SmartPaker Mollie recalls her first show of the season
On the weekend of April 5th, my new horse, Eden, and I had our first show of the season. Lucky for us, it was in our backyard. My seven-year-old Oldenburg mare lives the sweet life at Kingsway Farm, which is also where Fieldstone Show Park is located. Being a new horse owner, I thought this would be a great starting point for a successful 2013 show season. Eden has lived there for close to five months, and I figured she would be used to the rings, trees, jumps, trucks, etc.
Well, according to my horse, having the horse show come to you is seriously scary.
This was NOT a normal day at Kingsway, according to Eden. Talk about storing up energy from the winter! My horse had a Mary Poppins bag full of energy that she just kept pulling out of nowhere.
To be fair, Fieldstone’s Spring Fling show was the first time that Eden and I had gotten to ride outside in Massachusetts. A born-and-breed Texas gal, she has tried to get used to the frigid New England winters, and 38ºF was neither of our ideas of a “Spring Fling” show.
My class was the last of the day, and I was told to get there around noon so we could make sure she was prepped and ready to go. I woke up at 6:00 a.m. on my own on Saturday because I was so excited to show off my wonderful new mare in the hunter world. After cleaning my entire apartment top to bottom and running a few errands, I got to the barn at 10:00 a.m. My assistant trainer, Bridget, looked at me and said, “What are you doing here so early? I said noon!”
Regardless of what Bridget said (of course she was happy to see me), I was glad I showed up early because my trainer was getting on Eden to do the warm-up. I watched as he rode her around the ring. I thought, “What a gorgeous horse I have! Look at her trot!!” Eden and my trainer went over a total of three jumps before they walked out of the ring. “Well, that’s just un-rideable.” Dumbfounded, I said, “What?! I thought she looked great!” Clearly a very proud horse mom, my mare can do no wrong.
Eden was lunged for a good 30 minutes before she finally seemed to shake some of her energy. I cooled her off and put her back into her stall until it was time for me to get on and ride her around the warm-up ring.
Once I got on her, she was perfect! We were getting our lead changes quietly, she was waiting for the fences and not hunting them down like a jumper. My trainer agreed, and we were ready to go into the ring.
I hope judges don’t take points off for talking to your horse in the middle of the show ring, because I literally had an entire conversation with my horse right in front of the judge. I patted Eden and said, “Whoa, good girl, Eden. This is fun!!” (You can decide if I was talking to myself or to my very green mare, who had her eyes bugging out of their sockets). I asked her to pick up the canter, and we made our way to the first fence. Beautiful first jump! The second jump was just like the first, although Eden had started to kick it into high gear. The last 4 jumps of the course were two lines—an outside line in five and a diagonal line in six. The outside line turned into a four and a half, and the diagonal line was a five. We were no longer in the hunter ring—we were in the jump-off.
The last two courses of the day were better, but not by much. At least we were no longer taking out strides. Tomorrow was a new day though, and we had a whole other class to improve in!
I got to the barn at 8:00 a.m. the next day, exactly two hours before Bridget told me to get there. (I am a creature of habit, apparently.) Eden had already been lunged and done the warm-up. When I walked into the barn, Bridget was walking her out to Ring 5 to lunge her for a second time. My trainer walked up to me and said, “I don’t know where your horse gets her energy from. Let’s try that again.” If she wasn’t tired after all that, then I might have a problem.
Our few jumps in the schooling ring were spot on, and she was, once again, listening really well. My trainers thought we were ready for our Blue/Red trip. The first two jumps were calm and collected, and we had a nice flow to our canter. The third jump was a single diagonal brick wall jump. I was zoning in on the fence and counted my three strides out in front of it. Nailed the distance! Then out of NOWHERE, Eden stopped, spun, and tried to take off running the other way. Whatever was at the end of the ring she was not going near it. (Does it count as a refusal if you don’t stop in front of a jump, but after the jump?)
The only thing notable about our final three courses of the day was the barrel racing turns we took down at the same end where, apparently, a monster lived. After the show, I reflected on our classes, and even though they weren’t anywhere near perfect, it was a wonderful learning experience for the both of us, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Look on the bright side—it can only go up from here!
Oh, and after that, I added SmartCalm Ultra Pellets to Eden’s SmartPak to help her stay focused on me and not the “ring monsters.” Stay tuned for our next show update!