Sunday, October 26, 2008

Baby Boomer Dreams - Dandy's Story - More Schooling at Nationals

Part 1 of Dandy's Story

It's been months since I left off with the story about the first Arabian horse I ever bred, Dandy. Since Dandy's story is about to take another turn, I thought it would be good to get his story told so you could all see the twists and turns that have affected the life of this remarkable horse.

We left off with during my very first trip to Nationals to compete in the Bonanza Program Dandy in The First Class cont
Dandy and I had done ourselves proud even though we'd had a difficult start and we had not made our cut.

After that ride it was time to think about western pleasure with my Arabian horse. I was worried about this class for a couple of reasons. The horse still wasn't that comfortable with the western curb bit and neck reining. Also I was worried that the horse wasn't as collected as he needed to be for competition at this level.

While the horse was going as slow as the other horses, Dandy really wasn't using his neck as roundly as the Arabian western pleasure horses are required to do. I really needed to make the cut in this division if I wanted any chance of winning a top ten at nationals. Yet I was worried that the fact his neck wasn't quite as archy as those horses from my home region would prevent that from happening.

I was still having problems in the warm-up arena but they weren't as bad as they had been. The slower pace of a western horse made Dandy feel more confident. He still could get a bit freaked at the lope but even that response was slower and less dramatic. I was counting on the order in the class to give the horse confidence like it had in the hunter pleasure class.

This time the class was held in the Tingsley Arena. There's a kind of mystic that goes with that name. The image of spotlights and green shavings seems an automatic even though those are not used except on the final Friday and Saturday night sessions of the show. There's just something about riding in Tingsley that says "you've finally made it!"

Through all of this, the horse was still having regular visits from the vet. His shots were being scheduled around my classes since there are rules about when some drugs can be given for a horse that is to compete. I was lucky that the drugs my horse was getting were even on the list of "acceptable" drugs. Thankfully Dandy was now holding his own against the allergies and not getting worse.

Also during this time I was taking every opportunity I could get to school the horse on trail obstacles. The rules do allow for schooling trail on the show grounds but only with obstacles provided by the show. That meant that I had to keep my eyes peeled for times when those tools were available to me.

One afternoon I was schooling the horse in between two large warm-up arenas on an obstacle I had set myself. I used the wooden bridge as the mainstay and built kind of a box around it using poles. I set those poles only about 18 inches away from the sides of the bridge wanting my horse to have to stay as tight as possible. I've always figured that by schooling my horse tighter than the rules allow that he will be capable of doing anything that might come up at shows. So far that's worked well for us.

There I was schooling my horse over this bridge, down into a very tight chute and then backing him carefully around the bridge. Even through my intense concentration I felt a pair of eyes on me.

I looked up to see a tall slim man sitting on a horse in one of the warm-ups with his arm propped on the horn of his western saddle supporting his head studying me. When I made eye contact with him, he smiled, waved and then rode off leaving me wondering what the heck was happening.

I soon went back to schooling my horse. He was doing exceptionally well with this tight obstacle. Rarely did he bump a pole or move one even though this was set a good foot smaller in width than was allowable by the rules. It was clear, at least in trail, Dandy was not worried about the commotion at Nationals. If anything working in trail helped to settle the horse.

Suddenly a strange voice shattered my concentration. I looked up to see a compact man standing close by studying the obstacle I'd set. He asked me about the configuration and the dimensions. Mostly he was curious about where this obstacle had come from (my head) and why I had set it so tight. Before you know it we were involved in an intense conversation about trail. He even asked me if I'd seen any of the trail courses at this show and what I thought about them. To which I responded I wasn't impressed and why and we had what seemed like an open discussion. Later he identified himself as the course designer for this particular national championship. I've often wondered if my opinions of his courses affected his future courses...........I sure hope so.

Once the course designer left, I went back to schooling my horse. I kept changing directions and techniques trying to make the most of this one set-up. It wasn't long again and I felt those eyes. Looking up I saw the same tall slim man propped up on his saddle studying me and my horse. Again he waved and moved his horse on. After that I kind of kept and eye on him and sure enough he was spending a lot of time watching Dandy and I on this bridge.

Then Kelly and Larry showed up to school a horse. Shortly after their arrival this tall slim stranger came by to talk with them. It was then that I learned this was Lou Roper. He's one of the most notable trainers of trail horses, not just Arabians, in the country. The man was clearly impressed with what he saw in my horse.Not that Larry would tell me what Lou had said about my horse, he was too mad at me from taking my horse out of training to ever do that but it was clear that Lou's conversation with them had been about Dandy and me. To say that was a big boost for my wavering confidence at nationals would be a big understatement. To this day, this is one of the proudest moments I have had with this horse.

To be continued...............

The Western Class

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  1. Dandy is a great horse. I can't wait to see where this story is going and how you did in trail.

  2. Glad you started with this, curious to hear his story!

  3. How cool is that!!! Wouldn't it be fun to know what was said!!!

  4. Who is riding Dandy in this pic, and when was this pic taken? oh and who took this pic.. lol.

    The person riding doesn't look familiar, just curious about when the pic was taken, and it looks like a judge took this pic from what I can tell..

    Btw, Dandy looks great, and that must have given you good goosebumps! :D

  5. grey horse, you're right, Dandy is a great horse. He has the biggest heart.

    callie, I figured I better finish off my dangling stories while I could still keep track of them. LOL

    jeanette, I really do wish I knew what was said but like I mentioned there was no way that Larry was ever going to tell me anything that good that was said about my horse.

    kim, I'm the rider and Dandy is in a snaffle so that means he was 5 so that would be about 13 years ago. I think Rob Hess was the photographer.

  6. Dandy is such a cool horse - I'm glad to hear more about his "past". Eager to hear how the class turns out.