So Paige did it. Paige finally rode her freestyle. And there were Unicorns aplenty.
It's been a long time since I have submitted a blog post. This has not been unintentional, moreover it highlights the fact that this business is a tough one, and it takes a whole lot of patience, wisdom (which sometimes must be sought out), dedication and sometimes, relying on the support and loyalty of those around you. But my focus is renewed, the fog lifted, and I have lots to tell you about!
I am happy to report that finally. . . . finally. . . I have had the time to help Paige create a freestyle. She has worked so hard developing a relationship with her pony (who now claims the handle "Mr. Polka Dot") and working on showing training level test 1 this year.
I threw her into the deep end this year, and my goodness, I could not be more proud.
Things I learned from helping Paige build a Intro Freestyle (yes yes I know - it doesn't count for anything. Paige knows she's not going to the olympics any time soon).
1. Cute counts. When you have the task of fitting in precious few movements performed by an ageing pony and a nervous 9 year old child into the space of a large ring, it became my mission to throw caution to the wind and keep the vocals coming. Unicorns, it is. Dear god, we have to make it funny, or it's going to put us all to sleep.
So I tasked Paige and a friend to come up with funny music (I may have let them have a little too much candy beforehand). "Space Unicorn", "Pink Fluffy Unicorns Dancing on Rainbows", "The Unicorn Song" from Despicable me and a few soundbytes from the movie were produced on their ipods and that was it. I seriously couldn't say no (I had shared the candy).
2. 20m circles are tricky for old ponies. The variation in time that a pony as old a Mr. Polka Dot will perform a 20 meter circle is astounding. You can try to count strides, teach tempo, even count out loud for heavens sake. But between steering challenges, control issues (more on that later) and a sincere desire on the part of both horse and rider to just canter and get it over with, I have never been so perplexed. In the end, I learned it was best to videotape six 20 meter circles performed in "approximately" the right geometrical fashion and average the time. Viola. Good enough.
3. Test Runs are irrelevant when you are 9.
I don't know how she did it, but after just 3 times through the choreography we came up with on a monday afternoon when we trailered to my training barn to practice in the large ring (we have a small sized ring at home, and the show we planned to do our 'big debut' would feature a large ring for Intro), Paige had her 'test' memorized. I caught her practicing in her room once, but I still wasn't convinced. Then I found the secret to her success: the icloud. yes she had it all downloaded - the music, the video we took, and somehow she had put it together and was practicing it. I must remember to ask her to show me how she did that. . . clever kid.
4. Ponies are amazing. This is both a good and a bad thing. I think technically Mr. Polka Dot is not actually a pony, but I had several names for him the moment he left the ring at H during the last quarter of her canter circle in the test she has to ride before her freestyle. This is the SECOND time Mr. Polka Dot has broken a dressage arena, and approximately the fourth time he has attempted to leave the ring during a test. Paige has learned exquisite self-control, and as she now knows the rules (following his multiple attempts, and subsequent successes at leaving the ring) about elimination, she makes every attempt to keep at least ONE foot inside the ring, and when this is not possible, waits to see if she can be allowed to finish the test while Mom is left to apologize and find duct tape. (Mental note, White duct tape may be a good thing to keep on the trailer, or maybe I should just send a roll in with Paige's entry?). Hey, it keeps us humble. Paige doesn't miss a beat, she picks up the canter and finishes the test, even without help from me to read. Good job Paige. But is she deterred for her big debut in her freestyle?
Of course not.
A little old fashioned frustration can spur determination and plucky grit, even in an only child. And Paige has found her goal for her freestyle: To not leave the ring. This is a goal I've uttered many a time before piloting young horses down centerline for the first time, so Paige finds it realistic and serious. Good Girl.
Paige performed a magical Unicorn freestyle that marked the fulfillment of a goal she set out for me when she still agreed to wear pigtails under her helmet. I'm so proud of her.
Now I need to go back and get another 20 meters of medium walk to the right into her choreography, as Mom didn't quite get it right. (how on earth will I fit that in when it takes a full minute for this pony to cross the diagonal??? LOL) But please don't tell her. And if you have to, just tell her Mom messed up. Because as far as I'm concerned, she won Olympic Gold with those darned unicorn songs.