Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Daffodil All Arabian Spring Horse Show.......... Riding the Open Western Pleasure Class.......

Part 1

I'm lucky in the respect I can put things behind me as soon as I begin riding. I don't usually carry residual stress about getting ready for a class once I can focus on my relationship with my horse That might be because my fear is more about missing my class than it is about how my ride goes. I feel pretty confident I can deal with most anything that can happen in the ring so when the gate opened and the paddock announcer called my class to order, I actually felt relieved.

I would have been the first horse to enter the arena if I had not forgotten my cowboy hat. Now, I was lucky I was making it into the arena at all considering I hadn't even thought about asking for a gate hold to help me get my hat and my horse back together before entering the ring. Now I was just grateful to be entering the ring at all as Legs and I made our entrance into the arena trailing behind the other exhibitiors.

The gate closed behind us and I heard the announcer stating the class was now in session and we were to show our horses at the jog. My horse was not as round as I would have liked, more like the lengthened frame we'd used across the parking lot to retrieve my hat, but he was listening pretty well and rounding up a little better on each request. By the time I had him about where I wanted him, we had been asked to lope.

There are a number of things I would fix if I had to do this horse show over but transitions were not one of them. That has not always been the case. It has been a struggle getting my Arabian horse to do the kind of transitions he is capable of. Despite my efforts to round the horse up before the transition, he's been unable to go into the gait underneath himself the way he should. Instead of being smooth, he's needed me to hold him and push him further into the bridle for sometimes as many as 5 strides before finally attaining the smooth lope he's capable of.

That was not the case at this horse show, however. For the first time consistently the horse was rounding up easily and moving forward into the lope as smoothly as his older brother. I have always said that my measure of a good transition is based on Dandy and I knew that Legs would finally be fixed when I could get that kind of transitions from him. Well, the Daffodil Spring Show of 2011 will be my marker for Legs finally getting it. His transitions were awesome, every darn one of them.

The lope was not as slow as I know we can get but I was pleased with the rate we had all things considered. It didn't take long before the announcer asked us to move into the hand gallop so I moved my hand up my horse's neck, leaned forward just a bit and began kissing to him. My horse immediately moved off into a real hand gallop, not that faster than the lope but still a lope thing I'd gotten in the warm up. I was surprised.

I don't think any of the other horses in the class did a hand gallop at all. I had expected that and that's why I had been happy to get that faster lope in practice. Since I had the real thing, I was going to make the most of it. Nothing helps Legs get over his fear of the curb bit than galloping so I used this opportunity to work on pushing him deeper underneath himself. I didn't mess with the reins at all, I just used my legs and seat to push him deeper.

My horse responded my lifting his back and his shoulders and booking around the arena. Not too fast to be penalized by the judges, but a nice controlled round hand gallop. My horse was light and smooth and my steering was freaking awesome. Just the slightest movement of the rein towards his neck and my horse was responding. It was a blast!

They asked us to come down from the hand gallop directly to the walk. I had wondered if they would do the transition to the walk or back to the lope. Either can be difficult with a horse that is being strong but there was nothing strong about Legs on this day. As I moved my hand back to it's normal position and straightened my body and moved my feet forward, my horse nearly sat down in the dirt. His response was instantaneous and smooth. I couldn't have been more tickled.

Legs walked out of the transition with the smooth ground covering walk I love to show. It was the prettiest hand gallop to walk transition the horse has ever done. I couldn't wait to hand gallop the second way of the ring to see what I had there.

Considering how quickly these judges were calling these classes, they let us walk a little longer than I expected. Not that I was in any hurry to get turned around and loping again, but I clearly remembered them letting us walk a while for only four horses in the class before they asked us to reverse.

I laid my rein on my horse's neck and put my leg on him and Legs sat back on his haunches and pivoted around until I asked him to stop. I chuckled a little at this response. I've worked long and hard to get Legs to make that kind of turn as a schooling exercise to get him more underneath himself. I sure didn't expect it in a class.

We did not walk far this direction and we were asked to lope again. I pushed my horse off my inside leg, then up into the bridle raising my hand just a bit and asked him to lope. Legs' transition was smooth and his rate was pretty good. I looked down the rail at some kind of distraction outside the arena and decided I'd cut the end of the arena short. Laying my rein on the outside and using that leg I asked him to turn and my horse easily responded.

It was then it dawned on me that this is about the best steering horse I have ever had in the bridle. I always felt like I had good steering with Dandy but with Legs it's almost push button feeling. His responses are so definite I never question I'm getting what I ask. It was a good feeling to realize it's actually coming together.

Before I finished cutting the far end of the arena the announcer called for the hand gallop again. I had not practiced this direction so I wasn't totally sure what I was going to get. I moved my hand forward and leaned slightly into it and Legs was moving off into the hand gallop before those kisses ever left my lips. I couldn't have been more pleased with his response.

Coming down the rail, my fingers felt like I was losing a grip on the reins. I have a finger I broke many years ago that doesn't not close all the way and sometimes it feels odd on the reins. I suspect it was that finger that caught my attention. Whatever, it was, I adjusted my grip by just moving my fingers a little and my horse thought I was talking to him. As my fingers moved, Legs came back to the lope.

Instantly, I began kissing again. I think I even moved my hand a little more forward so Legs would know I hadn't wanted him to lope. As quickly as he came down, he went back up into the hand gallop. I could not believe my horse was responding to the slightest movement of the rein.

We hand galloped around the corner and halfway down the rail before the announcer called for us to lope our horses. I half way laughed at the thought considering how light my horse was being to the rein as I moved my hand back very slowly and straightened my body. I kept my movements slow so the horse would not shut down to a walk. I swear in one stride my horse went from the hand gallop to the lope without hesitation. It was an awesome feeling.

His transition down the the jog was every bit as smooth. By the time they asked us to line up, I was pretty happy with my ride. I figured there wasn't much chance I was going to place well in this class but I couldn't have asked for my horse to be more responsive. Considering we'd been jogging across the parking lot scurrying after my cowboy minutes before, my horse had settled down to business very well.

With a former national champion and a national's judge representing two of the four horses in this class AND my horse not quite as slow at the jog or the lope as either of them, I pretty much knew where we would end up. As they handed out the ribbons, we got third from Susan Witte and fourth from Bill Melendez but I couldn't have been more elated. Riding in the open western class had been great fun and ribbons have never really been my goal. I'm pretty sure I"ll be riding in more open classes in the future. No more avoiding them because amateurs "don't belong" as I've done for years.

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

Charity Night....
Scarlet at about a week old, I think.

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  1. That's fantastic! I love when it all comes together like that. Yes, you ought to be in those open shows. I like to enter them, cause you never know who might screw up and you can win it!! You can do it!!

  2. Yay legs! And that was a fun ride you took us on - I felt myself sit up and "half halt" when you said the announcer called for a walk lol

    You have such a way of describing things to make us feel as if we were there with you - Thank you!

  3. Go Leggs!!!!! Shewed you what hes's has didn't ? What a great ride, and an awsome horse rider combo!

  4. What an amazing ride! I can only begin to imagine how fantastic it must have felt!

  5. Great ride, maybe you should trot through the parking lot every show before a class! Glad you had a good outing in the ring.What a great horse Legs is.

  6. Oh, I love those rides when everything comes together. Hey, maybe this year we will have our horses figured out and get accomplished what we want?

    Go Legs!

  7. *Jumping up and down clapping*

    I felt like I was riding with you reading that post. Excellent!

    PS- I'm still totally smitten with Ms. Scarlet. It's that face...

  8. What a joy it must be to ride a horse that is so responsive! I can only dream about it as mine haven't been in the show ring for years and we kind of let things slide but I love them anyway. :o) Miss T had a great transition on Lil' Bud a couple days ago and I was so excited you would have thought we were in the Nationals! ha!

  9. Great results. Ribbons or not, that's the greatest feeling in the world, to be so together with your horse.

  10. Congrats sounds like you had a great ride, however, no offence to you but there are way too many that enter these open classes that really have no business even being in an ATR class. I have seen 12 year old girls enter hunter open classes, just to have 1 more chance at a ribbon because they give 6 and well lookie there , only 4 they think they will just ride for that ribbon…and they screw up a class. I am like you, I ride for a clean ride, not ribbons. I ride MY ride. I love riding in AAOTR and Select Rider classes. Would I like a trainer in MY classes? Nope. No Way. When I had my horse at a top trainer, and paid big $$ for training, several thousand for him to take my horse to the show, school him, help me ringside for my classes, then I get to sit back, relax with an adult beverage and watch the Open Class (which comes after my classes) and see my horse perform with a trainer against usually the other top horses. I love it. It’s like watching dancing with the stars, we are the ammys with a professional partner and it’s all good, but when those pro dancers all come on stage together it is magic….and yes the occasional Jennifer Gray could keep up with them, but for the most part an ammy thrown in that dance mix would be at best comical. Same at horse shows. Recently, at our April concurrent show, a woman that had NO business riding her horse at a show of this level entered our ammy class, In the practice pen she told me she had only loped this horse 1 time before in her life…and that was the day before. It literally was at a wild gallop instead of a lope and we don’t even hand gallop in ATR classes. Riding in a snaffle rather than a bosel, ( yes a JR horse on top of it all!) With her hands a mile apart trying to imitate the BNT’s with mecate reins although she just had split leather reons. She ran into another horse, knocking that horse to its haunches, continued like this the whole class, her jog was a hopping movement all over the arena, walk was a series of bucks and rears….a HOT MESS… there were over a dozen of us in this class so she had no ribbon, so what does she do? Enters the open class with 4 trainers!!!!!!…..same story. If that had been my horse in there with a trainer on him and this happened I would be livid!!!!! The horses in the ring were national champions getting ready to go to regionals and hopeful repeats at Nationals, they are stallions and have big plans on breeding careers based on their winning careers. This woman’s poor choice to enter the classes put horses at jeopardy. Personally, I think they need to rename them pro classes. This August at the North American Arabian Horse Show World Championship in VA( yes know , non AHA sanctioned show ) no ammys can show in an open class if they have the same class offered for ammys!!!! I love it!
    Whew!!! Ok that’s my beef….now again; this is no reflection on YOU as you obviously proved you can ride with the big boys! But most of us need to stay where we belong.

  11. Way to go! It sounds like Legs may be a good reining horse. Any thoughts on doing that with him?

  12. The color of the ribbon only pales in comparison to the memory of a ride like that. Ribbons fade, but memories last.

    Sounds like you really enjoyed your horse. As it should be!

  13. Sounds like Legs was right where you needed him to be :) What a great ride. Congrats. And so cool that you can just let the stress go when you enter the arena.

  14. Sounds like a Great ride! Just LOVE the baby picture~!

  15. Love those rides. The color of he ribbons may fade, but the memories long outlast them.

    Here's to many more rides like that. It is an amazing feeling when you and your horse come together like that.

  16. That sounded like an increadible ride. And beatifully was almost like being there.