I give huge congratulations to the manager and volunteers who were able to get everything organized and figure out what to do. We ended up having in-hand in the aforementioned dirt warm up area between the barns and the covered ring. It was not ideal, but it was not very wet due to excellent drainage. The infield grass field was literally under several inches of water, so moving the classes was a great choice.
So I got ready for my Hi Lo Judged Warm Up and Easy Does It Stake, which were both the same course. I went in for my warm up and Dreamy was great. She hesitated at the first fence, but then she was quiet and easy to ride over the rest of the course. I was so pleased with her! I wanted to then do my Stake class, as the ring steward told me I could, but immediately after my round she said that I had to do my regular Easy Does It Over Fences class BEFORE I could do my Stake class. YIKES! I had totally NOT memorized THAT course, so I had to leave and do that.
Well, I spent some time looking at it. I hate memorizing courses anyway and I have to write them down. The worst part is that there are no numbers on hunt courses, unlike a stadium or cross country course, so I had to really know the course. At least in a stadium course, I can count the jumps off. I know if I am off course, because I am always looking for my next number on the next fence.
SO……………I think I have the course down so I ask to go again. We go in and the first jump is the same as the Hi Lo, but from the other direction. Dreamy has to do the opening circle at the “scary” end of the arena. This starts our course off badly. She lands from the first little fence and puts her head waaaaay down between her knees to buck! WHAT????? She has NEVER done that to me. Of course, I pulled her up hard with my right rein to prevent her from bucking. But I was so mad and surprised that I also yelled, “You F*CKER!” Yeah, really classy. As soon as I did it, I was completely mortified. And of course, I then completely forget what I am doing and head for the wrong jump. The two judges let me do four more fences before they finally announce “Off Course”!
CRAP! CRAP! CRAP! I have never gone off course, so this was a learning experience. I was embarrassed more about dropping the F-Bomb than going off course. I headed out, walked around for a moment to clear my head, and then asked to do my Stakes. It was the same course I had done for Hi Lo and it went fine. She was still VERY naughty because she was “nervous.” Now, there is a difference to me between her nervousness in the Dressage Suitability class and the jumping. In the DS class, she was nervous but she LISTENED to me. She did what I asked, even if she was doing it at racehorse speed at times. But the jumping classes made me mad. Yes, she was nervous, but there was NO reason for dropping her head at EVERY SINGLE JUMP to try to buck. I was prepared for her antics, but that does not mean I like it.
I ended up placing out of the top 6 in the Hi Lo. There were 29 entries and the judges’ cards only reflected the top 6, so I have no idea where I came in. I imagine I did better than 29 out of 29 though! LOL! She was very good on that first course. I hope I was in the top 15 or so. For Easy Does It Hunter Over Fences Stake I ended up fourth out of 6 riders.
We went back to the barn after the three jump courses and had to get ready for STB In-Hand. Thankfully S is a great friend and groom, so she helped me to get the saddle marks off Dreamy. I was pretty upset about Dreamy’s antics in the jump ring, so I had to allow myself to be mad and then shake it off. We literally had maybe 15 minutes before In-Hand, so I think I did pretty well. But I was so upset that Dreamy was naughty. Like I said, there is a difference to me between nervous and naughty.
I was not expecting much in the In-Hand class. For one thing, I despise In-Hand. I really do! And Dreamy is not a “typey” Standardbred at all, much like McKeever. I knew that the horses built like actual Standardbreds would do well. Big, tall, broad and rangy. So we ended up fifth out of 8 entries. I was proud that both Duncan and Bruizer ended up with first place ribbons though! And Dreamy was really well behaved, despite her tendency to get bored in In-Hand classes and do fun things like rear. She did everything I asked and kept all four feet on the ground. LOL!
We then had to go back and get saddled for Easy Does It Hunter Under Saddle. Dreamy was better behaved than she was in the jumping, which I think was because she was not alone in the ring. She was a little nervous, but listened to me. We got our leads, but it was not entirely a pretty right lead canter. UGGG. I ended up in fourth out of 8. That was surprising to me, as I had figured I would not place at all! And for the fact that Dreamy is NOT a hunter, I was happy.
SO……we were supposed to be doing our pleasure classes in the infield. Like I said, it was under water so the classes had to be somehow fit into the covered arena. The hunter classes (over fences and under saddle) ended around 6:30 PM. The show management then fit our “afternoon session” of pleasure classes in before the evening session. Word has it that they were there showing until midnight!!! So anyway, our Standardbred Pleasure class that should have probably gone off around 2PM had the outside ring been OK, ended up going off at 8:30! LOL! The afternoon session at 8:30! But I must say that it was pretty cool to be showing in the arena under the lights.
I ended up doing quite a bit of shopping while we were there on Saturday afternoon. I bought two Downeast pins to hold on my number, a Downeast t-shirt, a pottery horse bowl, a custom embroidered bag, a saddle pad which I then got custom embroidered, and a CD of professional photos. The photographer was fantastic. I bought all 78 photos on a CD, which I can do anything with, for only $129. Had I bought just three 8x10s, I would have spent $100. And there was NO WAY I could have only picked a couple of photos. There were so many excellent ones! We also got goody bags from the show, which had cute Downeast cups filled with horse treats and people candy.
A bunch of us went to Ken’s Restaurant for lunch. (Note: It is a great place to eat if you ever find yourself in Skowtown!) We had wanted to go to dinner, but with our class being postponed until later in the evening, we opted to do lunch instead. The horses were all rested and S and I grained by 5PM. The rain was scattered and it was pretty much just a very cloudy day. The occasional drizzle was not that bad and really only got the tops of my thighs wet when I was riding. We took our time getting ready, though towards the end it was pretty boring. Nothing like waiting nearly 12 hours between your classes! WHEW! I was pretty excited for the class, but I also knew I had stiff competition. All of our Standardbreds were capable of winning a pleasure class. And Dreamy and I never do well in pleasure classes, so I was just looking to have a good ride with no nervousness.
And my mare never put a foot wrong. Her trot was fluid and as rhythmic as a metronome. She just went in there and completely stunned me. Truly I think she was much happier in the covered arena with her “buddies”, rather than being alone with the jumps! We retired to the rail as the steward brought the cards to the announcer. They were pinning first through sixth, so there was really little suspense. When they announced, “This class was clearly unanimous and our first place winner is number 122……etc etc” I completely burst into tears. I am not talking about a little weeping; I am talking big gulping sobs. LOL! I was just so happy with my mare for many reasons. First, we NEVER pin well in a pleasure class. Second, she overcame her fear and was not nervous at all. And third, she was just absolutely perfect. I am serious! She may not be a hunter, she may never be able to canter around a huge ring more than just on a 20 m. circle, but she was absolutely perfect in her 2-Gait STB Pleasure class.
So we got to do the victory pass and the tears were just streaming down my face. I cried all through going back to the barn, accepting congratulations, and getting her put away! LOL! It was a good 15 minute cry. What a fabulous way to end my day.
Sunday dawned…..with more clouds. It was raining at 4:48AM, when I awoke and could NOT get back to sleep. I just kept thinking about the night before and how awesome my horse had done. We planned to get up at 6AM to feed horses, but I was awake for an hour before that. I was eager to show again in our two last classes, STB Equitation and then STB Pleasure Championship. I could tell Dreamy was pretty well done with this whole “live-in-your-stall-for-three-days” thing, and was bored. I took her for a long walk on Sunday morning, and we went all over the grounds. I also think it helped limber her up. The rain cleared right before our morning class and I was ready to go. I do well in Equitation, often winning or at last second. I really wanted to do well.
And yet again, we got to do a victory pass! I was so pleased with my mare, as she was just as good as the night before. She was completely confident in the covered arena now. It was just a blast to be riding her. She did not want to stand in the line up, however. That was kind of a pain in the neck. The day went much more quickly this time. We got the horses put away and decided to have lunch. They were planning to start the afternoon session around 12:45 and we were the fifth class in. We ate lunch and had about an hour to pack everything. We pulled the trailer right up to the tack stall and packed everything away except for our show clothes, tack, and water buckets. That way when we were done showing, we would only have to pack a few things.
I was excited for the STB Pleasure Championship class. I knew if we could put in a repeat performance of the last two classes, we would have a good shot at the champion title. We had a good warm up, with lots of good trot work and lateral work. I warmed her up exactly how I had for the last two STB classes. She was being so responsive that I even threw in some trot leg yield, which was perfect. Without spurs or a crop!!! She was so responsive to me. And then we even did some extended trot across the diagonal which was fun! She was just so easy to ride!! The sun and blue sky came out during our warm up, which was crazy. And it made it crazy hot! But within 10 minutes, it was back to gray clouds.
Yet again, the class was great. Dreamy was on auto-pilot and just was so smooth and easy. She came right to the bit, was completely on the aids, and just moved flawlessly. I was excited to know the results, so retiring to the rail was very suspenseful for me. And again, we got to do the victory pass! We had swept all three of our under saddle STB classes and been named the Standardbred Champion of the weekend! WOW! I was so proud! I am still in awe of how well we did. It was quite a comeback from the nervous mare I rode on Friday in our “blow off” class!!!
Overall, the weekend was a success. I had a blast being with all of my horse friends. We laughed, joked, helped each other out, and just enjoyed being together. I got to meet a lovely woman named Heather McPhee, who owns Center Peace Farm in Jay, ME. She was stabled right behind us and was just so much fun to be with. She rode her gorgeous five year old Friesian mare named Rosalina. I got her email and would like to stay in touch. She offered to be barn neighbors with us anytime we are showing together, which was cool!
S was a great help to me, and I am so grateful for her friendship. We ought to hate each other, seeing as we are usually so close in the ribbons! LOL! But instead, we help each other out and cheer each other on. She is the person that I would like to see win if I don’t, much like any of my horse friends with me this past weekend. S trucked my horse up there, calmed me down, told me to shake off the bad rides, and made me laugh so hard I thought I would pee my pants. She gets my humor and we get along like peas in a pod, even if we don’t see each other for a month or longer.
J was supportive and fun to be with too. She brought her barn owner C, who is another great horse woman. I love being with them and look forward to many more shows together! J made the tough (but also easy) decision to pull her horse Duncan out of the Championship class when he started moving really short behind in the warm up. It was hard, because I know she wanted the chance to ride, but it was easy because she loves her horse like I love mine and she is a true horsewoman. She did what was right for her horse, despite losing money on the class and missing the shot at a ribbon. I am proud of her for her decision.
It was also great to spend time with N. I am glad she finally got to meet my mare, after knowing me for over two years now! I have always visited her up in Orono/Old Town at her home, so she had never before seen Dreamy other than videos and photos. It was so cool to be able to share the great social aspect of showing with N. She really truly understands now when I say it is so much more than ribbons. Her horse Bruizer was a true star. His rider H did a great job with him and he looked excellent. It was hard to believe he has only been under saddle for about four months now! That is the Standardbred way! LOL!
And all the University gang was great! I think they had fun and they represented the University so well. Having two of the UMares at the show was such good publicity for their program.
There was only one downfall to the weekend. Yes, the rain was no fun, but we all had so much fun that the rain was nothing. There was a horse in some of my classes that was horribly lame and unhappy. I know this person and have little respect for the way the horse is treated and the way the person behaves in public. At one time, I was an acquaintance of this person, but I no longer want to be around with someone like this….at all. I am not rude to the person, but I just avoid and go out of my way to not have to be with this person. I have posted about this person on my blog before. UGGGG. I have let it go and moved on, but this person has not. It is too bad, but I really tried to not allow the person to spoil my weekend. It is the person’s problem at this point, not mine.
Overall, I had a blast at the Downeast! I would do this again in a heartbeat. Well, I might want to wait a few weeks, seeing as I am still sore and tired! LOL! But I would say the money and time was VERY well spent. There is nothing quite like the joy I get from my horse and my friends.