Thursday, May 6, 2010

Daffodil................More Select Rider

Part 1

Having just ended the class from h*ll, I was really glad I had post entered the other select rider class. Even though I wouldn't get the opportunity to school in the arena in between, being able to take the horse right back into that scary arena was a good thing. If I was ever going to get this spook thing under control, this type of extra schooling was going to be essential.

I knew the time between the two classes would take the edge off a bit or maybe I hoped it would, anyway. I also thought if I could take Legs down to the far end of the arena to the outside schooling area maybe the horse could figure out there wasn't anything unusual out there.

Now some would say that horses can't make those kinds of connections but I don't agree. The horse has been to this facility enough to know what gate leads where. He's been in and out of that other gate and spent lots of time working in that warm up area behind the main arena. He just hadn't been back there at this show to see if anything had changed so that's the first place I headed after our class.

I know from experience my horse can look at something that's scared him and decide it's not that big a deal. I have seen him act like he's embarrassed because he's figured out he was scared by something little. I was hoping he'd find some reasonable explanations for scary sounds and such and relax and maybe decide he didn't need to be scared by things back here.

There were a couple of English type horses working when we arrived. I just let my horse stand there and look around. I didn't ask him to anything but look and it was clear he took me up on it.

The horse's nostrils seemed to be working overtime as he sniffed the air for something strange. He moved his head around making sure he got all the angles covered. Legs was really checking things out. When his head dropped and he went into the resting stance I would normally expect from a horse comfortable in his surroundings, I took Legs back up to the warm-up arena to see what we had.

In the warm-up I had a horse much like the one I had before Legs had been scared half to death in the arena. There was tension in his body but he was responding to my cues pretty well and didn't seem to be convinced something was wrong anymore. It was obvious he wasn't relaxed......but he wasn't freaking out either. It would be interesting to see what we had once we entered the arena.

During this time the weather was doing the same nasty stuff. The skies darkened. The winds blew. The rains came. Then everything went and we wondered if we'd make it up to the ring dry or if we'd be so drenched we couldn't think to ride.

Legs didn't seem to care much about anything but the wind. He clearly didn't like it picking up small chunks of dirt or rock and swirling them into things. The sounds of particles hitting the powder river panels seemed to be the scariest thing to him at the moment. I was glad the concrete rail of the show arena didn't add such noises.

Somehow we managed to make it back into the arena without being drowned. Mother Nature stopped the rain just in time and didn't start it back up until most riders in my class were on the inside.

Once the gate was closed the heavens opened up again and the wind blew. Legs wasn't the only tense horse in this class with that kind of wind. The tarps were flapping and the plastic breaking loose from covered straw bales behind the arena was rattling too. The far end of the arena had once again come to life.

Sometimes when I ride I think about showing my horse to his best advantage. Then there are times like this that I don't care as much about how my horse looks to others but how things look to him. I wanted to keep my horse from any situation or traffic that might cause him concern.

The biggest factor today was the wind. Both how it would affect Legs and how it's affect on other horses might affect him were my concerns. Since I know you can't control what other horses or riders do, I believe the best bet is to stay as far away from others as possible. It's a pretty good rule anytime, let alone in spooky arenas if that's ok with your horse. Some horses are better closer to other horses and some aren't so that has to factor in to how traffic is dealt with.

Legs goes into the ring first so often he is used to not having horses in front of him. With the issues with the other stallion stalking him last year, Legs can worry sometimes about horses behind him if he's already tense.

I worked at this ride. It seemed like every step I was thinking about how to stay ahead of my horse and how to execute my plan. I wanted to keep Legs by himself, keep him as far away from the far end as reasonable and when getting to "difficult locations" I wanted to ask the horse to do something hard as a distraction. If I couldn't get through a class without incident this way, I figured my goose was cooked. The show gods were against me and I might as well get the picture.

From the start Legs was pretty good. I could feel his tension ramp up a notch as we jogged through the gait but the horse didn't pick up speed or try to push through the bridle. He was NOT however the horse I'd ridden the first part of the last ride. Now he was more like the first ride, the first day.

Because of the tension in the horse's body, I worked really hard at keeping my body slow in this ride. Keeping the rhythm of my hips slow seemed to keep my horse slow. If I felt him pick up at all, I just made a conscious effort to slow myself down instead of going with the horse.

The other thing I did was talk. Legs and his babies have all responded best to a calm voice whenever things get scary or frustrating. Telling Legs he was a "Good Boy" did a lot for his tension. I even heard a couple of audible sighs as response to those words.

There were some tense moments. My horse braced himself expecting something to happen.....but it didn't.....not to us anyway. There were no outstanding moments like earlier rides. We just got around the arena the best we could. When it was time to line up I'm not sure who was more or my horse.

The end result..........not too bad. Legs was first on Lewis McKim's card and second on Josh Quintos's card, just the reverse of the select rider class from the day before. The other thing that was reversed was the position of the judges in the ring. Each time my horse had gotten through a class tense but clean, the call judge had placed him first and the judge at the scary end had placed him second. It would be interesting to see if that trend continued through our next two classes.

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

Hey Lady! That's a Stallion

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  1. Yeah for Legs!!! and s. I agree w you about talking. Only I take it a step farther.
    I sing to all my animals and the seem to love it! It works for both of us. I love to sing but band director hubby tells me I am tone deaf. My animal friends don't know it tho.
    This sounds insane but I swear by this. Maggie is a bit high strung, not bad, but she is no dead head. I have reserved one special song for her when nerves are getting the best of her. James Taylors' "Sweet baby James." the tension melts when she hears this. I have had so many horse people tell me it is impossible, all I know is it works.
    There is a reason they call me the village idiot! :-)
    Good luck in the next two classes.

  2. I am loving reading your posts about the show... my boy is a mess in undersaddle classes inside - something about an indoor arena...

    He goes slow and freaky away from the gate, but as we round the far curve, its 150 mph towards it.

    Its yet another reason I like dressage. We're the only ones in the ring, and its usually outside. Even the rings indoors seem to be familiar when they are dressage rings.

    Anyway - your thought process is really neat to read and I will be trying to use your approach should I be back in a ring class!! GREAT stuff!

    And YAY Legs!

  3. It sounds like the judges really liked Legs. Congrats on your good placing and more so, your okay ride. Poor Legs doesn't need anymore of those nasty Trolls :(

  4. Wow, sounds like you know exactly what to do for the scary things for Legs. You sure are brave, I think I woulda qut out of more classes when the weather got bad like that.

  5. It just goes to show all your hard work over the years is paying off, Legs was able to go back into the arena and perform, maybe not at his absolute best, but still great compared to the event before when all those scarey trolls were after him. Good on ya Legs!

    Karren from Australia