March 21, 2011
So, Bugs and I have been doing great with jumping together. Bugs has shown an extraordinary mix of willingness and relaxation when it comes to jumping. It has been so long since I had ridden that I am a green rider once again. This means I am not necessarily an asset to Bugs when we are jumping. We are learning together. Granted, I have taught him to free jump at liberty and this seems to have bolstered his confidence. He has learned how to jump without the distraction of a rider.
A couple of the ladies from the barn decided they wanted to go to the county show. It seemed like a good idea for Bugs to go too. Of course, we have not done something like this yet so I don’t know what to expect. Marcy and I agreed we had no idea how he would be once we were at the show but we might as well find out. We would play it by ear and work from his comfort zone and plan our activities accordingly. I was so excited. It was his first show and I hadn’t shown in 17 years!!
The plan was mostly for Bugs to get some exposure to new things and places. We were going in the lowest classes (if he seemed settled enough). We were leaving on Friday and coming home on Sunday. Nothing ventured nothing gained… right?
Everything was packed up and ready to go. Everything except Bugs. I had planned for everything but the trailer loading! I am going to elaborate on the trailer loading in my next post. For now I am going to focus on the show. So much to see in just one weekend!
We got to the show and his eyes were huge. I have not seen the whites of his eyes too often. I could see ’em now! His suspicious streak was bubbling up a little bit. He was not sure what all of this was about. He settled a bit after we started walking to his stall. He resisted going into his stall at first . Everything seemed to be a trap to him at this point. The grooms got him ready for a lunge. It seemed like a good way to get him settled and take the edge off. I am not a big proponent of excessive lunging but at his point it seemed like it could help to set him up for success.
During the lunging process he was looking around and not very fluid or focused to start but ended up doing pretty well. Then we got him ready to be ridden. He seemed to find comfort as we settled into familiar exercises that we practice at home. As he would bend around my leg and soften throughout, I would click and reinforce his cooperation. He just became more focused on me and seemed to ignore the distractions around him. He was great! I felt an internal sigh of relief. You never know what is going to happen when you change your horses environment.
When we planned on coming to the show I knew to be ready for anything. Everything seems so different when you are looking at it from your green horse’s eyes (or ears). I had clicker and target on hand in case I needed to get him focused on something constructive, to channel his energy. I had previously worked with Bugs to desensitize unusual stimuli. This goes a long way towards teaching horses to handle situations like this well and to minimize spookiness. Our work was paying off as he was making great decisions!
The next day we were ready to show. He was lunged a little in the morning. We started with flat classes. Next we had our jumping classes. Just the lowest classes (yes, against ponies!) He was terrific. He rode just like he was at home. I think he was starting to enjoy all that there was to absorb. He is a curious and nosy horse. Once he decided it was safe he seemed to move on to thinking it was kinda fun in the curious way, not the celebratory way. He was just taking in the sights.
Bugs got better as he went. The show helps me to gage our progress. Not only where we are on our skill level under saddle but also where Bugs is psychologically. He was relaxed, focused, willing and confident. I have to admit I felt like a proud parent. The blue ribbons didn’t hurt either!
Listen in to Friday’s show and hear all about how Bugs did at his first show! Click here for the link to the show.