Monday, October 20, 2008

Pacific Rim All Arabian Horse Show - The Open Championship

Part 1

I vascillated all day about whether I was even going to ride in the open western pleasure championship. With it being the last class of the day and the hand gallop a required gaits, I wasn't sure that it was really worth it to stick around and show. The only thing that kept nagging at me to show was this horse having problems in the show ring.

I packed all of my stuff early except for my show clothes and show tack so I'd be ready to leave right after the class. The schedule seemed to be moving by quickly enough that by the time I was finished with my packing, the timing was right to tack up, get myself dressed and head off to show, so I decided what the heck, I'd go for it.

As I headed into the small warm-up ring, I found only one other western horse anywhere. It looked like it wasn't going to be much of a class. I was glad I hadn't talked myself out of showing because I'd be showing against a bunch of trainers because that sure wasn't the case.

Working around the warm-up it seemed like all was well with my horse. He was moving nice and slow and seemed to be confident. About the time I figured I'd take a break my horse jumped out from underneath me and tried to take off.

I have no idea what set him off. All I know is he clamped his tail, tucked his butt and then exploded. From that point on the horse was again high headed and distracted. He was sure that something was going to eat him.

The only other horse in the warm up was ridden by an newly appointed assistant trainer who'd worked many years as a groom. This was his first horse show and he was a wreck. I found myself assuring him that's it'd be OK but to stay away from my horse because he'd been naughty. I didn't want to be ruining this guy's ride if my horse exploded again.

About that time the paddock announcer called for us to enter the ring. I took my horse in again first knowing my trainer friend would be more comfortable bringing up the rear. I only hoped he'd heeded my warning and kept some distance between us.

Legs entered the arena jogging just a little faster than I would have wanted. We headed for the dreaded corner and I was still working on slowing the horse down. Once I got him into a groove he seemed to be ok and he loped off when asked with a nice transition.

Even loping down the rail into that corner, the horse stayed rated. Other than being a bit high headed and a little too fast, he was doing good. I made sure to put my legs on him before we ever reached that scary corner to push him through in case anything might catch his eye and everything seemed to be OK.

It was right about there that they called for the hand gallop. I had decided ahead of time that I wasn't going to do this gait but considering the way my horse was going, I thought I'd just bump his speed up a little and call it good. He started off a little hesitant not sure about the extra speed but he kept it even and I was pleased.

The horse came back easily to the lope when asked. Then he moved down into the walk as requested. When we reversed, they had us walk quite a ways but my horse seemed to be attentive and thoughtful even through that fateful corner. The class was half over and we were good.

Them the announcer called for a halt on the rail. Other than my horse raising up out of the bridle, he did pretty well with it. He stood there quietly looking around. I quietly asked him to drop his head a couple of times and he wasn't quite as compliant as I would have liked but not unreasonable either for something we hadn't been schooling.

Next they asked for the lope from the halt. I thought this was a little much for a two horse championship but what the heck. This maneuver is more than my horse is ready for at this point but we went ahead and gave it a try.

At first the horse backed up a step or two confused by my request for him to collect while standing still. But he made a respectable attempt at moving into the lope when I asked him. Something he doesn't always do, I might add so I was pleased with his effort.

Legs continued on down the rail in a decent enough lope. Then we were asked for the hand gallop again. By this time the horse had figured out my request for more speed. He picked it up much easier than the other direction and seemed to be staying pretty soft with it. We were doing good.

Then we hit the corner..........not the usual corner........the one at the other end of the arena right underneath the show office. Someone overhead dropped something just as we got square underneath them and that was all it took. My horse exploded from the hand gallop.

It's hard to see in the video because the vantage point of the camera is on top of the rail where my horse got frightened. However, my SIL, Ray, was at a different vantage point with my digital camera and hegot a picture of the horse at the height of his jump in the air.

You can see the panic on the horse's face. Also from the blur you can tell how much power was involved in the horse's reaction. I pulled the horse down as quickly as I could get my reins gathered up. I got him back into frame and we continued on down the rail trying to just get through the rest of the class.

I was relieved when they called for the jog. I guess I was thinking we were out of the woods but nothing could have been farther from the truth. I reversed my horse when they called for the line-up and it back fired. The horse erupted again and I had to correct him. I don't know what got him this time but he didn't want to settle. I had to pick him up a second time and really push him forward into the bridle. However, this time the judge was right there and she scolded me saying "That'll be enough!"

It was enough for me all right. I had had it. I'm not normally one to talk back to judges but her telling me to stop correcting my horse's dangerous behavior was the final straw. I didn't feel that my correction was inappropriate and I told her so.

I had released the horse to give him a chance and he welled up like he was going to take off again so I'd corrected him again when she'd interrupted. Thankfully my horse responded to that second correction or I don't know what I would have done. Getting into my horse when a judge told me to stop wouldn't be good.

I have no idea what that judge was thinking. I don't know what she expected. It wasn't just me I was trying to protect, it was anyone in the vicinity.......which included her and the future safety of anyone in the ring with us.....and I told her that too.

She said she was trying to make sure she could give me a prize. A prize was the last think I wanted. It's more important to have this horse fixed than any prize. I still don't get her thinking........but at least I finally kept my mouth shut.

So you can see the horse show did not end on a good note for me. I guess I'm lucky that the judge didn't file a complaint against me for disrespect or lack of sportsmanship. I was really hoping the video would show what happened in case I found myself defending my behavior to USEF. This was a first for me............and it really sucked!

So take a look, what do you think? How would you have handled this horse in this situation?

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  1. You didnt do anything that was unacceptable. You did what you needed to do.

  2. I think you handled it exactly the way you should have. If a horse acts up anywhere it needs to be corrected.

    I think you did good despite his spooks. Just wish you could figure out how to get him not so nervous and reactive to sudden noises...

  3. I agree with you, you needed to get your horse under control. The judge overreacted.

    More importantly...what are you going to do about Legs? Have people jump out at him at home? Just keep showing and hoping that he learns to control his responses to this scary stuff? He looks like he's moving great, but scary things just keep screwing him up. The scary things are always going to be there, Legs, but your mom isn't going to let them get you!

  4. I agree with anonymous...I didn't see ANYTHING that was unacceptable. And although I've never been in a situation such as that so I don't know exactly what I would have done I'd probably have done the same as you. No prize is worth a horse learning an unwanted and especially dangerous behavior. I'm glad nobody was hurt and I hope you and Legs are able to work through this problem! ((HUGS!!))

  5. I'd always go for correcting an unwanted behavior and really wouldn't care about the prize. You do have the worst luck with noises and bangs at shows.

  6. I think you were right to correct him immediately. Seemed to me he spooked at the bright spots on the floor, especially the second time, but both places he spooked had bright spots. Take another look.

  7. For safety sakes you need to correct an acting up horse. I did notice you shift in the saddle afterwards as if aggravated a bit, but I have a feeling I would have been a bit pissed too, if someone tried to stop me from correcting my horse, after all he needs to learn and if you him get away with stuff, he'll try it everytime. :)

  8. Oh, I think you both looked just fine. It was interesting watching him go from a stop to a lope - you can see him thinking, "oh huh? Wait, you sure? Okay, that's fine."

    I don't think you did anything wrong in correcting him.

    It is a pleasure watching you two together.

  9. I agree with "dj" that the spots of light seem to be what's bothering Legs.

    You handled that situation the way I would have. I probably would have been offended by the judges comment, myself.

    Keep it up, Legs will come around.

  10. I know he didn't spook every time he passed a sun spot, but from what I could see, if he went through the spot, that was when he spooked. (Especially the last time before lining up.) If he passed by the side of a spot, he didn't spook. Maybe the sun hit his eye a certain way that caused a blinding effect? It could have been noise, too. Who knows what was really going on with him. A lot more arena experience might help. Maybe practice with someone making sudden noises and shining a light into his eye or puting a shiny object (like foil) on the floor for him to pass by. But I'm no expert on horse behavior. :)

  11. I watched the video about 5 times, replaying the sections where he acted up, and it's plain to see, for me, that those sunspots spooked him.

    I at first though he just tripped at the end, but then noticed that those bright spots of light shine in the corners, where he acted up earlier.

    Looks like he just needs more work on getting through spooky things like bright lights/reflections and dark shadows that are on the ground before doing more classes.

    I'm not experienced, but I'd think foil with water on top, flashlights, a mirror, anything that reflects light brightly.


  12. Mikael - You did exactly what you knew you needed to do in an uncomfortable situation. And you're right to focus on what's making Legs react like this. He's trying to tell you something. Silk got very burnt out in the show ring and when I first owned her, even hated to work in an arena. I wonder if some horses just can't take the pressure? How old is Legs? I'm sorry that you're having these problems, but I know that you care about him so much and will do what's best for him. Don't feel bad about any of this - The judge definitely over-reacted.

  13. Well for the life of me I can't see anything that you did that was unacceptable other than to keep the horse in hand and safe. It is obvious that he has a phobia in this arena now because it appears that the last spook came from when the person in the bleachers started moving suddenly as you were right next to her. He was already wound up and just panicked. I am sorry you are having to deal with this because it is obviously an arena that you compete in a lot and I just don't know what to suggest to get him used to these sudden sounds and movements.

    I dont think it was fair for the judge to reprimand you either because I didnt see anything out of the ordinary in the way that you handled a spooking horse.

  14. Well for the life of me I can't see anything that you did that was unacceptable other than to keep the horse in hand and safe. It is obvious that he has a phobia in this arena now because it appears that the last spook came from when the person in the bleachers started moving suddenly as you were right next to her. He was already wound up and just panicked. I am sorry you are having to deal with this because it is obviously an arena that you compete in a lot and I just don't know what to suggest to get him used to these sudden sounds and movements.

    I dont think it was fair for the judge to reprimand you either because I didnt see anything out of the ordinary in the way that you handled a spooking horse.

  15. Well, here is my opinion, for whatever it's worth. I hope I don't offend you or make you mad, and if I do it is not my intention. I'm just going to tell you my observations. I realize that I don't know you, the horse, or the situation besides what I read and see on your blog.

    That being said, I fear that western pleasure is not the best discipline for this horse at this time in his career. He seems too uptight about the bit, and the more he spooks in the ring the more uptight he's going to be. He seems too smart to just "get over it eventually". He doesn't seem to for FOR you. He work out of obligation, but it appears that what he'd rather do is run away from the scaries.

    I think one of the hardest things to teach a horse is to work hard without tension. Especially young horses, who spook commonly and who often get confused and can panic.

    I have suggestions, and if you are interested in them shoot me an email. I think that in five years (possibly shorter than that) this horse could be a dynamite western pleasure horse. But his mental state, which may have been inbred or may have come from bad training, or a combination of the both, is making this a fearful venture for him and a frustrating battle for you. I fear that continuing to use the same methods and get the same results is going to result in a horse that never settles in the bit, the show ring, or his job as a show horse. Which equals one unhappy pony.

    So, anyhow, you know how to find me if you want to know what I would do next if Legs were my horse. Please understand that I see talent in your horse for many disciplines, not just one, and shouldn't it be more important to pick a job that the horse will enjoy rather than pick a discipline that you like and happen to have the tack/clothing/experience in? I can only speak from experience because I was in that exact situation with Kaswyn, and had to go in a completely different direction to find Kaswyn's niche. It was scary and very hard, but you can't argue with his success.

    This is said with love, not malice or criticism. Please trust me on that.