Schooling Session #1
Phil seemed okay when we arrived at the show stable. The way they have it set up is there are a bunch of temporary stalls around the outside of this big arena (the warm-up ring), which is connected to the main barn and the show ring. Both arenas were being used for kids jumping lessons when we were ready to school. The warm-up had less horses and two small jumps in it, while the show arena was full of jumps and horses and ponies. They hadn't set up the show ring for the dressage show yet, and that was the ring I was more concerned about since it has windows and a lounge attached to it right behind where the judge sits. I had lunged Phil at home for about 20 minutes before we left (and before the shot!). So I figured I could just tack him up and ride in the warm-up since it had less traffic in it, even though I wanted to try and get in the show ring if I could.
Well, I got on Phil and he was was vibrating. He was super anxious and was getting himself really wound up. I was reassuring him, trying to get him to relax a little, but he just wanted to go, go, go! I made him walk around the arena, trying to stay out of the way of the kids taking lessons. But Phil was so distracted. It's not that he was scared, really. It was more like he was just freaked out about being at a show.
Of course, he didn't know what to expect from me at a show, since this was our first one. He had been to two other shows, but at those shows they WANTED him to be wound up and flying around the ring. They probably tried to get him all revved up and frenzied so he would trot bigger. So that's what he expected that I would want, or try to do with him.
I can't say that he was particularly spooky, but little things were setting him off since he was already jumping out of his skin. The horses in the temporary stalls, people walking by, someone moving the wheelbarrow, it all was too much for him. He was overstimulated and just couldn't handle it. So I thought that I'd trot him and hopefully he could settle down and focus on work instead of everything else.
We went a half a lap at the trot and somebody opened the door at the end of the arena. We were heading away from it, so he didn't get a clear view of it, but saw it and heard it behind him and that was it. He couldn't take it anymore and leaped into the air and flew sideways.
Luckily the kids were taking turns jumping, so most of the horses were standing in the center waiting their turn. And I'm lucky that they were school horses and didn't really give a snot about the silly horse leaping around. I stopped Phil next to all the other horses and just let him stand there and watch the lesson. He seemed okay with this and we just stood there for five minutes until the lesson was over. When the other horses started to leave, Phil started to get upset again, so I got off.
One of the gals who came with us offered to get me my lunge line, and I accepted. I then lunged Phil for another 15 minutes or so. I know he was tired, but he was getting dangerous and I didn't want to get hurt, or hurt anyone else. Finally he seemed like he was running low on steam, so I got back on.
I needed to be smarter about this, so I made a 12-15 meter circle in one end of the arena, and did lots of walk-trot transitions and changes of direction. This kept him occupied, got him focused, and the few times that he did try and leap around I was able to control it because we were on a small circle. Eventually he was calm enough that I made my circle bigger, and went to the other end of the arena also. In the end I could trot him completely around the outside of the arena, both directions. He was still on alert, but focused and working. I'm not sure I'd call him relaxed, but it was pretty good considering what we started with.
I knew I was tired, and I wanted him to end on a positive note, so I decided to stop and put him away without taking him into the show arena. That could wait until tomorrow. I would have to get up super early in order to lunge and ride in the show arena, but if that's what it took I could sacrifice some sleep, get there early, and take a nap in the afternoon.
Because I couldn't go to bed early that night. I had to run home and get all prettied up for Craig's company party. I was dragging by the end of it, and we didn't get to bed until after 12:30 am. Sunday morning was going to be rough in more ways than one.
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