|Aren't we cute playing pretend-hunters (with dressage braids =))|
We arrived late on Friday evening due to horrific traffic. We had enough time to get the horses settled, our tack stall organized, and set up camp. By the time all that happened, there was no time for riding.
I had a fitful night's rest, and woke up early to feed, water, and braid Ben. Our first classes were in the Hunter/Jumper arena - doing the Trot poles division. The last time Ben saw a course was last year at the same show.When I brought him down to the arena to warm up, he was calm and easy going. We walked through the jump standards, over some poles, and were getting ready to pick up our trot and canter, when a group of 3 horses came in. No big deal, I had hardly paid attention to it. Ben, however, was struck with a dumb-fit and began to lose his cookies over the sight of 3 new horses. He started to squeal, shake his head, pop up in front and go backwards in circles. All I could do was keep him under control. I got him halted, let him take it in, and asked for forwards again, and got the same results. I suddenly realized maybe we were going to have an awful show after all. This went on for a good 10 minutes- the show staff even sent 2 of the jump crew over to block the other entrance in the event Ben escalated. However, after 10 minutes of this, he calmed down and was ready to work. So we picked up our trot and canter and got properly warmed up. However, his nerves were still there, and presented themselves as grinding on the bit- very embarrassing, and has always been a bad habit of his.
So we entered our first class, Not-to-Jump, and my goal was to make it around as smoothly as possible, with no shenanigans. The class was very large. As they called the places, and were getting down to 3rd-2nd-1st, I was sure we were out of the running. Imagine my shock when they announced us as the first place winner! From there, we got a 5th in our next class (some naughtiness returned), a 4th in our 1st trot pole course (hitting too many poles), and a 2nd in our Trot Pole Eq class.
After a couple hours rest back at the barn, I decided to bring Ben to the Trails course and attempt it in-hand. He has never seen a trails course before. Backing through an L, weaving between poles, going over a blue and yellow bridge, Car Wash, Pool noodles sticking out- all of this was new to him. I thought for sure he'd be scared of SOMETHING there. But it took him all of a minute or 2 to go through the entire course- never batting an eye. So I tacked him up and rode through it, and he repeated his performance. What a good boy Ben! We took 1st place in both classes.
The next day was the English Open show. I made the decision to scratch our dressage tests due to Ben's chiro issues - I just didn't think it was fair to ask him to be all bendy and supple, and knowing he was struggling with it there was no point in being judged for a half-assed test. So with that, I signed us up for all the halter, walk, and walk/trot classes we needed to get us closer to high point. I even signed us up for 2 WTC classes, but knowing those were late in the day, I didn't have much hope of actually riding in them.
The day had ups and downs- he won his Halter-Hunter type class,and then bombed his Halter-Rescue class - waaay too fidgety, dropped his you-know-what in the lineup. Under saddle, his walk-trot transition disappeared. He was struggling with this earlier in the week, and it came back to bite us. It seemed like we'd either get 1st or 2nd or 5th - nothing really in-between. When he was good, he was REALLY good. And when he wasn't, he just wasn't. In one class he was going very well and a bucket fell behind us, just as we passed the rail, which sent him scooting forward. The crowd gasped, but he was under control and went right back to work. That got us a 4th, but I was proud of him for not losing his cookies over that! Afterwards the judge came over and told me I rode that quite well!
But over all, he did well, though I could feel that same stiffness to the right, despite his being forward. Ultimately I chose to scratch the 2 w/t/c classes in the afternoon.
So that's it, right? Semi-success. Lots of blues, some reds, and a few whites and light blues. As it turns out, we ended up winning 3 awards: English High Point 30 & Over, Rescue Horse Champion, and Reserve Grand Champion for the show. 3 complete surprises! Well done, Ben!