Still on a bit of a horse show high from the weekend (which is a nice alternative to the horse-show-hangover which can result from exhaustion, horse laundry mental fatigue). I finally got my camera to talk to my computer so there are videos of most of our rounds.
I was moderately forgetful and managed to not video our 2'3" warm up round - which was boring by any measure, but really, really awesome relative to the not-so-boring 2'3" rounds Prairie has had a habit of producing.
The Boy took over camera duties so we do have a record of P2's 2'6" warm up class, 3' warm up and then the two courses from her Pre-Green Division. The camera ran out of space halfway through the Under Saddle class since my brother borrow the camera for his 3 week adventure in Turkey and I was too lazy to delete all the photos beforehand. An interesting juxtaposition to the inherently "not lazy" things that come with prepping for a show, like packing backups for EVERYTHING, wiping snot out of nostrils every 5 minutes, removing sand/dust from legs and bellies after every round and other neurotic details that aren't important but somehow get done.
Anyway, here's the 3' warm up. I liked this round a lot. P2 was still a little unbalanced in her corners, but overall she kept a much steadier rhythm than she used to be capable of. Also, while Prairie still needs some heavy half halts after fences, S was really able to relax and let the mare move up to her distances. She's still throwing herself over her shoulder (especially on the second fence in lines) but it's much, much, much better than before. For her first round at 3' I was thrilled :)
Editors note: Hunter rounds are boring and the next three videos are nearly identical.
After watching the other horses in the division, I was feeling pretty good about Prairie being "right" in the Pre-Greens. The other horses were a bit more behind the leg (as they were supposed to be?), but perhaps a bit quieter in the bridle than Prair... but in no way was I thinking "oh crap, we moved up too soon."
Prairie's first division round looked pretty good too. Very similar to the warm up round (and the exact same course, lol) but Prairie held her leads in a couple of the lines (hard for her) and stayed mostly steady.
The second course for the division was actually different (or as different as Hunter courses are...the line-diagonal-line-diagonal was in a different order..) but I think it was Prairie's worst. I'm not sure if she was just bored, or tired or impatient, but I could tell she was less at ease than in the first two. S did an incredible job of squeaking out lead changes and holding the mare together but I could tell she was working harder for the same ride.
The HUS class was actually fun to watch (The Boy would disagree). Prairie had a couple other very quality horses in the division ridden by good pros so I was less confident about her just winning hands down than I have been when she's bopping around the Long Stirrup Division with me...
After the first few circuits at the trot though I was feeling pretty good. I know I'm biased with regard to her movement, but I was really impressed with her steady rhythm, consistency and super solid ride. Her transitions were all prompt and organized, she was brilliantly steady in the bridle, and S even managed to keep a nice "hunter loop" in the reins. S also showed her off perfectly in the arena, managing to make her circles and adjustments without ever having to interrupt Prair's stride.
On one hand I think her age (almost 8 as opposed to many Pre-Green's 5 or 6..) is an advantage. She's just been under saddle longer and her body is more mature than a wiggly 5 year old. There was one really cute Liver Chestnut Gelding in her division who is going to be a stud when he's a bit more polished... super flashy, super cute, decent mover and looks like he'll be lazy enough to pack some AO's around without any bother.
Prairie's egg timer did go off just as they pinned the Under Saddle class. Up to that point she stood at the back gate nicely, dozing in and out while she waited her turn, but 6 jumping rounds and one flat class was apparently her limit. Once she left the ring she immediately got fussy, started pawing and expressing her desire to be done with this crap already. Didn't seem right to get after her too much at that point so I just gave her a pat and some treats while I made a mental note of her limit.
All in all, obviously I'm thrilled with how Prairie was.
Is she the perfect, low RPM hunter? not by a long shot.
Is she way calmer and more manageable than in November? definitely.
It does seem like the subjective judging pendulum is swinging back towards horses like Prairie with a bit more of a forward, workmanlike gait - and clearly the judge on Saturday was rewarding that, but that's not necessarily the case with every judge and I'm sure there are plenty Hunter judges out there who would have pinned the Pretty Liver Chestnut Gelding above Prairie every time.
As for our next shows - we'll be back at the same Hunter Series at the end of March, a possible Dressage show at the start of April and then I'm not too sure. We might keep hitting this series monthly since Prairie seems to handle the facility well and it's a good place to keep logging some miles.