You know how I had a great plan all worked out in the last post and then said it would probably change? That’s exactly what happened. It took me longer to get to the show than I expected so I wasn’t going to have time to get Prize into the arena to look around before the show started. It was an indoor arena that was sort of dark and scary. I decided that this was probably not a good idea to go in there cold so I decided to put her in halter and showmanship to get her in the ring before the riding classes.
At that point I had enough time to change my clothes, run a brush over her, and get her to the ring for her classes. No time for a warm-up to get her paying attention to me instead of her surroundings. So she was bad in the halter class. She wouldn’t stand still. There was also a miniature horse in her halter class that she was half scared of/half fascinated with. But she took 6th out of 10 in that class. That was enough to make the show “count” for us. I am entered in the open competition program for Morgans. There is a lifetime achievement award where you get 1 point for a show where you win a ribbon and 2 points if you win at least 4 ribbons and one of those is a 1st or 2nd.
We went right back in for showmanship. It was a very easy pattern. Trot to the judge, set up for inspection, trot away, stop, and back up. Considering how poorly she was listening in halter I didn’t expect much from her. There were 7 in this class so I figured we’d be the ones that didn’t get a ribbon. I’m so optimistic. But she nailed the pattern. I made a stupid mistake because I was focused on her making that last stop. I forgot to look back at the judge as we trotted away. We took 4th out of 7. Not bad for showing a horse that obviously wasn’t groomed well enough to go in a showmanship class.
I decided not to take her in the equitation or pleasure classes because they were coming up soon and I didn’t want to rush her. She still felt really nervous in the ring too. So I tied her back up to the trailer for a while to let her relax. I saddled her up after a while and tried to get on. Now I know that we have a new thing to practice. Standing still by a mounting block when there is grass under her feet. She was mad because when she was tied to the trailer if she stretched down as far as she could her lips were mere millimeters away from the grass and she just couldn’t reach it. So now she wanted grass. But I had lots of time so I didn’t get impatient and just worked with her. It probably took me 10 minutes to get on her. During all this the mini was now driving around near the trailer so she’d get distracted from the grass to watch the mini but she was half scared of it still so I didn’t want to mount then because I wasn’t sure if she would spook.
I got on and went and rode her around in the grass. She was showing perfect form. Head down in correct position and nose tucked in place. Unfortunately, this was because there was grass under her again instead of being obedient to her training. I made a mental note to try to find places that show on grass because she’d do great. Then I decided to ride her over to the show arena. There was another indoor arena that people waited in before going into the adjacent show arena. When I rode her in there she outwardly seemed very calm but I could feel her heart beating through the saddle. So I decided that we’d just stand here until our next class. We were in class 18 and they were on class 13. I figured that would be enough time for her to relax. It ended up being 2 hours. It was probably the best thing that could have happened for her though. At first whenever some horses would leave and others would come in her heart would start beating wildly again. She’s never been good in crowds of horses. But she didn’t try to kick anyone. When she’d get antsy we’d walk around the arena and then stop again. Eventually she got bored and didn’t even care when horses were cantering around behind her. That’s a huge step for her.
Eventually it was time for our walk-trot barrel race class. She’s never done such a thing before but I used to barrel race Spirit about 20 years ago. She went in tentatively. But she picked up her trot nicely. I had decided that we weren’t going to focus on speed because she’s slow. We might have the slowest barrel race but it was going to be the prettiest one. So I asked her to go into her dressage frame and head carriage and she did. We went wide around the first barrel because she wasn’t too sure this was a good idea at all. We headed to the second and had to go straight towards a raised announcer’s stand that wasn’t in use. We got half-way there and she said, “Uh, no.” She slowed to a walk and I asked her to go. She took a few more steps and then I could feel her start to totally come unglued. I asked her bend her head towards me and disengage her hindquarters and she did and calmed down. That disqualified us for being off course but she relaxed enough to be able to walk out of the ring on a loose rein. So we sat there for 2 hours just to be disqualified but she learned to handle scary stuff in the ring.
Now that I knew the show was running really slow I went and tied her up again. I watched a few classes and then got on her again. She’s not really sure that I’m allowed to get on her again once I get off but she let it go. I gave her the option of riding on the grass or standing in the arena. She picked the arena. She had made friends with the cutest little Welsh pony so we went back to him.
Next was the cone race. You take three poles and put them on the ground to make a three sided box. In front of the open side there were 6 cones in a line. Your time starts when you leave the box. You weave through the cones, turn around at the end, and weave back. You end in the box. If you step out of the box before stopping you are disqualifed. We started out ok but we were going towards another announcer’s stand at the end of the ring that was in use. She slowed down so I let her walk it as long as she kept moving. I also made her do it pretty. We turned at the end and she trotted pretty back and stopped nicely in the box. We didn’t place because she was slow but that was ok because she was getting better.
About then I heard the announcer say something about my name and Prize. That was weird because I signed her up under her registered name which has no relation to “Prize.”
Next we did the carrot race. In this one you run down the end of the arena and dismount. You get a carrot from the person standing there. At this point you can’t touch the horse anymore and have to get her to follow you back to the start using the carrot as bait. We had done this one once before and had gotten disqualifed because Prize had taken off as soon as I dismounted and run back to the start without me. So I figured we could only get better. We were the third ones to go. We trotted nicely done there. I dismounted and grabbed my carrot. At this point Prize did the math. She looked at me with one carrot and then at the lady with the bag of carrots. She walked over to the lady with the bag of carrots. I shoved my carrot in her mouth to get her attention and told her to trot. She hesitated. I very sternly said, “Prize, trot!” She reluctantly came with me. That was better than a lot of horses. It had been a long day and some horses took the opportunity of freedom to stop in the middle of the ring and try to take a nap. Another lesson learned here – don’t do a game that involves food and then think that you can just get back on. Prize knew everybody there might have a carrot. She was working on getting theirs if they didn’t want it. She did get a part of a carrot that one horse didn’t want. Then she decided to investigate a cabinet. It was closed with a bungee cord and a padlock. If she pulled on the bungee cord and let go it made a very fun noise. Then she tried to take the thumbtacks out of a bulletin board. She didn’t understand why I wouldn’t let her keep playing these fun games. We ended up taking 6th out of 13 in the carrot race.
I mounted back up because ground poles was next. I’ve been wanted to do the ground pole class for years now. It was a very easy course. Just go clockwise around the arena going over the poles on the ground and then go up the middle between two standards. I told Prize that pretty actually counted in this class instead of speed. We went in and she was poking along so slowly that she was hitting poles with her feet. She wasn’t picking them up high enough. But she looked pretty. Some people I had been talking to in the waiting area clapped for her and said it was perfect. I went and tied her up and came back to see if we placed. They laughed at me and asked if I had come back to claim my blue ribbon. I said that it would be nice but she was hitting poles. They said she was “so graceful.” Five horses did ground poles and we WON! That made it a 2 point show for us because we won four ribbons with one of them being a first.
We didn’t do the trail class because there was a jump. You also had to pick up a flag off a barrel and she doesn’t like barrels. I found out that the “Prize” announcement was because I won a door prize. I won a t-shirt and a coupon for buy 2 get 2 free bags of grain. That free grain is probably worth more than my entry fees for the show.
So, it was a great day for us. I feel a lot more confident with her in public because I know that even if she gets scared she just stops. I can handle that. My first clue that Spirit was nervous was when he would suddenly bolt towards the next county. I was amazed at how easily she would go into her frame. Practicing with her last week she was refusing to do it and I was getting quite frustrated with her. So next week we have our first dressage show. I have to spend the week memorizing my patterns.
FOUR ribbons! that is so fantastic! A big well done to you and to Prize – sounds like she learned a lot and she did so so well for a nervous girl 🙂 If she has a ‘dressage outline’ there is surely hope for next week… don’t do a pony-girl and get your tests mixed up tho :))
The carrot race was hilarious!