Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Morgan Show.......... Footing and My Horse

Part 1

I arrived at the Evergreen State Fairgrounds at 6:30 Friday morning. The first thing I did before getting my horse was to go visually check the arena to see how it turned out after it's makeover from the night before.

The footing looked good from the rail but I also went out into it to check it more closely. I did some bouncing and I kicked at it in several different places checking for spring. Particularly I looked at place I knew had been more hard than others. From what I could tell it appeared to be good by that measure as well.

It was only after I got onto my horse and began working down the rail that I could feel the footing still left lots to be desired. Funny how it could feel plenty springy with me walking on it, yet jogging on horseback it felt totally flat.

At the lope the issue with the footing was even more obvious. There just wasn't enough spring in the dirt to hold up enough for even a few rides let alone a whole session. It would take some digging to add more loft into this footing. The question was how much.

There's a fine line between too deep and not enough. The other thing is different events can require different footing and even different disciplines can have different footing needs. If you keep the reiners happy, the pleasure horses will have fits. At least I didn't have those issues to deal with since we had no reining classes at this show. Still in my book the footing situation is one of the most important issues to taking good care of the horses. It was imperative to me that this situation be rectified.

For the first time I realized the advantage of having my horse at the show to ride. It gave me a clear idea of what the footing must feel like to my horse. This important perspective to the quality of the "dirt" definitely put me on the right path to resolving my footing issues.

Before I finished my ride I made sure I checked all portions of the arena. I wanted to know exactly what it was like in all areas so I could direct the fairgrounds crew as what fixing was needed where. The rail was the obvious issue because of the amount of traffic it gets but the fix for that wouldn't necessarily be a good fix for the rest of the arena.

When I exited the arena I went straight over to the grounds crew to tell them what I needed. I got an estimation on time for the project. Then I went back to the office and got the paddock announcer to begin letting the exhibitors know the arena would close early for maintenance so they'd know exactly how much time they had left for schooling before the ring closed.

There's nothing as an exhibitor I hate more than thinking I have time to school only to get there to have the ring closed early for maintenance. Not being able to get needed schooling time in is a pain in the you know what. Hopefully with announcements that scenario would be avoided. The arena would get fixed and the exhibitors would be happy all around.

After the arena was finished, it really didn't look much different on the surface than it had looked first thing in the morning. I knew it was different because of the depth we'd dug up but if it was enough I wouldn't know until a whole session or riding classes had "beaten" it down.

The half of the first session of the morning was in hand classes. Between halter, dressage suitability and horsemanship classes, the footing on the rail was not going to get much of a test of how it would hold up. The few performance classes remaining would affect it but probably not enough for me to have the answers I needed.

I listened closely as the first performance class came in. There was definitely a difference in the sound of the horses' hooves hitting the dirt. Exhibitors comments through the morning said the footing was good still the big question was would it hold up.

At the break the grounds guy asked me if the footing was good, I let him know what I knew at the time. Still the issue was would it hold up through a whole session of performance classes. I let him know I would know more by the conclusion of the afternoon session. In the meantime we would take our usual "fluff" type drag before the start of that session.

It's funny how much I can detect by just listening. I think sometimes it has to do with my not great eyesight. My body seems to have compensated by enhancing my other senses. My hearing, smell, taste, feel and even my hearing are on past normal and into beyond. In this situation with the footing I could tell about 3/4 quarters of the way through the afternoon session that the footing was not good enough. That old familiar thud of hooves pounding on the rail told me all I needed to know.

By now there had been a change of shift for the fairgrounds crew. I didn't know if I had someone competent to fix the arena for me or not at this point. I was wishing I'd trusted my gut and done more work on the footing at the lunch break but I'd have to call maintenance to see what I could find out.

At the end of the session the judge and ring steward came into the office for a brief moment before they went off to dinner. The ring steward overheard me moaning about the footing so she popped in with her two cents worth. According to the ring steward it was too deep in the middle and had been since the morning session.

The judge had been complaining about it from the first potty break out the back side to the rest rooms when she'd had to make her way through it. If it was tough for her to walk in, the odds were it was definitely too deep. Information I could have used a lot earlier.

I have to admit this is one of my pet peeves about horse shows. If you have a problem, let someone know. It can't be fixed if no one knows you're having an issue. It's one thing to complain to others who can't do a thing and another to tell someone with the authority to make things right. If you expect it to be "right" you must tell those who can make it so.

Now, I'll admit there are show managers and the like who do not listen to what the exhibitors have to say. To my way of thinking those people are not very good show managers if they aren't tuned in to what the exhibitors need. So instead of keeping your mouth shut because you've run into such management, consider the possibilities that there really are lots of show managers and their staff who DO LISTEN so they can make their shows better. To my way of thinking that's what keeps shows healthy..........good customer service. Don't you think?

Had I know about the depth of the center ring at the lunch break, I could have had this whole footing issue resolved once and for all. With this added information, it's too deep in the center and too hard on the rail all I needed was to dig the arena up crosswise and pull some of the footing from the center out to the rail. It was an easy enough fix and the horses could have had the benefit of it a whole session sooner, IF I had only known.

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

Wrapping Up Friday


  1. when i was at that jumping competition here in germany i couldn't believe how hard the footing was. as i stood next to the rail and horses cantered past, their hooves didn't sink at all and the sound they made was obvious there was no give to the surface. i don't know if that is common for jumping. then again, these horses are stalled on straw over concrete. and multi-use trails are often paved, so riding on concrete is the norm at least in part. i've even seen endurance rides where the horses trot by on paved roads. can you imagine if an endurance ride back home included concrete streets?

    i wonder sometimes if the horses are genetically different here with regard to their legs and feet. but that cannot be.


  2. That is obnoxious! I wonder if they knew all along that you were concerned about the footing all along? Kudos to you for putting so much effort into making the show as smooth and great as possible!! I bet more people appreciate it than you think, or maybe not. Until reading your perspective, I had no idea how much actually went into putting on a show. Footing? Who knew it could be repaired during the show!?!? You're awesome!