September 3, 2009

Lights, Camera, SHOWTIME! Pt I

Well, I had no manageable canter but that did not deter me: our farm had a schooling hunter show coming up and danged if I wasn't going to enter! Surely I could canter in a circle, even if Solo WAS falling all over himself I could at least control him by staying in tighter circles at all times.

So another dream was about to come true, to show my very own glowing steed and gallop a victory lap, blue ribbons streaming from our bridle as the crowd roared.....or at least a couple show moms clapped halfheartedly?

About three days before the show, you could feel the atmosphere as the farm change. The ring was dragged, jumps were moved and decorated, lessons intensified as we all prepped. Tack was cleaned and horses bathed. Solo felt it too. By Friday night, his barely controlled canter had disintegrated into a half-bucking bolt of a transition that became a haul at Mach 7. Brakes? What brakes? My quiet, mostly obedient horse had been overtaken by his TB half and become a hot, snorting, running ball of fire. Basically, he was unrideable.

I scoff in the general direction of your show-related aspirations!
My heart crumpled Friday night as I was forced to admit to myself that there was NO WAY I could navigate him safely around a hunter course the next day. Here I was, with a perfectly good, immaculately clean horse that I couldn't even freaking ride. I sat in front of his stall with my chin in my hands in utter dejection with doubt and depression battling it out in my head.

You should just sell him, you can't even ride him properly, you've completely messed him up, just give up." (Doubt can be cruel and quite persuasive.)

Now wait just a minute! I said.This is Solo's farm -- all he knows is that tension is in the air, trailers are coming in, I can't really blame him for being nervous. After all, he's never been to show before as far as I know.

And then it hit me. He'd never been to a show as far as I knew. Well, duh, of COURSE he was spooky and nervous and crazy, he had no idea what was going on. I had a new plan.

Saturday morning, instead of putting on my breeches and saddling up, I took my (immaculately clean!) horse out of his stall, put on his halter, and proceeded to spend the day leading him around the warm up area and arena, just taking in the sights.

Yes, he was spooky. Yes, he was jumpy. But I just let him stand and stare and blow and examine it all. I had learned by that point that he was the kind of horse who needed to look at things and think about them. Once allowed to do that, he would be fine. And by the end of the day, he was relaxed, grazing near the arena, nostrils returned to normal size and whites of eyes put away for another, more worthy occasion.

That day, I learned the value of mileage. I learned that we cannot expect our horses to fearlessly forge right into everything like a seasoned pro. A seasoned pro gets that way by seasoning and not just with paprika (oh, I crack myself up!). What at first seemed like a lost day, on examination afterwards turned out to be a priceless training opportunity. Solo had just learned that all the hustle and bustle and noise and dust and speakers and trailers and pennants were harmless. Now we could take that positive experience and use it as a stepping stone to the next one. And that, my friends is mileage!

Next goal: to actually RIDE my horse in the show!


  1. Had Solo been watching Monty Python's Flying Circus? Lol. "I scoff in the general direction..." has a definite Python-esque ring to it.
    Sounds like that show was a great learning experience for the big red lad.

  2. Ah, you have uncovered my not-so-secret Python love...