“Beep, Beep, Beep” – Alarm clocks are so awful but this morning I didn’t seem to mind the sound. I was looking forward to what the day would hold. Turns out it was going to be a cup-full-o-Joe kinda day!
Upon arriving at the Arena we (Marijn, Deidre, and I-AJ) went to find Ramon. He was dressed and ready for the coach’s practice. I thought the practice was extremely beneficial. Each contestant went through a practice trail course while their “coach” (Ken McNab in the case of Ramon) watched. Once they went through the coach gave them pointers on what they could do to improve their performance. The same was repeated for the reining, it was like having a mini-clinic prior to the competition. The horses today were a lot more settled and some of the horses that didn’t seem so great yesterday appeared much better behaved and relaxed.
The competition began at 1pm and Ramon was the 36th contestant to go. The trail course was set up in the arena and in a way it was nice to go towards the end as we could watch all the competitors and pick up areas that were causing for problems, or maybe where more points could be accumulated. Only two trainers walked their horses, one a woman who just could not ride her horse and one who was injured and told by her doctor to not ride. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to work your horse for the 90 days and he is ridable but medically not be able to ride him!
I think we all were holding our breath when Ramon entered the arena. He walked his horse to the first cone and mounted. Castro picked up to a quiet trot and went easily over the “fallen logs” and up the bridge. Descending on the other side of the small wooden bridge Castro picked up his trot and snaked through cones towards the last obstacle. The final obstacle was a pattern laid out in wooden logs, Castro had to walk in, back up around a small turn, and then forward out of the obstacle. During the back up, Castro’s back hooves hit the back log and we all cringed but he didn’t step over or out of the obstacle so that was good. Exiting the wooden poles, Ramon asked Castro to go into a lope. Castro followed a figure eight pattern and executed a beautiful flying lead change. It was really a beautiful performance and was greeted with a round of applause by the audience. One down, one to go for the day.
There wasn’t a big break before the arena was cleared and made ready for the reining portion of the competition. This time Ramon was number 18 to go, he had several conversations with Ken McNab regarding the lead changes and the pattern. I went and sat in the stands in front of Mary and kids and held my breath. It was a thing of beauty. Ramon entered the arena at a fast walk, came to a trot and backed up Castro. Castro collected amazingly and when he went into his fast circles it was on the correct lead and at a fast pace. The lead changes were just gorgeous and when Ramon moved into his first stop, the crowd showed their approval with a round of applause. Castro’s head went up a little bit high but his hind quarters came under and he slid. He did a perfect turn and Ramon let him out for the second sliding stop, better than the first. Hoots, whistles and cheers erupted from the grandstand and the trainers section. To follow were the turns, two per side – after a slight hesitation Castro did what was asked of him. His back hoof barely left the pivot and he stopped on a dime. When Ramon tipped his hat to the judges the Hideout crew just erupted in a yell – I think we all had tears in our eyes, and you could see the grin on Ramon’s face. It wasn’t perfect but it was pretty durn good.
We stayed through till the 7pm team relay and it was just allot of fun – for the trainers and the audience. We were all waiting for the scores, but upon leaving at 9pm, they still weren’t up and the barn lights were shut off. Going to bed that night we watched the video one more time, high-fived each other and set our alarms to be in the barn first thing in the morning. We want to see the scores!
Saturday (tomorrow) is the cow work and then individual competition for the top ten finalists. Another long day for the horses and trainers. Yet is will be another adrenalin filled day of excitement for the trainers to show what each horse is capable of – Another amazing experience for everyone that is involved in this competition. Can’t wait to see what happens.