Saturday, July 18, 2009

July show - Saturday

Friday night Skyy's owner brought him to the show grounds and I headed over there after work. It had been raining here on and off so the footing was wet and a little sloppy, but when I schooled Skyy in the warm-up arena he was really very good. We went to walk around the show arenas and he got very nervous and upset. I kept it together until we rode by someone setting up a merchant tent for a tack store. Skyy saw that white plastic tent material and heard velcro ripping and he stopped dead. I felt him tense up even more and take a step back and before he could so anything silly I jumped off. I certainly could not fault him for spooking at the tent. I walked him over to it and got him to take a good look at it, and everything was fine.

I showed up early Saturday morning because I was the first one from our barn to ride. Now, at the last show Skyy was very good and was a bit tired by the end of the show, so I decided that I'd only warm him up for 20 minutes so that he wouldn't be exhausted for his second ride of the day. He was great in the warm-up and my trainer helped me a lot with his frame. He felt really good, so when it was time we walked over to the competition arenas.

That's when things got festive.

Skyy got very nervous and was disobedient in the test (yeah that's kind of an understatement). There were a few times when I was scared that I wouldn't be able to keep him on course or under control, but somehow we finished the test. My trainer's mom said "You did a good job keeping the horse between yourself and the ground." That pretty much sums it up. We ended up with a 49% and, amazingly, out of three horses we came in second.

After that ride I was scared. Years ago I rode someone else's horse at a show (read about that here) and got bucked off, a feat which included a free trip to the emergency room. I didn't know how far Skyy would take it if he wanted to be really bad, and I was pretty nervous about getting back on him in the show ring.

I had a talk with my trainer and she said that she thinks Skyy is naughty when he has anxiety. She suggested that I lunge him and give him a chance to buck and play if he wanted to in hopes that it would settle him down. I was doubtful that it would work, and I was afraid that he might be tired for the test, but I took her suggestion. I lunged him for 15 minutes before I got on to warm up for the next class. He had energy but didn't want to buck or run at all, and didn't seem upset or anxious. Then I gave him 30 minutes of warm-up time after that.

Like before he was very good in the warm-up. Actually, he was better and more relaxed. I spent a lot of time telling him what a good boy he was and praising him because he was being so obedient and submissive. I said to my trainer "I just hope he does this in the ring!" and she said "He will! Believe he will!"

I was very scared to ride into the show area. Luckily, as you will see in the video, one of my trainer's other students (who is also a trainer) was volunteering for the show and had to walk to the judge's stand to pick up tests. Usually I trot around the outside of the arena, but Skyy seemed very happy to walk with her. She walked beside Skyy and talked soothingly to him, and he seemed to be much calmer with someone on the ground to keep him company in the scary environment. Then we rode the test.

It was fantastic! I was so very proud of him. He listened, he didn't get upset, and didn't make any errors. After the test I was so relieved that I started crying like a big boob. Yeah, I'm a dork sometimes. Anyway, he got a 67%! Yeah baby! So now Skyy just needs another 62% or higher and he will be qualified for Nationals.

I'm really glad I was brave enough to take him into the show ring. I decided in the warm-up that I was going to get off of him if he started acting up again. That wouldn't have been helpful to either one of us but I would have absolutely done it if necessary. I know that every rider gets scared, and I don't want to do anything stupid, but I think I needed to get over the fear that the other horse put into me years ago. I'm sure my husband will disagree. And I'm sure I'll get scared on the back of a horse again. It's an awful feeling, so I hope it doesn't happen again any time soon.

So tomorrow the plan is to lunge Skyy in the morning before my first ride, and then walk in calmly with my trainer until she has to stop in the center of the arena to read my test. I think it's just a matter of him realizing that nothing bad will happen to him in the show ring. Having another good experience (hopefully two!) will be really good preparation for him for Nationals.

(Thanks to my trainer for the good advice about lunging which saved the day. And thanks to her student, Skyy's walking friend, for providing calm companionship when Skyy really needed it.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice blog. Great stories! I swear my girlfriend used to be able to talk to her horses. They would do anything she wanted. Amazing to watch. She used to breed coloreds in Wales. Still has a few left to sell.
Now we made a website as it's her main interest.
All About Horses

Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr