Tuesday, February 25, 2014

One Week Down... Thoughts on Thermal

Last week was a wild ride for me.  Having relatively limited experience in the Hunters, and even more limited experience at "real" week long shows, I wasn't really too sure what to expect when I signed the mare up for three weeks in the desert.
Prair snuck a couple mouthfuls of our ornamental grass... she deserved it.
Granted, we still have two weeks to go, but last week was the only chance I had to be there for the entire time and really get a feel for what the horses' days were like and what the ebb and flow of the show was.

All things considered I cannot wait to get back to the sunshine and do it all over this week.  I suppose that's my ultimate opinion, and probably indicative of my general experience, but I'll try to be slightly more thoughtful than "OMG more pony time NOW. RIBBONS, RIBBONS, RIBBONS."  Though, if you're bored and have had enough of my mediocre updates, that pretty much sums it up.

As I was flying home on Sunday evening and totally failing to catch up on sleep during the flight, I was thinking that I totally understand why people start off their season with an extended stay at Thermal.  Just in the first week Prair has already come so far, and logged so many miles that it seems like a lot of "bang for your buck" if experience is what you're after.  Prairie aside, it was great for me to just get division, after division, after division ridden.  So nice to be able to do so many rounds back to back and keep chipping away at mistakes or hangups without having to immediately pack up and think "gee, I hope I remember to balance better through the corners at the next show!"

I know the concentration of classes was good for Prair's brain because I felt it, but I'm sure it was just as productive for my brain, and I'm guessing she probably felt that too...

In terms of organization, Thermal is a well oiled machine.  Granted, we showed up for the second half of the circuit, so maybe it was crazy the first week, but given 5 days of active showing in just as many different arenas, at most one of our classes was 45 min behind the posted schedule.  In my mind, anything less than an hour late is on time by horse show standards.

The Show Office was also never a crazy scene.  I had to swing by maybe 4 or 5 times for adds, ribbons or closing out and every time I was able to walk right up to someone who helped me right away, no waiting.  For the record, I loathe long lines at Show Offices.  Makes me crazy.

Of course, really capable, really attentive grooms make everything feel about a million times more organized as well - and we definitely had those.  Prair was always polished, pretty and perfectly tacked 10 minutes before I ever needed her, and she was promptly unbraided, bathed and fed after my last ride of the day.  I also appreciate that the guys keep a stash of treats on hand and always have a mint for the horses after each round.  This may have started Prair hunting for her guys each time we came out of the gate, but I'd rather have that than her melting down or throwing tantrums.

I figure if The Boy meets me with Gatorade and snacks it was only fair for Prair to get mints and pets...

In terms of our experience, I'm thrilled with what Thermal is providing to both me and Prair.

Schooling on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday saw a fairly stressed mare dealing with way more atmosphere than I've ever presented her with.  The warm up rings seem to be a bit of a free for all before showing starts and Jumpers are galloping around the Hunter area, jumps are set up every which way, ponies and running wild, kids are crying, juniors are hacking with friends, trainers are trying to get 15 horses ridden and all in all it is mayhem.  Realistically I was impressed that the mare didn't high tail it back to the barn and hide.

Wednesday, Prair was concerned about going into the show ring alone, but by Thursday she seemed to resign herself to it.  By the time Friday rolled around she was giving me the same ride in the show ring as she did in warm up and by Sunday Prair was giving me pretty consistent rides round to round.

All told in five days of showing the mare was entered in twenty four classes.  Our goal in each entry being to give her a learning opportunity and to try to keep the experiences as positive as possible.  In the end Prair managed to get ribbons in 16 of her 24 classes.  Of the 8 classes where she missed the card - 2 were the first day, one was because I added, one was a big spook with N because of a truck, and the other four were all "good" rounds where we just didn't beat our competition.

When I look at that, it's hard not to think that my expectations have already been exceeded.  When we were coming down I told myself I didn't care if we ribboned (lie), I just wanted to feel good about our performance.

But, being a Satin-Obsessed-Crazy-Person I was hoping we'd go home with at least one ribbon to pin on the wall.  I would never have guessed we'd get 16, let alone in one week! and a couple blues for good measure!

I have to say I am feeling really good about the show miles for Prair, and even better about our ability to actually compete against some seriously nice horses and riders.  Yes we're rolling around the baby divisions, but so are some gorgeous horses!

In terms of Prair's comfort, some of my concerns about the stress and strain of extended showing have been assuaged.  First off, the double stall was a wise investment.  Prair has tons of room in her stall and is up to her chin in fluffy clean shavings.  The portables at Thermal are significantly nicer than anything we get locally, which helps a lot.  Our portables are just rows of stalls where each horse faces the aisle, but cannot see it's neighbor.  With these portables, the tents are huge and probably have room for 100 stalls under them, plus aisles between.  Also, the upper half of the stall partitions are a metal grate, which allows for a nice breeze as well as for the horses to all see each other.  I feel considerably less guilty about Prairie being stuck in a box when it's a big box and she can see in every direction.

Additionally, the horses get regular hand walks to stretch their leggies and make sure no one is getting stiff or sore.  Aside from Prair's rubs from the haul down she seems to be in good condition and is eating and drinking everything in sight.  The only indication that she's stressed is an increase in her teeth grinding while I'm mounted.  In the past she's "oinked" (it sounds like an oink) when we're standing and waiting, but this week she was much more willing to grind her teeth while we walked around as well... not sure what that's about especially since her other "annoyed" behavior like pawing, head shaking and general pissy faces are totally absent...

Can't tell if she's just developing a tick, or if she's really masking some distress.  She is staying on the gastrogard for the duration of the show which should be helping tummy trouble, but we'll see if there are any changes in week two!

Shopping opportunities to be discussed in another post.  So far I think I've been downright restrained in my acquisitions, but there may or may not be a CWD bridle included in there...


  1. Glad the h/j world is getting such a glowing review from a former/still? eventer ;)

  2. Being a child of Hunter Land, I can certainly agree with your assessment of classes and packed-to-the-gills show office. I would LOVE to attend Thermal just to witness this firsthand! Sounds like it's been an adjustment for both of you (moreso for Prair than you) but I think now that she's been to that kind of atmosphere for a week, she'll be in a better mental state in the upcoming weeks. Can't wait to hear about it! :)

  3. Gosh it all sounds so amazing! What an opportunity for you both, will you be able to stay away ince the bump arrives and you get back into the swing of things...sounds to me like you might be well and truly smitten with hunterland.
    I cannot wait to read about the shopping!

  4. Sounds like fun! If I was there there would be an ogilvy in my hands, granted I'd have to sell my hair to get it!

  5. Fun, fun, fun! Can't wait to hear about next week... and I am seriously impressed that you are dragging yourself back to work and now just saying "screw it!" and staying at Thermal! Haha

  6. Love hearing about your show! Hope weekend #2 is just as successful for ya.

  7. 16 ribbons- awesome! 2/3 of the classes you took something in!

    I am sure that things will just get better and better overall through the rest of the show!!

    New bridle? :)

  8. That sounds really wonderful -- and suggests another really wonderful thing, which is that you guys were indeed _ready_ to take on this challenge. Good job, rider/owner and trainer. :)

  9. :D LOVE

    I will say that the line at the show office can be pretty intense when people are checking in/out, but the staff is always super helpful and friendly and as efficient as possible.

    Can't wait for next week!


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