We did it!!! Johnny and I had a wonderful time at the horse show! Friday I hauled him down to spend the night with the barn I work for because they had an extra stall (I was originally planning on just hauling in Saturday morning) Friday night I schooled him in the show ring and he was a PSYCHO...his trot was great but the second I asked him for canter it was like the Kentucky Derby had let loose! He was running around like an idiot, careening around turns and over jumping everything so much that he was literally jumping me off his back (which, let me tell you, doesn't happen very often with how flat he jumps) I took him back to the barn feeling deflated...how were we going to show if he was like this? I planned on an early lunge and a hack the next morning.
Saturday morning D and I got to the show around 6:30 a.m. and Johnny was on the lunge line by 6:45. He was still snorting and looking all around him...complete A.D.D. He couldn't focus to save his life! I tried to get him to canter on the lunge and maybe get some bucks out, but instead his head just went straight up in the air and he went into his crazy running STB trot which I hate so much. I think the entire time he cantered maybe 5 strides total both directions. "This is going to be a disaster" I told D.
A little later in the afternoon when the schooling ring was a little quiet I tacked him up and D set some fences for me. He started off crazy AGAIN...his canter was quick and unbalanced and he was trying to just grab the bit and go. I had D set a cross rail, a vertical and an oxer across the ring. Starting off over the cross rail, he was dragging me and jumping long, dragging me then chipping, dragging me, dragging me, dragging me. I suddenly remembered last year how, at this show, he had stopped at every single jump in the show ring and never even made it around the course. I remembered K's words when we schooled him again after our disastrous rounds: "Stop getting in his way...you're pissing him off and making him nervous. He's not like Emmy, he doesn't want you there with him, holding on to his mouth, micro-managing his every step. He wants you to just sit still and steer with your legs."
I thought of that as he dragged me towards a tiny cross-rail in the schooling area and literally jumped three feet over it. At the top of the ring, I stopped and thought about what K would have told me, to just sit back and let go. The next time around, I did just that. He ran again at the cross rail, but I didn't correct him. On the other side he landed with better balance and a rounder back. We trotted like that a few more times before I we finally jumped, landed and I felt him take a deep breath on the back side as if to say "Thank you! I can do it if you'll just let me." After that it all started to fall into place. I forgot about all of the AA circuit trainers and clients from work who were sitting along the rail watching me ride him, I forgot about the show ring which had been making butterflies churn in my stomach all morning, I forgot about the other horses in the ring that were worth 5 and 6 figures, who did perfect flying changes and jumped like little freaks. For a little while it was just me and my horse and a fence. I sat in the saddle, felt the rhythm and rode it. He was jumping beautifully now, quiet and round and balanced. We schooled the vertical and the oxer off both leads and the distances where suddenly all there. We went back to the barn being a team again.
When it was time to show, D and I talked strategy. After our schooling session earlier, we decided that he only needed a few jumps to be ready for the ring. We jumped a vertical and an oxer off both leads and then went to the ring.
As soon as we walked into the show ring I knew the first trip was going to be a schooling round for him. Trotting down the quarter line, he shied away from a 4 stride with yellow flowers and then spooked again at a jump with red ones. we got our canter at the top of the ring and cantered maybe 5 strides before he spooked at the slanted roll top on the diagonal line and then weaved like a drunken sailor to the single on the quarter line coming home. If he could talk, he would have been saying "I can't do this! I can't do this!" and for a second I thought he wasn't going to. I remembered last year again, and how I had left my stick at the in gate with D, thinking that carrying it would just light him up. "If he refuses," I thought suddenly "I'll have no way to punish him." At the last second I closed my leg hard and clucked. He sailed over the jump and we were off! Our first trip was a lot of repeats of that same scenario, but he jumped every jump! When we came out of the ring, D suggested that I try to canter the entire second trip. "He seems less spooky out of the canter" she observed. I thanked her for her opinion and told her that I would try.
Our second trip was SO GOOD! (Alright, well, good is a relative term...in reality it was terrible but for Johnny it was AMAZING so that's all that matters! He cantered almost the entire thing, made the numbers in the lines and even landed his leads! I couldn't have been happier! Of course, we still broke gait a few times and therefore there was no way we would be in the ribbons at a show like this, but it didn't matter! My $80 entry fees were totally worth it!
Here are some video stills and professional pictures from the show. All rights for the professional photos belong to Anne Gittins and I claim no right to them. They are her rightful property. No copyright infringement is intended.
Video link coming soon!