I started this season back in September 2020 with the goal of qualifying and competing at Horse of the Year in March 2021. We had one warm up show before the first Premier League show of the season. It is at the Premier League shows that one can post a Horse of the Year qualifying score. And that is just what we managed to do in our very first test!
The majority of our scores throughout the season were over the qualifying threshold which was nice to see, and we were reasonably competitive this season too with quite a few placings.
We had a few little setbacks which meant that we did not manage to compete in any of the Premier League Shows in January or February, we did however attend two regional shows in February to help prepare for Horse of the Year.
Show number one
This was a one day show, held in Taupo at the National Equestrian Centre (NEC). Astro and I now live over three hours away from NEC, so we travelled up the day before the show. Astro had a small paddock overnight, and although he was the only horse in the paddocks, he settled very well.
The next day we were reasonably well rested and ready to go and tackle our two dressage tests for the day.
Most of our warm up went well and I was quite happy. We started walking towards the arena our test would be held in and Astro became tense and started jig jogging. I wasn't sure what had caused it but it seemed strange, so I scanned the area and noticed a loose horse on the cross country course. Unfortunately said loose horse started towards the warm up area and actually galloped straight at Astro and I! I sh!t bricks and jumped off and Astro was very rattled too. Thankfully the horse swerved around us and was then caught. However the damage was already done.
Five minutes later we had to head into the arena to do our dressage test and I had not managed to get it together again. As a result Astro was very tense and spooked at everything that moved and everything that didn't! It was probably our worst test of the season, although the score we received doesn't reflect that. The judge was very generous!
Two hours later we had our second test which was located in the indoor arena. Astro was much more settled and we completed a test I was pleased with. It wasn't perfect but it was good. We ended up coming third in a very strong field which was great, however I was not thrilled with my score. This judge was less than generous, so on paper the test was one of the worst of our season, despite me feeling it was up there with the better ones. The judge was consistent with her marking and I'm sure many of my competitors that day felt the same. But I guess that is what happens with Dressage sometimes!
Show number two
Our second February show was held the next weekend in Trentham and was another one dayer. We had never been to this competition grounds before and I had a bit of a stressful time trying to get there as my phones GPS went kaput during the trip! (it still isn't working accurately now and I cant seem to fix it which isn't ideal!!). We did mange to make it safely and on time however, so that was good.
As I'm pulling into the grounds I realise that there is a big children's playground right behind the float parking, and the warm up area and dressage arenas in front of the float parking - with not much distance between. The grounds is actually a public park with lots of children playing on the park, balls and frisbees being thrown, people exercising their dogs and so on. It was all go!
Astro is not used to children and the kids were very loud and super excited to see all the horses! But he actually coped much better than I first thought he would.
I had one of my amazing friends turn up to support Astro and I, and a few of her other friends that were competing, so it was wonderful to see her. She brought a friend with her who happens to take pictures as a bit of a hobby and does a great job as you can see! You can check her out on Instagram. I was very thankful to receive these lovely pictures.
We had two test and they both had a few 'moments'. Astro was a little hot and tense. Due to this, our walks and halts were not good. Usually they are a strong point! I had a course error in our first test so that was disappointing for me. During the second test a couple of people walked between the judges car and the dressage arena, right when I was at that end of the arena too! It was a bit horrifying but we continued on haha. I think they were just members of the public having a look, totally unaware of what they had just done haha *facepalm*.
Some positives from the day - our canter work was great, managing to score 7's and 7.5's, and we nailed our canter to trot transitions! Those downwards transitions used to be a big issue for us so its nice to look back and realise we have made some good progress. We managed to get a 5th and 6th placing and received two beautiful rosettes, despite having less than ideal tests!
Next stop - Horse of the Year!
We were getting very excited for Horse of the Year which was due to be held from 8 - 14 March 2021.
Unfortunately on the evening of Saturday 27 February a new COVID case was found in the community. At that stage it was unknown how this person had contracted the virus. They had also gone to many public places during the period the were deemed to be contagious. So New Zealand alert levels were changed and Auckland was put into level three, where you need to stay home and stay in your bubble, and the rest of the country was moved into level two, where gatherings of more than 100 people are not allowed.
On Monday 1 March the organizing committee announced the sad cancellation of Horse of the Year 2021. Without a crystal ball to see into the future, it was impossible to go ahead with the show. The organisers, exhibitors, riders and spectators were all devastated.
We had a great run here in New Zealand, getting through the majority of show season while many others overseas have been in and out of lockdown like yoyos. Sadly it all came apart right before the season finale! I was so very frustrated and disappointed - not with the organisers who 100% made the right decision, but just with the situation.
Some of you may be reading this and thinking I should be grateful that we got to go to shows at all - and yes I am very grateful we go to show! But my feelings, the other competitors feelings, the exhibitors feelings, the feelings of the organising committee, they are all valid. Don't compare. In this situation and life in general. We all deserve support and to be able to talk about our struggles with them being invalidated.
I am not sure whether we will be able to compete at HOY next year. A lot can happen in a year. However I do hope that one day in the future we will be able to dance around a dressage arena at HOY.