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My Annual Show Experience ... Alison Knickerbocker

posted Oct 29, 2013, 9:35 PM by The Administrator   [ updated Oct 29, 2013, 9:43 PM ]
Editor's Note:  Special Thanks to Alison Knickerbocker for sharing her experiences at the 2013 Annual Show at Rancho Murieta this year.

Teaching Acafrao Comando SN ("Ace") to dance this year was interesting... and a learning experience.  While Windsor, my Shire/TB gelding who earned the CDS Second Level Freestyle championship and USDF reserve championship in 2006, has a natural ability to hear the music, not to mention an extraordinary desire to please, Ace appeared to be tone deaf and graced with four left feet.  Our counter canter was occasionally balanced, but the 10 meter canter circles would frequently become 10 meter crow-hop circles with a halt-and-rear thrown in for good measure.  So, the fact that we qualified for the championships at all was pretty amazing, and perhaps a sign the qualification requirements are a bit lax.  ;)

Living so close to Rancho Murieta, I didn't have to leave for the showgrounds until Wednesday afternoon, plenty of time for our 4:30-ish freestyle practice in the main arena.  We found our stalls, checked in, and Ace proceeded to stomp me square on the foot.  I'm fairly certain he did it on purpose.  Luckily, my boot didn't press on the bruise that was forming, and I mounted and rode over to the warm-up rings.

The warm-up felt like I was riding a beach ball.  There were bounces and rolls and flying through the air sideways.  But eventually he calmed down and did his best to focus on me about every 19th stride.  I was thankful he never tried to unseat me, and fairly satisfied with his level of attention considering he'd never been to Rancho Murieta before, AND he'd never been to a championship show.

The freestyle practice was... eventful.  And somewhat unsuccessful.  The canter work was completely nonexistent, and all of the crow-hopping and rearing and disobedience returned full force.  But he didn't dump me, and I was able to school him a bit before we left the arena.  A couple of the volunteers offered their condolences as I exited... I just laughed and remarked I was glad it happened then and hopefully he'd gotten it all out of his system!

Thursday, we had our warm-up class in the morning.  We ended up with 4th, which was pretty remarkable considering his level of tension and, as I recall, an error.  The freestyle was in the afternoon, and I was pretty much just hoping he wouldn't buck.  Anything better than that would be icing on the cake.

Not only did he not buck, he was spectacular.  And we hit most of the musical phrasings and transitions better than we ever had before.  I was so happy with him, I didn't care one bit what the judges thought of our performance.  But as luck would have it, they enjoyed it as well and we won the CDS championship with a 69.467.  The next day was the USDF 2nd level championship (we ended up with 3rd place) and the USDF freestyle.  We had a little misinformation from the ring steward as to when we were up, so after meandering around the grounds a bit, we ended up having to trot right into the arena to make our ride time.  Ace never felt better under my saddle.  I knew he'd do great... with just one "error" (my half halt was just a bit too strong, apparently, and he broke to trot - but the judges didn't know that), we won the USDF championship, as well, with a 70.25.  

The weather on Saturday was pretty crazy; there was so much rain, they had to actually stop nearly all of the classes for several hours.  Unfortunately, I was misinformed about my CDS HOY class for that day - I understood it was to be rescheduled for the next morning, but it actually took place that evening - and missed it.  Well, that's not completely true... when I finally found out it was running that evening, I had just 25 minutes to get dressed, braided, saddled, and warmed up - not possible.  While I was so incredibly disappointed about that, I focused on what we HAD accomplished at this championship, and really, in the entire four years I'd owned Ace.  He has come SO far, and I have learned SO much, I can hardly believe it!  

Thank you to all of the volunteers and co-exhibitors for a fun and exciting championship!  I'm taking next year off from showing, but I'll see you all in 2015!