Ben and I are still recovering from our 3 day showcation. In fact, yesterday he pulled a shoe so as to ensure he'd get a couple extra days of R&R.
I've been struggling on what to write, and how to write this blog post. I think it is because last weekend has left me with a mix of emotions, the experience was so many things, I'm having trouble forming a solid opinion on the show. And if I am super honest, it hasn't left me with this feeling of overwhelming success. So I am going to take the time to write about the great and not-so-great things that happened, to see where the chips ultimately fall.
- There were 230 horse and rider pairs at the show. Ben, as a the sole Standardbred, held his own in every class we entered, many of which were 15+ horses deep.
- Ben was declared Rescue Horse High-Point Champion for the weekend.
- He won his halter class, eq classes and his 1st level dressage class.
- Both of his dressage scores were over 60% (62.6, 62.7), again at 1st Level.
- We talked to MANY competitors and spectators about his brand and breed, even the English show judge.
- He did the canter classes, and even Advanced English Pleasure.
- We got a good laugh doing the costume class.
|Photo by Angela Farnsworth|
- Nerves. From the moment he stepped on the trailer, to the end of the show, Ben was a bundle of nerves.
- He did not haul well, nor handle well - he felt trapped and the opposite of relaxed.
- He could not relax and stand still for longer than 45 seconds.
- Tension = gait problems, especially the canter. Tension means he loses the ability to lift his back and articulate his joints, the canter gets flat and lateral looking.
- Tension=grinding on the bit, a lot.
|2016 High Point Rescue Horse Champion|
Ribbons and wins are not everything. Had he won all that he did and was his normal chilled-out self, I would've been pleased. But a big part of me is bummed that my guy seemingly didn't have as good a time as I wished he did, or that he used to have. I do think his nerves were a combination/perfect storm of things, all of which I am responsible for fixing. I feel bad, pangs of guilt, for having him participate. On the other hand, I think participating is just what he needed, and that a huge part of his problem was that he hasn't been off his quiet farm in months. He just isn't used to going out like he was years ago.
I guess I am also holding on to my hope that he would've felt amazing given all the work we've been doing. That the quality of his gaits would've been proven and shone through. All our hard work paid off. And that didn't necessarily happen. He had moments of greatness, but it wasn't consistent, and certainly not in the way he has been at home.
This weekend has left me with the feeling that we have SO much more work to do, but also with that lingering question about the value of doing the work. Is it worth it? I know I love riding and developing Ben, it is hugely rewarding to me. But is it torturous to him? Is he just entertaining me because he's a good guy with a huge heart who never says no? Am I taking advantage of that? Should I just leave him be, perhaps find a way to give him an easier job?
Ultimately I cannot based my decision on 1 show. It could very well be that he simply has lost a bit of his mojo due to not getting off the farm in months. It could very well be that given more opportunities, he will return to his normal self. In terms of the work, it is not like he sees me and runs the other way. He is my buddy and will follow me anywhere (which is why I feel guilty about possibly taking advantage of that), and do anything I ask. He doesn't give me snark about it. He always tries, and resistance is passive and not explosive.
So what to do. I think I need to keep trying. In my head I have a "deadline" or a check-in point of Spring 2017. So between now and then, what would happen if we keep chipping away at it and get to a few more shows, maybe even a clinic or two - anything to get off the farm and into new territory. That would essentially mark just about a year of earnestly doing work, and a good milestone point to look both back and forward. In the meantime, I will keep on trying, and writing about it.