In short - we've had... better days.
In slightly longer - I'm still happy with the mare. We struggled through a few things, improved on others and all in all ended up with a productive (Ha! that's the word riders use when wheels fall off the proverbial wagon) day.
My tests weren't scheduled until 4:30 and 5:00pm which meant that there was no reason to be at the barn before noon. Prairie got to be turned out and roasted in the sunshine for a bit before I hauled in in for her braids only to realize that I had exactly enough waxed cord to sew up 60% of her braids. Rad. A quick call to The Boy saw him make an extra stop at the local marine supply store (sail making thread is perfect) as well as the grocery store (snacks are a must!) before grabbing the trailer and meeting me at the barn.
He even held Prairie's giant face while I tucked up her "forelock" (or what's left of it after I honestly clipped her bridlepath and took away her "comb over" fake forelock...). He's a gem. If there was some sort of score sheet for horse show husbands his would look something like this:
COLLECTIVE MARKS score notes
PROMPTNESS (without nagging or reminding) 10 Well timed!
HUSBAND'S anticipation and preparation 8.5 (wife prefers
HUSBAND'S correct and effective use of the aids 8 Good Praise! and use
of water bottle
HARMONY between husband & wife and horse & husband 9 Good w/ wife.
So at least one of us got great scores... Back to the pony:
P2 was a bit wound up even at home, which did not bode well. Neither did loading up (at a leisurely 3pm) while horses were being brought in from pasture. Lots of screaming and pacing and galloping as everyone anticipated their dinner or protested their buddies being taken in first. P2 thought the world was ending. Also she was very irritated with her wraps and was rudely kicking the back of my nice trailer. (bad mare).
But we arrived well and she came off the trailer calmer than she went on. My plan was to repeat our minimal warmup from the last show so I didn't even get on the mare until the rider in front of me entered the ring.
Prairie was great. Much calmer, less looky and generally more relaxed than she has been. Although - she really should be since this was her fourth show (fifth outing) at this particular facility..
but while I was waiting for The Boy to return with a sip of water before heading in the ring (since the show was early and I had an extra 10 minutes at my disposal), someone else trotted in ahead of us. Not a big deal, but as I walked the mare around during the second rider's go - the gerbils started scurrying and I could feel her getting tenser by the moment.
My first reaction was "god dammit horse. (and god dammit extra rider)" because I really had a nicely calm, supple ready mare before we were delayed. But then my second reaction was "ooh! now we have to try to diffuse this. Perfect place for a not so perfect warmup..."
Needless to say by the time we trotted in I had a snorty, prancy, very heavy mare in my hands. I tried some leg yield and shoulder in to back her off a bit, but the traffic cones (omg the CONES!!!) next to the judge's booth were much more engaging than my little hands and legs asking for some lateral movement.
But the bell rang quickly, and off we went. Our halt was ok, we moved off well but then we had to pass the cones. Which resulted in a spook, which resulted in a circle (whoops! -2!). Not a fabulous start. We recovered (a bit) but had a few more bobbles including some unplanned "leg yield on the rail" in our right lead canter and one more big spook (that rocketed us into our left lead canter circle). At that point I heard a distant "are yoooouuu okaaaayyyyy" from the judge's booth which I assumed meant that things were looking less than spectacular. I chimed back that "yes!" I was fine and just giggled at my big, drama llama, cone-phobic beast horse.
I think I giggled because unlike our first outing where the spooks and bolts were of an undetermined length and outcome - this time I felt like I had total control (well, mostly) of her scoots and I was confident that I could shut them down with a circle, or a discombobulated long side.
Our first test ended with a crappy downward transition to the trot (more of a break really) and a crappy lengthening that was more of an unbalanced rush-en-ing. We earned our paltry 55% but still pulled off a 3rd place in the class. There were more than three of us in the class.. but not many more.
The judging was MUCH tighter than the first two shows (perhaps more accurate) as I think we were way better off in this test than our first outing where we pulled a 66% out of a miserably distracted and freight-train like performance. So, again - the scores don't show it, but we're handling ourselves better in tough situations.
I did cringe a bit when I reviewed the score sheet. The first comment on the back was "brave riding."
That's can't be good. I mean, I guess it's a nice comment, but it doesn't exactly inspire images of harmony and submission...
I agreed with all the other comments though I thought a few were nit picky given the level ridden.
Like the comment that our final halt was "straight but not square"
|that is pretty darn square.|
To the judge's credit there was a lot of this going on:
To our credit, the second test had a lot more of this going on:
I'll dive deeper into the tests in upcoming posts. but I came away feeling like I diffused some of the anxiety in our second ride, but still need to find a way to get the mare focused when traffic cones are lurking at one end. Also, I think maybe I need to explore not showing in the super nice chunky KK double jointed D.
I know that no bit is a substitute for true obedience, but having a bit that she respects just a TEENSY bit more might help shut down the scoots a tad. It won't produce relaxation and I wouldn't expect it to, but I could use some help backing the mare off her forehand when we're away from home. The KK does just fine when we're schooling, but she's a whole-lotta-mare when she decides to get strung out.
Also, it was at least 80 degrees so I'm proud that neither of us (me or the mare) passed out mid ride. Good on us.