The World Show Experience – What I didn’t expect!

BlueYes, I am a self-proclaimed adult amateur who didn’t purchase my first horse until about 10 years ago and I didn’t get serious about riding until early 2013 when I decided to try dressage. I had no idea that western dressage even existed but I was fortunate that I happened upon a trainer who did. A year and a half later I proudly admit that I am addicted to this wonderful new sport. After riding a western dressage test in my very first local schooling show in 2013, I immediately began seeking out anything western dressage related. I participated in several “Ride a Test” clinics in our area, got to know other WDAA members, joined both WDAA and WDAFL and signed up to attend the 2013 WDAA National Convention. I eagerly went to Tulsa wanting to to learn EVERYTHING I possibly could about this exciting, all-inclusive, fun, new sport. I was blown away by the dedication of the WDAA Board and staff. Their accomplishments to date were extremely impressive and their vision for the future was ambitious and exciting. By the time I walked out of the conference room on Friday afternoon I had completely bought into Western Dressage Association® of America.

Before leaving Tulsa we ventured over to the Expo Center to watch a little of the World Championship Show. Excitement filled the Ford Tough Arena. All levels and ages of riders on horses of all breeds, ages and size (even mules) were performing their tests with pride – you could feel the enthusiasm build as each rider/horse pair rode down the centerline. With no “big” show experience and never having trailered my horse more than a couple of hours – I left Tulsa determined to ride in the WDAA 2014 World Championship Show. I’ll never forget my husband’s reaction when I called him from the Tulsa Airport and with great excitement informed him that I was going to ride in the World Show the next year…. “Let me get this straight” he questioned… “You are going to load you horse in a trailer and haul him all the way to OK to ride in the World Show?” “Yes” I said in my most convincing voice. He said “Misty, that is crazy for even you to come up with”. Shaken but not dissuaded I said goodbye, hung up the phone and boarded the plane back to Florida.

Back in Florida and still dreaming of a World Show experience, it would be fair to say that I was open to finding the perfect equine partner to pursue my “lofty” western dressage goal of the riding in the World Show. The big opinionated, sensitive paint gelding I had begun my western dressage journey with is an older horse (total pasture pony), without much athletic ability and a delicate sensitivity to everything “show” related. In February, the stars aligned and my path crossed with the most amazing horse (and his owner/trainer Corey Rogers). Playboys Boon (barn name Opie) a four-year-old, 16 hand, red dun Quarter Horse immediately captured my heart. Even the most novice rider knows the saying “green on green makes black and blue”. So, being honest I will admit I was a little concerned about the idea of taking on such a young horse but when I got on him the first time my confidence blossomed and it just felt so right. Opie made me feel confident and so did Corey. When my friend, long time trainer Tori Blankenship, saw him the first time she knew we were a perfect pair. On March 1st, 2014, Opie officially became my western dressage partner and our training for the World Show began. With trainers Corey and Tori, a bit of grit and a lot of determination I thought we could make a decent showing in Tulsa but importantly I knew it would be an incredible learning experience and one I would never forget. There were many ups, downs and plateaus in our training between March and October. There were even a few days I didn’t think we would even make the trip to Tulsa but on Oct. 26th we loaded up to begin our journey.

I had a lot of expectations regarding the World Show. I was certain it would be exciting yet scary. I knew that it would take me well outside my comfort zone. I assumed the energy level would be high and that my young horse might be quite fresh. I knew it would be a great learning experience that would help me grow as a horsewoman. But the one thing I never expected was the strong bond it would create between Opie and me. For a horse and rider pair that have never shown outside of the local schooling show venue the World Show is quite intimidating: the number of horses and people, the distance between the stalls and arenas, the live streaming broadcasts of the rides, the arenas themselves – it was all so “big” and new. But as the days unfolded and we began to “experience” the Show the trust between us grew strong. By the time we attended the awards ceremony on Sunday night, the World Show experience had solidified us as a team and the trust we shared was like nothing I have ever experienced (or even thought possible with a horse).

My horsemanship journey is still relatively new but thanks to western dressage and the WDAA my path has become better defined making the trip far more enjoyable for both myself and my wonderful equine partner. My WDAA World Show experience substantially strengthened my bond with Opie and it is exciting to think that our journey together has just begun. I am excited to see where this road will take us and what adventures we will share along the way! Thank you WDAA!

Submitted by Misty Nichols on 12/11/2014

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