Saturday, February 2, 2013

Cool's first horse show!

After a busy first week of work and not a whole lot of riding (sub-zero temperatures were to thank for that) we decided to just wing it and pack up Cool anyway for the little schooling horse show last weekend.

What a disaster that was...just getting to the horse show was a nightmare. Not only did it snow all day, but we also has some trouble with the truck and everything was so cold and frozen that it made digging out and hooking up the trailer a feat all in itself.

The best laid plans always go astray don't they? My goal was to get Cool to the horse show shortly after dinner time, leaving us plenty of time to school over jumps and let him see the show ring. False. With all of our troubles, we didn't roll into the show grounds until after 10:00pm. The show ring was already dark and it was so late that the bf and I just tucked Cool in for the night and got back in the car to make the hour drive home. We got in around midnight...cold, frustrated, hungry and tired.

The next morning I left for the horse show bright and early to make sure that Cool had adequate time to school before showing in the afternoon. I rode him early in the morning in the warm up ring with the jumpers and then a little later in the show ring between classes. The arena has a large viewing room with plexiglass windows across one entire end of the ring. Cool has seen them once before when we hauled him down last fall just to school him, but it was late at night that time and there were no people behind the windows. Today, the entire place was packed with faces staring back at him through the plastic. And among those faces? My new boss and the trainer that I have been grooming for. Neither of them had ever seen Cool, nor had they seen me ride, let alone jump anything, and they had come to watch. I was desperate to make a good impression, but Cool was having a mini meltdown about the windows, refusing to go near them entirely. It didn't help that there were plenty of other horses taking advantage of the few moments that the ring was open, they were schooling the jumps like mad, cantering across the end of  the ring one after another, making it literally impossible to let Cool just stand and look at the windows for a moment. I made the decision to just forget the windows and just start jumping him and getting his mind on something else. The first two jumps I trotted him to and he literally stopped at them and kind of awkwardly leaped over. Oh god... I thought, this is going to be such a disaster. I remembered back to Johnny's first show, where I made the mistake of stifling him so much (thinking that I needed control) that I took away his confidence and his natural ability to do his job. Was I doing that to Cool too? Was I thinking that he was going to be fresh and spooky because of everything that had already gone wrong this weekend? Was I helping to create this? And if not creating it, was I prolonging it? I'd never shown Cool before, so I didn't know how he would walk into the arena. I didn't know what it felt like when he was ready to go versus needing a little more prep. This was a learning experience for both of us and right then I decided that nothing else mattered but letting him have a good experience. The trainer and boss watching didn't matter, my parents and the bf and his mom who had also all driven out to watch, didn't matter. The check that I had written for his entry fees and all the time it took to get him here didn't matter, what did matter, was that he walked into that ring and did what I asked. The jumps for his division were 18"...he could step over them and I decided then that if we had to walk the entire course then so be it...this horse was going in that ring and he was going to do it, no matter how we had to get it done. My job was to let him do it, to let go of the control freak and the worries that were built up in my brain and just let him do it. I pointed him at another jump and kicked him forward into a canter and let the reins slip through my fingers. This time he actually jumped the fence, although he was still questioning me a little off the ground. We landed on the backside and I let him slip the reins through my fingers a little, then added more leg and kissed, asking him to march down the line to the jump at the end of the ring, headed right for the scary windows. He jumped it (with the help of my opening outside rein) landed, and I kissed and squeezed again, pushing him forward past the windows and to the next jump. His haunches were drifting in, and he was really wanting to run out past the jumps, but I kept my inside leg on, opening the outside rein over top of the jumps and just kept riding forward. George Morris always says, if you feel unsure, come at the jump with more than you think you need, you can always close your fingers and pull the reins a little, but no one wants to be kicking down to an oxer, hoping that it works out. Cool was jumping baby jumps today, but we were laying the foundation for his entire show career at this very moment. We changed directions and went around over the small jumps again. The more forward that I rode, the more that the distances started to smooth out. The forward ride is hard for's not my natural "ride" on a horse. Cool and I were both learning today, and we needed each others support to do it.

I won't bore you all with the details of every trip, but I will tell you that we walked into that show ring and jumped every single jump when it came time to show. We botched some of the distances, took down a rail in the first class and had late lead changes every time, but we did it and he never once spooked or tried to stop. In the hack classes, he didn't try to race and catch up to the other horses. I maneuvered him through traffic and he didn't freak out about having horses close to him. He broke for a moment in the canter (he was soooo tired at that point) and threw a wrong lead once (he has trouble with the left lead when he's tired) but over all I couldn't have been happier with how he behaved. We got ribbons in everything...bottom of the pack for the most part, but it didn't even matter! I think the was 6th, 7th and 7th over fences and then 5th and 6th in the hacks. I fed him almost half a bag of cookies and gave him so many pats and rubs. I can't wait for the next horse show! Overall, it was a really successful day for us. This horse always continues to amaze me with how he handles changes in his life...almost 2 years ago we pulled him out of a field and stuffed him into a trailer. At 7 years old, he'd only been hauled once, never been in a barn, never been stalled, never walked on concrete, never been clipped, never had shoes, never had his teeth done or been blanketed. He'd never seen an arena. He'd barely even been ridden and had never been ridden with other horses. He had lived in that same muddy field with the same two horses for his entire life. We rocked his world when we bought him and, although we've had a few ups and downs, Cool has been so open and willing to cope with the changes that we've made to his life. Although he can be spicy at times, he's tried to give back to us all of the things that we have given to him. I thought that no horse would be able to take Johnny's place when he left. No other project would excite me like he had, but Cool is working his way into my heart in a way that I didn't think he could. He will never replace Johnny, but he sure is trying his best to fill the big shoes that J Dizzle left behind for him :)

Here are a few photos from the show...his knees aren't very good, but I have confidence that with some gymnastic work (and maybe a bigger jump lol) that they will get at least level

In the hack class. We purchased these photos.

 This is my favorite one (above)

Below are video stills from the videos my dad took:

Petting him afterwards! My mom and the bf are standing with me.

That's all for now!


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