It’s official: our first show of the season is in the books! Overall, it was an awesome weekend. I had so much fun with my barnmates and everyone rode really, really well. Sometimes the first show of the year is a crap shoot — horses haven’t been off the property in six months, nerves are a little high and we’re not quite in the horse show groove yet.
Going into the show, my plan with Miles was to school in both show rings on Friday, in preparation for showing in the 2′ Limit Hunter division in Ring 2, and the special 2’3″ Pam Graham Memorial Hunter Team Classic Saturday night in Ring 1. Miles arrived at the show happily and settled in well.
Friday afternoon, my best friend N and I got on to school. As we were walking to the warm-up ring, Miles started jigging. His head was straight up in the air, and he was huffing and puffing. Looking back, I think he had no idea up until this point that he was at a horse show. When he turned that corner and saw all the horses and all the rings, I think he was honestly shocked.
When he got to the warm-up ring, a horse in front of Miles had a small freak-out, which sent my horse over the edge. He tried to rear, but settled for jumping straight up in the air with all four feet off the ground. He did a few more crow-hops, before I got him settled enough to walk on. Accomplishment #1: Staying Mounted
N saw the entire fiasco, and asked if I wanted to get off. In true weenie adult amateur fashion, I said yes. But I didn’t — I stayed on and we walked around the ring together, which helped Miles relax. I was able to get a little but of trot and canter in without dying, so I guess that’s Accomplishment #2: Not giving up.
Where the Wheels Fall Off
Trainer came down to check on us, and determined that I should go flat in Ring 2, while N jumped around Ring 1. Miles did not enjoy this, and spent the entire 20 minutes crying for his new favorite mare friend. He relaxed when she returned, and I was finally able to do some w/t/c, and jumping. The jumps were small, and totally unintimidating, which I guess is Accomplishment #3: 2′ is finally not cause for anxiety. Despite my new-found confidence, our jump school did not start out well. Miles was brave to the jumps, but afterwards was a nightmare. He dropped his head and bucked and played after every. single. fence. We spent probably the better part of 45 minutes stopping after fences, circling and breathing. It was hard, really hard work, but we got through it. Accomplishment #4: Schooling my own horse.
Total Train Wreck
After getting our minds right in Ring 2, we stuck to the plan and headed for Ring I. The fences were set low, 18″-2′ tops. I walked around the ring once, and then set my sights on a small diagonal single. Miles jumped it well… and then turned into a bucking bronco. It was all I could do to stay on, and stop him by dragging his face into the fence. We regrouped, and tried another small diagonal single… which went even worse. He bucked so hard afterwards I was sure I was going to eat dirt. Somehow I stayed on… but I did almost crash into three other horses and another fence. We called it quits just as I felt tears brimming in my eyes.
I am an emotional person… so sometimes I just can’t help it. I was so embarrassed that I almost ran into other people. I looked like a total jackass, but more importantly, I made my trainer look bad by riding poorly.
But Miles was so amped up that after the fences, he would buck, buck, buck. So went slow, kept the fences down and worked through it — which we did. Then we went to Ring 1 to see how things would ride in there. Unfortunately, Miles lost his mind… again. He was a rodeo horse after every fence, bucking so hard I couldn’t even steer. After two fences where I nearly fell off and ran into every other horse in the arena, we called it quits. Accomplishment #4: Trying new things… even though it didn’t work out.
My trainer calmed me down, assuring me that she wasn’t upset. Miles just wasn’t playing nice today, but I was riding as well as I could. We went back to Ring 2, where things were immediately better. Miles and I were just much more comfortable in that ring, and after a few jumps where we didn’t die on the landing, I hopped off.
The New Plan
So after schooling, Trainer and I decided to scratch the Saturday evening Classic. I was really disappointed; but safety is always the number one priority. Plus, my goal for the weekend was to have fun, and looking like a jackass in Ring 1 didn’t sound fun at all. All Friday evening, I was pretty upset… upset that I didn’t ride better, upset that Miles’ reaction took me by surprise and upset that things were not going according to plan.
So it took me a while to remember that this is only my second show ever with Miles. He’d never been to this particular venue before, and he hasn’t been off the farm in six months. He’s still young — only seven or eight, and we’re still figuring him out. In the end, I decided to make having fun my priority, ensuring that Miles and I have a positive showing experience. Accomplishment #5: Not staying angry and changing my plan.