How much fun was that weather last Saturday??? Snow, sleet, horizontal rain, wind and snow flakes flopping around like flounders. It was not exactly the perfect day for a horse show… but its Seattle in February! And gosh darn it, Im going to get my horses off the property, no matter what.
The plan this spring was to avoid the California trip which normally included Ram Tap and Twin Rivers events. While I have had a lot of fun doing that trip for the last 4 years, it just didnt make fiscal sense last year when the price of gas was around $4.50/gal. A 2011 record that coincided right when we were driving south, of course! So this year, I thought that I would do Plan B, not the pill, but which was to enter two clinics, 4 schooling shows and one Thunderbird show for the same price! First clinic was completed in January with Claudia Cojocar at Meg and Sandy Stafgaard’s lovely barn in Clearview. I rode Rory and Max and had a wonderful time, as usual. Claudia helps me as much with the basics of my riding as she does with my teaching. She is a fabulous instructor and I always learn something from watching her. Next, was the Aspen Derby, which was yesterday in all that fabulously breathtaking weather.
We packed up 8 horses yesterday and only ONE owner amongs them!!! Not to make the other owners feel badly, but it was a little funny to receive two phone calls explaining how the weather was icky and their to-do list was long…. would you mind riding my horse? Of course I will happily! Kiera Davis, the new working student, was going to experience immediate immersion with this experience! (and she passed with flying colors!)
Jon designed a fun course in their main arena, involving some portable XC fences and the bank at the side of the arena and lots of show jump fences. The first horse I rode, Cochlear, might have been the highlight of the day. I have been working very very hard with Lear this winter, trying to find out just where his insecurities lie in show jumping. This horse is a complicated animal, and I am totally committed to solving his confidence issues. Last year he did very well at BN, and moved to Novice at Rebecca and finished the season schooling at Training level. He was schooling well at that level at home, and yet, it was not the jumps that undid him… but the atmosphere at the shows. He has eyeballs that pop out to observe the smallest of changes. Nothing escapes his notice. And while he wanted to be a very careful jumper, the more careful he was the more he got himself into trouble with awkward jumps and the more nervous he would get.
He is about as laid back, nonchalant thoroughbred as I have ever met. If I had a living grandmother, he is the one I would put her on! He walks at a pace that a small child could out run, he stops to watch airplanes fly overhead, he nibbles his food slowly, and his most favorite thing is to stand still and just watch life happening around him. He might be the perfect instructor’s riding horse, one that willingly stands still in the middle of the arena for an hour. Perfectly entertained, ears up. I adore him. But I also worried about his competition abilities last year. So over the winter I designed a very specific program for him, and Aspen derby was the first test of my success.
Over the winter, I finally sussed that every day had to start with the most basic of tasks. Lear had to start out every single jump workout with a single pole… trotting and cantering for many, many circles. After that one pole was conquered, we progressed to an X jump. I would jump that single X for 10 times and infused would be the poles to confirm his confidence. At this point I could start to introduce verticals, oxers, liverpools, flowers etc.. anything I could think of and Lear would be bombproof. His swagger is noticeable when I did this plan, but I could not skip the steps. Every day starts out like he is a 3 year old, green horse. One other thing that made a huge difference is to give Lear plenty of rests with a long rein. If I kept the pressure on and continued with a 20 minute workout, he will feel demoralized. If I jump for 4 minutes, and drop the reins and reward him, then repeat… his attitude is through the roof. Ive never experienced such an emotionally tender horse who is also so blase about most things in his life. He is a reminder to me that each horse is very unique and it is in our best interest to try our hardest to be the horse’s guardian.
But, back to this weekend. Because it was a schooling show, I was able to use the warmup arena to my suiting. I had a warm up pole that he hesitated at for the first 5 attempts, but then he got in his groove and continued to improve. He jumped two BN rounds that were SO much fun!!
Taukalot and Olievia (JoAnn Green’s mare) also went to the derby after rehabing from injuries in 2011. I am thrilled to say that neither one acted like an orangutan and they both had a great day. Taco, the intrepid intermediate horse, had a clean round at Beginner Novice and also tried his hand at Novice! The goal being polite, easy jumps. We did have some of those, but there were also some jumps that were a wee bit enthusiastic! But I wouldnt expect any less from him!
Next adventure: Adult Riders hosted clinic with Scott Keach here at Polestar.