Silver was first from our barn. He has very limited experience showing, and this was his first time going to a show at this location. Because he's off the track, and he did race enough times to know how to play that game, he of course assumed that he was going to race at the show. Excited atmosphere, got all cleaned up, I wore different clothes...
While excited, Silver was still trying really hard to listen to me and do the right things. Because of some confusion with my entry I ended up riding earlier in the day than I'd initially planned and didn't have quite as much warm up as I would have preferred. However, Silver was simply at this show to have the experience of showing. I didn't care how he scored, I just wanted him to have a chance to ride in this new style of riding (i.e. not racing) at a new location and realize that it's not a big deal. Strictly a psychology venture.
The expressions on his face clearly show his confusion! "WHAT just HAPPENED?? Kim, we definitely did NOT do this at the racetrack!"
When Silver and I were finished with our test it was Dewey's turn to go. I coached Sara in her warmup with Dewey, and it went really well.
When they got in the show arena they did well there, too. There are always little things we want to improve upon, but Dewey got his right lead in both of his tests (historically his more difficult lead) and was very level-headed. This was the first time Sara had taken him to a show and ridden a test with cantering in it, so we were all really proud!
In this photo Silver is trying to convince me we should lip-wrestle while I'm trying to coach Sara and Dewey. Silver would nuzzle my arm, and I'd scratch his withers. Then he would rub my arm with his lips and teeth. Then he would open his mouth wide like he was going to chomp me, and I'd swing my elbow and step away from him, much to his disappointment. The best way to discourage this type of rough-play from horses is to ignore it. If I'd gotten after him and engaged in the punching match it would have only egged him on making him think, "Oh yeah! She DOES want to play because she struck back!" The motive in the horse's mouthiness is important. If it's play and I don't want it, I stay out of the strike zone and ignore it. If it's an attempt to get my attention to tell me something is wrong (like the saddle doesn't fit), I check the tack and fix the issue. If it's truly aggression (something I see very rarely in horses) then I respond firmly with my voice and getting the horse out of my space. Silver is such a sweetheart though, this was definitely a gentle request to engage in some horseplay.
After the dressage tests were done we had a quick wardrobe change and headed out to the field at Triple Creek for some cross country schooling.
When we started out towards the field, as ususal I gave my "first cross-country school" lecture. I use this time to explain to the riders who have never done this with me before that I teach cross country a little differently than they may have experienced in the past. I tell them that we will initially go walk around the jumps, so that the horses can see the jumps from all angles and out of both eyes. Then, if we feel like it and the horses are calm, we may walk over some of the very small ones. We'll repeat this for each grouping of fences, and gradually add in some trot and canter work if everyone is feeling confident. At the end we may string a small number of jumps together to make a small course. The goal is to have the horses and riders feeling more confident and calm at the end of the ride than they were at the beginning. I'm good with any and all questions, and I need to know if the rider has concerns or doesn't want to do something. If they go home feeling better about their riding and their horses than when we started, that's success!
After walking around some fences, I had Dewey and Sydney walk through the ditch. I explain that these first cross country jump schools are done "trail riding style," slowly, calmly, and stepping into the shallow ditch if the horse wants to do that. To provide a frame of reference, it's basically a glorified trail ride, even at the upper levels when the horse is trail riding really fast over big jumps.
Dewey has done a lot of trail riding with me over the years, and he doesn't like to work too hard, so walking through the ditch was easy for him.
Before Linda bought her two months ago, Sydney had more traditional cross country training. She was a little nervous and confused about why on earth I wanted her to do these things slowly and carefully, but bless her heart she tried her heart out and did everything we asked of her.
Next we walked down the hill, through a little grove of trees, and after looking at the log from all angles Dewey and Sydney went over it.
Dewey had quite the squat on his first approach!
When we moved on to the next jump the horses walked around that too. I told both of them to keep their eyes up and look at Carol....
Then over they went!
After they had gone over several small jumps and were doing it in a balanced and controlled way we put several together as a little course.
Most of the time when I'm teaching cross country I'm also riding a green horse I need to school. This was a fun afternoon where I could totally focus on my riders and didn't need to divide my attention between my own mount and my students. We had a great time and can't wait to do it again next month!