Horse Show – Success is in the Eye of the Beholder

Today we went to a bigger show that we’ve been to in the past.  Remember, this is only his fourth show ever.  The show was held at our local Horse Park, which has four rings (sometimes five) plus a cross-country course, so it is very big.  There were actually three shows going on at once and a fourth moving in for a show tomorrow, so lots of activity.  The weather had turned especially chilly, which is never a good thing when it’s been warm.

First, PJ loaded immediately in the trailer.  I thought the last time was a fluke but no.  We got to the show grounds exactly when I wanted to.  I started off by walking PJ around everywhere for about 45 minutes.  I wanted him to see the barns and all of the rings even if we weren’t showing in them because a lot of important shows are held here and I wanted him to get used to it for future events.  What spooked him the most was the barns with horses in it.  I don’t know if it surprised him that there were horses or what, but they definitely made him snort.

I got on with 30 minutes to go before my class, exactly what I wanted because I wanted enough time to get him going but not enough to get him tired.  I needn’t have worried. He had no problem with forward. Some problems with listening, but none with forward, which has been our problem for a while now.  I worked on lots of transitions and by the time of our class I had him sort of half-halting.  He did some neck snaking but when I gave him a little kick forward and jerk on the reins he went back to work.  That was the worst of his behavior other than one incident in the first test.

The first class went well enough until a bicyclist decided to ride past the ring.  And to PJ’s credit, he just looked.  The judge’s comment was that I had to watch his bend.  She also made a comment that he rushed at times – my slug rushing – I had to laugh.  I really took it as an improvement, though.  We scored decently and even got a 7 on our first canter depart – us? I had to laugh again.  For our second canter depart he bucked but we still picked up the correct lead, so I was happy.

We had 30 minutes between our first and second tests.  I didn’t want to work him anymore but I also didn’t want to get off and disrupt the momentum.  I decided to take him for a hack around the grounds.  We went through the field and around the barns.  My goal was to settle his mind without tiring out his body.  No such luck.  He was still a little up mentally but he was exhausted physically.

During our second test he was not the slug he usually was but he also wasn’t all there.  He was still a little distracted by things around him and tried to look outside the ring a few times.  But his neck was so fatigued that his poll was not the highest point and he curled his neck a little.  The judge took it as evasion of contact but I knew that it was exhaustion. We didn’t score as well as the first test but not horrible.

I learned a lot about PJ and how I should ride him.  I have to balance pushing him with making horse shows positive experiences.  He really does get tired.  Maybe I could man-handle him through a test but I don’t know if I want to do that.

We may not have won, but it was a great experience, I think for both of us.  Our best horse show yet!

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