I had plenty of time Saturday morning to walk my dog and eat a small breakfast before heading out to the show. Once I got there, I said “hi” to all the people I say “hi” to and watched a few rounds in the larger arena, to get familiar with the courses. I pulled Eli out and took him on a walk/graze/brush off the rice hulls and managed not to get too dirty pulling his bell boots off, although I was not 100% successful in staying spotless. Oops.
I went back out to watch a few more rounds in the larger arena and I really liked how the courses looked. However, those outside lines were still riding short, so much so that after the first division finished, the lines were re-measured and adjusted. Which is good because given the horse I had Saturday, I would have died had they not opened up the lines a bit.
I took my time tacking up and walked around the warm-up area, gradually picking up a trot and seeing how Eli’s canter felt. He was pretty quiet, although again, once I started trying to trot him over a very low vertical he woke up. A lot. We did have one spook incident — the sound the measuring tape made set off Eli and another (very nice and experienced) horse so they kind of both spooked a little but then settled down easily. We went back to trotting the vertical, then going up in height and cantering it. My trainer stressed that I needed to get there on the small step and think add, because gunning it in front of the jump would light Eli up too much. I.e., stop doing what I always do and give Eli a fair ride. We finally got some good efforts my trainer was satisfied with, so we went over to the in-gate.
I don’t have video, but our “warm-up” (not for points) course was nothing short of a nightmare-shitshow-trainwreck-fratparty-aftermath. Actually, the first single jump was fine, and then we got into the far corner to take the first diagonal line and couldn’t get out of the corner. Eli was …. I don’t really know … spooking at something? Like, some people standing outside the ring? I usually do not have a forward progress issue with Eli, but he got stuck in that corner for a hot minute. We got out of it and I had to LEG to get him straight to the second fence, and he took all that leg seriously so I had to circle before the third fence. I do wish I had video so I could see what the hell went on in that corner, but after we got over the third fence, the rest of the course was fine. Eli was just going to be a bit hot about everything, so my trainer reiterated “think the add step” and to keep a short rein so I don’t have to make such big moves with my hands. Which I did anyway sometimes — I was not doing my best riding on Saturday, and I think a combination of that and seasonal allergies had Eli flipping his head. In the warm-up, he was snorting (not spook snort, just nostril-clearing snort) quite a bit and was acting like he had a bug up his nose. Never did I think he was being bad about anything — this was our first show in 10 months and my expectations were have fun and be nice to my horse and be a good barn-mate.
I do have video of our hunter rounds, and you can see Eli was a little hot and also tossing his head — he wanted to GO and my job was to convince him we would get there with a little less rocket fuel. Ah, finesse and rocket fuel … have you ever tried to combine the two? I couldn’t get it done Saturday, that’s for sure. But Eli was giving excellent jumping efforts at many of the fences and he was getting leads, too, which makes me happy. He just needed to be reminded that we don’t leave out strides in the hunter ring.
We went into the flat class with too much energy, so I had to basically halt Eli a bit hard for any downward transition. I “showed” him when I could and trained on him a little bit in between some decent gaits. In short, I rode the horse I had.
A lot went through my mind about our classes (A LOT, a lot). We have a lot of work to do. I have a lot of work to do. First, I can’t fix Eli’s head tossing with my hands. But I also can’t leg him out of it straight to a fence because then he gets flat and has a hard rub. So, the answer is develop my seat more, or at least remember to try seat first before other things … Eli rides quite well off my seat now at home most of the time. I think spending a little more time schooling the afternoon before and being a little more methodical about it would also help. Schooling a hunter before a show takes a different approach than schooling a jumper before a show and I need to adapt to that. And let’s throw grid work back into the mix while we’re at it — I realized we had not done any in AGES and that some gymnastics would be beneficial to us both.
I am also going to try a standing martingale on him, something he hasn’t worn since I bought him. He was always a bit testy about a standing, to put it mildly, but at the time he hadn’t had his sinus issue addressed yet, nor was it known. Perhaps he would be more amenable to a standing now? I am well aware that some readers may consider a standing a “gadget,” but when fitted properly it is not out of place in the hunter ring. And if it makes Eli slightly easier to steer at a show if he is being a bit hot, then I won’t get stuck into a pulling battle that neither horse nor rider can win. He won’t have to wear a standing much — I’d only use it for shows, but I need to try it at home first to make sure he won’t react badly to it.
So … seen any deals on high-end, horse-size standings, new or like new (no nameplates on used ones)?