This emotional weekend began Thursday evening when we arrived at the Dream Park Equine facility in NJ just in time for a trainer’s meeting where we received a packet of papers, including our patterns that we would be performing for the judges. We met the other trainers and talked about what would be happening throughout the weekend. Excitement filled me from the inside out as I thought to myself, it’s finally here. I worked SO hard for three months just for these three days!
Friday morning I awoke early with butterflies already fluttering around in my stomach. The first class was handling and conditioning which required me to release Denali in a round pen, exit then re-enter and halter him while the judges observed the relationship that I have with my horse. He did extremely well and followed me un-haltered in the pen. He showed the judges that he was very much in tune with me on the ground which made me very proud!
The next class was the trail class, which I was really nervous for because Denali was having a hard time in the warm up session. He spooked at the bridge and was a little rough with some of the other maneuvers because he was somewhat distracted with his new surroundings. But, when it came time to compete he amazed me yet again. He did extremely well. It was almost like he knew that it was the real deal this time. We had a great run and scored well enough to put us in the running for the freestyle finals.
That night, I had time to memorize the pattern for the next day’s class. The butterflies started again. This was my first time showing so the butterflies didn’t ever stop until I left on Sunday. Early Saturday morning, I was warming him up in the arena and when I tried to canter him he started to kick out on me. This was the first time that this has ever happened, and I immediately started balling my eyes out. All the pent up emotion that I had in me for the past two days came flooding out all at once. There was so much on the line with this one pattern class left to go because I was in 11th place and needed to make the top 10 in order to do my freestyle. Denali was telling me that he had had enough. It was stressful, for all involved including him. He and I had both worked so hard to get to this event but everyone has their breaking point. I could understand, I was asking a lot from him this weekend. The timing couldn’t have been any worse but I needed to take what he would give me and compete to the best of our ability.
During the class, he kicked out twice and I was crying before I was even out of the arena, mostly because I was embarrassed and frustrated. After it was all said and done, I placed 12th, overall for the entire competition. I was very pleased with Denali considering the stage at which Denali was at in his training. When we started gentling him, he was very aggressive and nearly attacked us numerous times. Now, at this competition, I had a horse that loved me as his partner and handler; one that was willing to do what I asked within reason, and one that I knew, if not pushed too hard, would continue to improve as we continued our learning together.
But I had to get him home first. On Sunday, the adoption auction began and I wasn’t certain that I would win the bid. I’m a student on a limited budget, but when the auctioneer said, “SOLD” and I realized that I was the one that would be taking him home, I cried one last time. Words cannot express how much fun and exciting and nerve racking this weekend was, and I am so thankful that I now have even more time to teach my little mustang new things. ~Sarah