|Waiting for classes. The #1 show activity.|
Saturday was a bloody brutal morning since I agreed to help S prep her walk/trotters in exchange for my Coaching. It sounded like a really good deal right up until my alarm went off...
Truth be told I think helping kids warm up for their first show is a fun thing and I also really wanted to see Gus in action for his walk/trot stuff. Cuter.
When I had checked class counts the night before, horseshowtime.com showed that there were only 3 walk/trot kids entered (our 3), but come Saturday morning there were 12 kids and horses of all shapes and sizes playing bumper cars in the warm up ring.
Most exciting was a nice looking lady on some sort of spanish-baroque looking thing who turned out to be a stallion. The trainer on the ground called out a suspicious "stay away from the mares... don't let him look at them."
The comment piqued my interest and thinking that perhaps someone-who-is-showing-a-stallion isn't in the walk/trot class I politely called to the trainer "the kids on the mares are just walk/trot, I wouldn't count on a ton of control."
Her response "yeah, my rider is walk/trot too."
Wow. So now not only were 12 W/T riders going to careen around the same arena, but there was a cute, amped-up, well-haired stallion in the mix as well. With a rider who doesn't feel comfortable at the canter.
What could go wrong!??
As it turns out the stallion was not a concern. He was in fact very well behaved and was one of the few horses in the ring who didn't (at some point) misbehave. I was happy to report that Gus (along with the other two ponies from our barn) were well behaved, calm and handled the chaos well. A few other horses had minor rearing fits, a couple bolts and other grab-bag suboptimal behavior. However no one came off, so that was nice.
Gus earned a 3rd place for his rail class (CUTE) and pulled off a 1st in his Ground Pole course thing.
|Gus and Cricket. Looking about as cute as possible.|
The spaced out warm up classes meant that Prair was going to have a long day of standing and waiting, which is another form of education and experience that she needs. She started her warm up as a crazy thing, which was a bit understandable since all the pony hunters were warming up and zooming around her in all directions. She hates that.
|The Gerbils woke up|
But S got a good rhythm going and after about 20 minutes Prair relaxed and got to work. She was still a bit edgy about lead changes so S didn't push them and went in for her first round intending on simple changes if necessary.
They pinned 4th I think? I forgot, 3rd or 4th. After watching a few rounds we figured out that the judge was not excited about breaking gait. He came over to the back gate when there was confusion over the distance between the lines. (The diagonal was supposed to ride as a 5 stride, but never moved back out after the pony divisions, which meant that either you broke your rhythm and squeezed in 5, or moved up for 4 and risked a penalty for the "wrong" strides). Judge clarified that he wouldn't penalize for 4 strides and gave some hints that he hates seeing riders hold their horses back.
I mean, I know that as a "hunter" I'm supposed to let P2 have her head and not rip her mouth off in the turns, but damn. She still isn't totally trustworthy without a fairly supportive contact... and by that I mean that if she loses her balance and you aren't there for her, she bolts into the next county (or country).
SO, change of plans. S went back in for their second ride knowing that shed hold a counter-canter if necessary rather than simple change and letting the mare move out a bit more than we usually do.
The course was decent, and they moved up to a 2nd place in a larger class.
I've decided that while I'm less offended by the inherent subjective variety of hunter judges than I thought I would be... I still think it would be nice of them to tell you what kind of judge they are.
You know how when you go to a gallery there's often a short "artists statement" posted somewhere near the start of the exhibition? Hunter Judges should have to post the same thing where courses are posted. That way riders know what the Judge's personal "perfect" hunter is. Slow and steady? Brilliant and going? Does relaxation trump accuracy?
While S was warming up a P2 and playing around I got to get Gus ready for our couple flat classes. He was amiable and happy to stand around in the sunshine while we sorted out our next moves. Personally I started to get frazzled since I realized that I needed to warm up Gus and ride Gus, but also hop on Prair a bit in order to not feel like a doofus for our Medal class. What ended up happening was that I warmed up Gus, swapped to Prair, tuned up my feel for her, then got back on Gus for our flat classes, then immediately hopped back on Prair, jumped twice and went in for our round.
But first: Gusford.
God this horse is fun. So straightforward. They combined the pre-adult and pre-children divisions so I was mostly riding against kids/ponies and we pinned 3rd in the Hunter Under Saddle. Gus was a good boy, but he just isn't your "typical" Hunter in movement. He wants to carry his nose at the vertical and he wants to bend his knees and flick his toes. He also wants a 12" long stride...
This is a boring flat class video, but it does show cute Gus being cute and you can really see his gaits and lameness (which is so, so so sososososososo much better than in January).
We ended up 3rd in the Under Saddle Class but took home blue in the Eq.
I think I need to work on raising my hands with him and following his uphill neck a bit more in order to make a prettier picture. But I am super glad with how quiet he was and how easily I was able to keep a slight loop in my rein. Gus was totally tuned into my seat for half halts and for the most part it was a pretty passive ride.
I do need to drop my damn heels a bit more though.
We also discovered that Gus hates applause. hates. Like freaks out and does airs above the ground. S and I made a note to try and applaud loudly during his lessons at home and work on that issue....
Prair was waiting for me after Gus' classes and I should have requested a few extra minutes from the back gate prior to our Medal course. I made the mistake of just hopping on, jumping one jump and going in - instead of remembering that Gus and Prair and opposites and I needed to make some adjustments...
Sadly, the video file is corrupted (boo) so I can't show your our less than stellar ride. I didn't adjust to the immediate change form Gus to Prair and even as we trotted in I knew I didn't have full command of Prair's parts. Prair was a good girl but we zoomed around faster than I would like and had some sloppy distances. My eyeball just couldn't see our spots. I buried her to three of the jumps and while our rollbacks were beautiful - in our tightest one, I lost my inside leg and let Prair break to the trot.
I'm glad I rode the course though, it gave me some frame of reference for what to focus on for Sunday. Also, our warmup was incredible. It was the first time I felt like I could 100% soften and let Prair carry me to a fence. She was soft, measured, and relaxed. Sadly it didn't translate to our round, but still, huge progress. When I think about what our warmup felt like for last year's Octoberfest, it's a night and day comparison.
We scratched P2 from the 3' class since she was being a good girl and it didn't seem like it was worth waiting around for another 45 minutes before the jumps were reset. Instead the ponies got curried, hand grazed and tucked in for the evening while The Boy and I shot up to the fairgrounds to catch Supermom in one of her evening classes.
It was a good, fun, sunny day.