Sunday morning came much too early, but I knew that if I wanted to school Phil before the show started I needed to get out of bed. It was really hard, but I didn't want to school in the warmup if I wasn't going to be showing. I didn't want to take the room (and possibly create an issue) in the warmup when people who needed to actually show were there.
Luckily one of the gals who brought her horse to the show lives right across the street from the show stable, so she headed over at 6:00 to feed. When I got there at 7:00 Phil was fed and ready for work. He seemed calm when I was tacking him up, but as soon as I got him into the arena it was the same story. Anxious, rushing, nervous. Sigh.
However, he seemed to get a lot of that out of him on the lunge line, and I didn't feel as if I had to lunge him for as long. I was just finishing lunging him when the first horses started coming into the warmup. I hopped on and we did a few laps in the warmup, but what I really wanted to do was get in the actual show arena and let him see the scary lounge through the huge windows at the end of the arena.
Just as I was heading into the show ring, three riders from the warmup had the same idea as I did. I think Phil felt like he had safety in numbers, because even though he was nervous he willingly blended in with the small herd. I took my time and let him look at everything and made sure he got a good look at the windows and the lounge. He seemed to be able to handle everything, so we began to trot.
Overall it went pretty okay. There was a trainer coaching some of her students who was standing outside the show area by A, and Phil didn't like the looks of her for whatever reason. He kept avoiding trotting past her, and even when I walked him past her he really didn't like it. She wasn't being loud, or waving her hands around, or anything else that I could think of. We had just trotted past her for the 5th or 6th time when I spotted a man up in the loft.
The man was being very quiet, and careful not to make any noises, but he needed to grab an extension cord that was up there. I saw it coming before Phil did, and I was stopping him when he saw the man.
It was too much for Phil. He leaped in the air and flew sideways, jerking his head up to look at the man. I stayed in the saddle and got him stopped. I let him take a good look, patted him and told him he was a good boy, then asked him to trot on. At first he didn't want to go, so I gave him a little bump with my leg. He jumped forward, I said good boy, and then I did my best to just carry on like nothing happened.
Amazingly, he also carried on like it never happened. He was still nervous but he didn't view the loft are where the man was as "the scary place". I was really happy about that.
We trotted around a bit, and I decided not to canter him. That had the potential to get too exciting, and I was going for calm and easy that day - as much as was possible that is. One by one the other horses left the arena, and I could sense that Phil was watching them go, and could feel him getting anxious that he was alone. We went to the walk and I just talked him down, and he seemed okay.
A few laps later and I called it done. We had a good experience, and that was my goal. My next worry was getting him back on the trailer. It worked the first time thanks to the Rompun, but would it work without it?
Turns out it wasn't a problem, even though there was lots of snow on the ground, plus ice under the snow. Twenty seconds of gentle coaxing and he was in the trailer. Again, he traveled like a prefect gentleman and didn't kick or fuss.
Overall I would call our schooling show trial run a success. The next schooling show is the last Sunday of February. I decided to drop him back to Into A and B. When I told my trainer I wanted to show him Training Level she said "Oh my, well, that's a big jump for him." Which I think was really supposed to mean "Don't be stupid. Try Intro first." So after the test run, I took her advice. Start slow, and work up.
That whole weekend made me realize that Kaswyn has spoiled me rotten. Yes, he was trained as a hunter pleasure horse, just like Phil, but I broke Kaswyn and trained him myself. So I had no fear issues to deal with when we starting dressage. I'm not saying Kaswyn didn't spook, but he wasn't afraid of me, or afraid of showing. And by the time he was eight he was pretty solid. I could take him to any show and know that he'd load in the trailer, not be an idiot in the strange stall, eat, drink, poop, and go to work when asked. He's smart, tries really hard, and has a heart of gold. And he loves to show. I am eternally grateful to have that horse in my life. He's one in a million.
I'm grateful to have Phil too. He's allowing me to learn a lot. Gentleness, compassion, and most of all patience. I really want to show this year, but if Phil isn't ready we'll just have to wait for next year. It will be hard, but I'll be okay with it.
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