Ransom and I were ready to go about 1:15pm. But we weren't taking the trip alone, no sirreee. I was bringin' me some reinforcements. Road company, and an extra set of eyes for the ride. R graciously accepted my invitation, and by 1:30, we were on our way.
Traffic was minimal until the last State Highway. Now, understanding I grew up in a moderate size town, then lived in big-city SC for a few years, living in the little town I'm in now, well, is unpopulated heaven. It's a small town, with little to no traffic on the roads, and I like it that way. In Big City Houston, however, it's a bunch of little cars, big trucks, and the occasional trailer hauling cowboy. When we reached that last highway, I worried it'd be like every other trip with the trailer on that road -folks determined they could get farther by swinging around me, cutting me off in front, and slamming on the brakes for the redlights. This trip, however, that didn't happen. We arrived at the show barn in about 2.25 hours time, just what I expected. We were just a tad early, arriving at the facility about 3:40pm.
The barn owner helped us load our things, and unload in my tack stall. Ransom settled into his new jail-cell 12x12 stall, and just as soon as I had his sheet and boots off, took himself a good roll. So much for the bath he had before we loaded, huh? The stalls were dry and clean, but he showed very little interest in his automatic waterer. Darned thing.
With the trailer disconnected & all my things organized, I grabbed my saddle, and my pony, and got to gettin'. I had it all planned out in some anal retentive "pretend I'm big & rich like they are" fashion. Turquoise polo wraps, a turquoise saddle pad, tan breeches, and a turquoise t-shirt. Yup, we were stylin' as I finished getting him tacked and walked towards the arena.
I headed straight to the show arena - large covered. No reason to go anywhere else, this is where the action would be. I got Ransom out on the lunge line on his halter, and let him look anywhere he wanted, as long as he stayed on the circle, and quiet. The barn team was running tractors and arena-grooming equipment in other arenas, trucks and trailers unloading horses just on the other side, and a few horses were even turned out to goof in the small covered arena. Complete mayhem, but Ransom wasn't bothered. I stuck him in his bridle & side reins, and pushed him back out on the lunge, and settled him into another set of warmup moving. Again, he was allowed to look-see, as long as he didn't flip out and kept his feet moving.
After about twenty minutes, I realized I wouldn't be able to procrastinate much longer. I didn't come all this way to just lunge - it was time to ride. I walked back over to R, thanked him once again for being there, clamped my helmet tightly to my head, and hopped on. Their little ittie bitty mounting block made me long for my large steps, but it served its purpose when I got settled into the saddle.
Ransom and I walked on a loose rein, then on light contact, then working walk. I mixed in free walk and working walk, and finally admitted it would be time to trot. We trotted circles, serpentines, diagonals, anything I could do to relax my nerves. He was leaning hard on my right rein, almost bent to the right. It didn't seem to improve for at least the first fifteen minutes.
Then, a train arrived. I remembered Jen telling me, "Just act like it's not a big deal, and he won't either." We headed down the long side, facing the train. Ransom's head lifted, I took a heavy deep breath, and pushed him forward, wiggling my reins. He sighed, and settled right back into work, as if it wasn't even there. One goal accomplished - ride through the train.
But this isn't enough. With more truck/trailer/unloading horses, the tractor going in the large open arena beside us, I realized there was no more time to procrastinate. There were enough things going on, and if I didn't just suck it up and try to canter, the entire trip would be a waste in my mind. I didn't feel like scratching, or rearranging my classes.
I leaned back. And squeezed. I felt my body lean forward, my knees grab, and I was bracing for the worst. Too many other rides away from home, my canter-ask led to my rear end connecting with the arena ground. I was scared, flat plain & simple.
Ransom lifted his front end only enough to push up into the canter, and got in the gait. I cantered with all my muscles tight for one far side circle, realizing he was moving out slowly, relaxed, and collected. After that one circle, I thoughtfully relaxed my back, and my legs, and finally my arms. We cantered another circle or three in the center, transitioning to trot down the long side, my larger transition fear in the tests for Sunday.
With one direction of canter accomplished, I let him walk a piece, changed direction, and asked for more trot. When I asked for canter this time, I wasn't quite as nervous, but still a bit. Ransom again met me halfway, with not the picture perfect transition, but slow, collected, and easy. I relaxed a bit faster this time, worked a few canter circles, transitioned to trot down the long side, and eased him into a walk.
We rode just a bit more trot to keep things moving, and I let him stretch his neck long & long in these cool down trots. After about 45 minutes, R reminded me, "I needed to leave some gas in the tank for Sunday." So we relaxed, walked out, and unsaddled at the stall.
Ransom was more interested in the auto-waterer this time, and eagerly drank as fast as it would fill after his workout. I offered him supper and hay, though he showed minimal interest in the grain. Here we go again, with a fussy horse that doesn't want to eat. As he was munching hay, I put poultice and leg wraps on his legs, gave him cookies & praise, and called it a night. After we humans had our supper, we went back to the barn to put his sheet back on, give him another cookie, and check his supper progress. Ransom had eaten about half of his grain, and was standing facing away from the stall gate, appeared to be pouting. Poor guy doesn't like being locked up, and I understood.
The nerves of schooling were accomplished. We were ready for bed, and I was ready to dream of blue ribbons. I'd accomplished a huge goal today, riding in a lot of noise, vehicles moving about, and plenty of eyes watching. Ransom met me with a near perfect schooling session, and by the end of the ride, most of that tension in the right rein had eased. He was relaxed, had all his muscles stretched.
All that was left, was to show the show barn, all the spectators, and the judge, that we had good reason to be here at this level. We'd earned our place in the class. But would Ransom cooperate? Would he agreeably finish all his dinner and be ready for breakfast, or would he be on a hunger-strike upset about the jail cell? Could I keep my nerves at bay long enough to compete? Or would the warm-up ring be just enough to push me over the edge (and off my horse)?