Yesterday my friend L and I packed up our stuff and our horses and headed out to Chagrin Valley Farms for their hunter show. We decided only to show on Sunday (Academy day) since neither of our horses was really ready for the Saturday show. Since Johnny's only gone over fences twice at a show (both times with stops...the very first time we schooled great and then couldn't even make it around the course) I decided to shoot low...low level class with low expectations of him. My biggest mistake in the beginning of his show career was thinking that he was going to come out of the field and be kind of competitive. Thinking back on the Chagrin Classic and the Kiwanis Show, each time Johnny had a stop to a jump was because he was looking at the people around the ring and not at the jump in front of him. I knew that the big plexiglass "wall of windows" at CVF was going to be a potential problem for him, but I also knew that he's gotten to the point where he's not greenly over-jumping fences any more, so when picking a division I knew I wanted something that was going to make him put out a tensie bit of effort, without being so big that if his mind went ADD we were going to get a stop too it. In the end, I went with (dun, dun, dun....) walk/trot/canter 18" hahaha. It sounds so silly but it was the perfect class for him. Trotting wasn't penalized, nor was cantering, so tracking to the left we could canter, and to the right we could trot if he didn't land the lead (which he hasn't been lately -.-) and it wouldn't be a problem. It turned out to be the perfect idea!
We hauled in Saturday night and didn't get a chance to school until almost 11:30pm when the jumpers finally wrapped up. L and I rode in the warm up ring and Johnny jumped a meduim sized cross-rail, low vertical, and then maybe a 2'3" vertical (all with flower boxes under them) without ever even looking at them...a BIG step up from when I am used to with Emmy! We cantered in to all of these jumps off the left and he was absolutly perfect! He wasn't even trying over the 2'3" fence, and just sailed over it, right out of stride...also a big step up from where we started! He still tends to jump more "up" than "across" the jumps, but maybe some work over low oxers will help tune that up a bit and teach him to reach a little more.
Sunday morning, L and I got up early to school in the show ring. Johnny was pretty tense going in and inspected the "wall o' windows" with great curiosity. It was actually really funny because he just stood there watching people walk back and forth and following them with his head. He's a smart boy though. After a few good sniffs and a long, comtemplative stare, he decided that the windows were just fine with him and so we went along on our merry way. We stratigically schooled at the 2ft height because I wanted him to go into his class and be like "oh! this is easier than we practiced!" He was pretty good...he stopped once at the out of a line and got in BIG trouble for it for two reasons. First of all, it was a dirty stop. Down right dirty. He trotted right up to it with his ears perked, happy as a clam and then SLAMMED on the breaks and did the dirty "duck and cover" spin that Emmy was so famous for. Second of all, the jump was seriously small enough for him to walk over. There weren't any flowers, nothing scary that he might spook at...just plain white poles in a semi-empty arena. I was like "oh HELL no..." caught him with a left bearing rein, right opening rein, and a jab to the side with my left leg. I seriously think that my quick reaction to it really surprised him, because he stopped mid-spin and bounced a little with his front legs. And then just to make myself perfectly clear, he got a good slap behind my leg with my hand and he KNEW he was in trouble then. He bounced again and when I turned him back towards it he lept into a canter and sailed across it like "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I was just kidding...really!" On the back side I let him canter through the corner and then slowed him quietly to a stop so that he wouldn't learn to run away from it. When he was still, I stroked his neck and made a BIG fuss about what a good boy he was. I must have gotten my point across, because he didn't even think about stopping again for the rest of the day. He's old enough now and has enough mileage schooling that its really just unacceptable for him to stop at a stick on the ground and I believe that I made that perfectly clear today. Mind you, I am the first to stop and assess things when there is a legitimate reason for him to be stopping, like if he's a little unsound or the jumps are scary or he's maybe getting pushed a little too far to fast, but thats definetly not the case here at all. He was really just being rude.
After our schooling, he got to head back to his stall to munch hay while L showed her horse in the 2ft Adults. They did really well...2nd in the Warm Up, and 4th in their first and second trips. Then it was Johnny's turn. My goal for the day was for him to just get around the course quietly...I stuck with my low expectation plan and just wanted a clean, decisive ride, and thats exactly what he gave me. Both trips were really great and he only looked at the window once around the first turn, but I quickly got his attention back and we had two nice, quiet, clean rides. I was very pleased! When the placings came out, we got the icing on the cake! 2nd in the first trip and 1st in the second trip out of a 5 other horses (the division got split into A and B groups...so we placed out of the 5 in our split...eleven total in the division.) I was so proud of him! He wore his blue ribbon on his bridle all the way back to his stall and got showered in kisses and cookies! I'm so proud of him! We're going to try to get to most of the winter schooling shows so that both horses can get some more mileage. It was a great show day!
Pictures coming soon!