The rain stayed away today long enough for us to have a good show outside at South Farm. C and I took the horses up for a Combined Test (dressage and show jumping.) It was Johnny's first combined test ever, as well as his first time showing Dressage and just his second time in the Jumpers (the first was less than successful if you remember my previous posts about it...) After a great warm up, we headed over to the dressage ring. C warned me that John might be "looky" at the "judges booth" which was really just a horse trailer backed up to the ring with the ramp down and the judge and scribe sitting at a table inside. I waved it off, thinking "he'll be fine...its just a trailer!" We had the chance to walk all the way around the ring before the bell rang to start the test, and wouldn't you know that Johnny was TERRIFIED of the trailer. Poor guy! Since the show is held outdoors in the heart of (what I call) "Amish Land" there were LOTS of buggys going pasting the show ring all the time. Sometimes, horses are spooked by the carts, but not Johnny, he just thought they were FASCINATING and must have been re-living his race days because every time he even heard one he wanted to spin around and STARE at the buggy. Needless to say, about 6 of those buggys came past during the course of our test, so his paying attention factor was functioning some where around 10%, which showed in our test. The judge, however, was more than generous and even though Johnny did multiple pacey-hopy-cantery steps, she still gave us 5's and 6's and a 7 on our last centerline halt, which is far more than I would have given us! Most of the movement comments include things like "head high," "distracted," and "irregular," which were things that I already knew. Our free walk was "active but needing more stretch" and our last trot circle had "improving connection." For our final center line halt she wrote "slightly above the bit but square." Our collective marks had a very nice little blurb which read "A little distracted to really show movement today, time and experience will iron out inconsistencies. Kindly and gently presented by the rider." Our further remarks section read simply "Beautiful head!"
See? I always knew he was pretty! LOL
After our little dressage disaster I was still calm, but less than pleased with Johnny and he was now whinnying his head off and walking ALL OVER me. Now folks, I am a very patience person when it comes to horses. I don't ever yell at Johnny, or hit him or really punish him all that much for things like this at horse shows because I understand that he's nervous or worried...but running into me, bullying past me and spinning in circles when I ask him to stop? After I walked the course and changed for Stadium he almost shoved me over at the mounting block with his head and finally, I'd had enough. I took my stick and smacking him square in the chest. His eyes just about bugged out of his face and his ears shot forward so far that I thought they would fly off his head. Instantly he was perfectly still and didn't move again. His manners were much improved after that!
I had check the dressage postings before walking the jump course and we were 4th out of 6 after the dressage phase. Our Stadium warm up went very well, with him landing balanced and beautiful on the right lead. I didn't do a whole lot because he's one of those horses where you can easily leave your best ride behind in the warm up ring if you over do it. We trotted a cross rail and a vertical both directions, jumped a brick wall jump with ivy, and then cantered the cross rail and went to watch a few rounds. Johnny is so funny at the in-gate. He actually stands there with his ears perked and watches the horses go around the ring. His head follows them and everything! Finally it was our turn and in we went! The only jump that really concerned me was the second fence, which was a vertical with black, orange, yellow and bright green rails. It was quite the color combination! Plus it was one of the larger jumps on the course, probably about 2'3".
The whistle blew and I asked Johnny to trot. Spooking a little at the end of the ring, we came completely counter-bent through the start timers and he was already peeking at the first fence. I clucked and pressed him up over jump one. He landed in a heap on the back side, half running-trot half cantering back down towards the in-gate. I turned him up the diagonal towards fence two and felt him totally suck back. His left shoulder was bulging and he was completely set on running out. I could see it already, a total repeat of the LEC jumper show....over my dead body was that happening again! I opened the right rein, dug down in my heel and got mad. Kicked him off the left leg and growled at him, to which (as usually) he completely over-reacted to when he realized that a) I was angry with him and b) I meant BUSINESS. He leaped forward the last two strides and launched over the jump. From that point on, it all just came together. His ears shot forward and suddenly he was in it to win it. We rounded the end of the ring for fence three and he charged at it, leaped over and landed on his right lead. Three to four was a line and (although I was praying a little because we don't jump a ton off the right lead yet) I dug my heels down, sat back and held on. Johnny FLEW over fence four, we made a tight turn for fence 5 and got a beautiful distance, a beautiful jump and landed balanced on the back side. He was galloping now, all the way down the diagonal and around the fence 6 and 7, another line, which he attack with so much vigor that I actually found myself pulling the reins to fit in the last stride. From there it was another left turn to fence 8 and a bending line to fence 9, which was the only oxer on the course. I thought he might look at it, but he sailed over that one as well, landed again on the right lead and was galloping so hard back towards the in-gate that I thought I was going to have to circle to pull up. I was literally along for the ride this time! He came out of the ring to a burst of applause from the in-gate crew! He was blowing and jigging out of the ring, lit up and so excited and proud of himself! It was really cool because the announce your horses breed when you go in for your round, so lots of people were looking at him after that!
It was the first time we've ever cantered almost the entire course (save for fences 1 and 2...and briefly in the turn to 3 where we also trotted to re-balance) and the first time I've just sat back and let him run to them. He never got flat or sprawly...when it got ugly, he figured it out and by the time we were to fence 5 he wasn't letting it get ugly...he was fixing himself!
In the end, we had the third fastest Stadium time with pulled us up into 3rd place to finish off! Third out of 6 at out first combined test! I'm so proud of him!!!