Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fair 2010

For those of you who are unaware, I am a member of 4H and have been since 2003. My first fair was in 2004. That year was a big learning experience and I won fewer ribbons than I could count on one hand (but, again, I learned a lot). The next year, Misty and I won Champion for English and Reserve for Western. At the shows, we became solid performers. Over the course of several years, I took Misty from trotting, to loping, to cantering, then to running in speed classes, as well, and after a year of running, we were actually big competitors in that discipline, too. I was doing everything by myself as far as training her went. It was not until winter of 2007 that I began Parelli with her. All along, I was not too concerned with winning. I enjoyed winning, but I was mainly concerned with what other people thought of Misty's and my performance. Pretty soon, my concern made me a very nervous person during the summer, and that nervous pattern transferred to Misty.

It is now my goal to conquer my nervousness (which I have done pretty well, now) and to reverse the pattern I created in Misty. This year's fair was the embodiment of that goal. Fair is a five day thing for the horses. Sunday is arrival, Monday is in hand day, Monday night is fun night, Tuesday is pattern day, Tuesday night is speed, Wednesday is English day, Thursday is Western day, and Thursday night is winding down night and departure. Friday, we put the horses all out back to graze for the day while we cleaned up the fair grounds, trailer, house, and farm and then napped. It was a big effort and I will give a blow by blow when I have time.

I also don't want to let myself forget to record Saturday and Sunday's sessions with Blu and Misty.

The Blow by Blow of Fair will be coming soon as I's comin'!

Sunday night: Misty and I wandered around looking for my mom, who was going to give us the green ball to play with so I could build Misty's confidence. She was pretty high on adrenaline, but then it did not take her long to begin to relax a bi and start connecting with me. I gave her lots of rope all the time. Here and there I would stop and gently wiggle her to a stop. Soon she was stopping with me, no wiggling needed. In the warm up arena, I began playing with her. Some of what we did and some notes about it:
~circling after the ball, changes of direction and stopping at the ball to get her to focus on it
~lots of "thanks I needed that" throughout
~Blu/Connor/Ginger were all out in the beginning, then were each put away. She was able to reach a relaxed enough point before they left that she did not go haywire when they disappeared.
~wanted to trot (not walk or canter)
~wanted to change direction toward the barn
~finally got slack in the line and was able to play with transitions, but then the slack went out again, so I focused on that again
~ended the session when she completed a circle with slack in the line all the way around
~I put the ball in front of her and she kicked it all the way back to the barn.
I was not exactly where I wanted to be when we ended (I was hoping for just a little bit more relaxation from her), but she had definitely calmed down a lot.

I was a nightguard, so I slept on the grounds in a donated RV that had amazing air conditioning and a sofa sleeper, but I could not get to sleep that first night. I ran around the grounds, visited the horses, ran some more, washed Blu's water bucket (he pooped in it!!). By the time my shift started at 4 a.m., I had achieved about 2 hours of interrupted sleep. Excellent!

Monday: Showmanship was a huge waste of time. I played with Blu before it started, but it was before I was cleaned up. Basically, I spent the whole morning cleaning my stinking white-spotted horse only to go into the ring with him not very attentive and do a silly silly job of the pattern. He was not as bad as he has ever been, and we did beat ONE person (placing 5th of 6), but he was not 100% mentally or emotionally collected, so the physical did not show up. I just went in and stayed calm and let him try his best, which I could tell he was trying to think. I was pleased with myself for keeping my cool. When we came out of the ring, I had to put him in his stall and help everyone else make it into their showmanship classes. It was a big hustling effort with everyone but me running around with their heads rolling away. I just smiled and helped. When everything quieted down, I took the time to play Blu into a better state. Also, Connor stepped on Bridget's foot and nearly broke it directly following her showmanship class. She spent the morning and afternoon at the hospital getting xrays and Dr's orders. Fun.

Misty had a great Monday. It made me feel like fair was going to be excellent (not ribbons-wise, just emotional-wise). I had one class with her, a ground driving obstacle course. I played with her two times before the class. Our circling game notes are:
~Looked for slack in the line(that took a while)
~Sporadically did friendly game before sending her left or right to make sure she was confident
~Changes of direction, and lo and behold, she did them great with my new and improved timing!
~Played with transitions. Canter to walk was rough at first because she was not quite 100% connecting with me in the beginning. But they got to where I could go through my phases and go the walk in about 1/2 a circle. Up transitions where easier because she was kind of high. In fact, several times, I spent an awfully long time asking her to maintain the walk--she really just wanted to keep jogging.
At the end of my circling game, I tried back up by the tail and it was like I was leading her by a halter! Whoa! I tried it again and was still there! How great. As I began to drive her, things just began to come together. There was a line of cones next to the driving arena and I used those to set a goal for me to quit upon reaching. I decided that when she could get around the end cones without a big fuss, we would call it good because when I started, I frequently had to do a lot of correcting there. As she continued to not understand that we were going to continue around the weave on the end cones, I put in a pause/rest after the loop around the ends were complete. That made things much easier and we reached our goal. My mom told me as I was putting her back in her stall that she looked very connected.
When my class was coming up, I realized that I forgot to pack my long driving lines. I asked around and finally found someone who had a long line I could use. Unfortunately, that left me with two heavy lines to hang on her bit and thread through the surcingle D-rings. I was able to borrow two large rings to clip to the surcingle, but the heaviness was a major communication hindrance. I warmed her up as best I could with the funky gear and we went in the class first. When I rang the bell, Misty was so relaxed that she bent down and ate. I know it was naughty, but I was SO HAPPY that she was calm enough to cock a leg way away from all the other horses, the barn, the normal arenas--I was the only one who was consistent--new environment, new horses (she rarely sees minis and they kind of weird her out), etc. I was her hub of confidence. I was so happy that I was smiling all the way through our pattern. Misty really tried her best to work with the lines and we completed the pattern correctly, but it looked ridiculous because I had to keep lifting the lines high to feed them back to her. It lightened the mood for everyone around. We got 3rd, aka last, but I was SO happy and proud of Misty.

Tuesday morning, I decided to do things for Blu, make sure he was ready for his first class. Showmanship morning was tough because we were in the first class and there was SO much cleaning up to do, but Tuesday, our bill was English/Western Riding Pattern (a pattern class with 8 lead changes), Reining, Judge's Choice Horsemanship Pattern, and Dressage. By the time Blu was set to go, it was pretty close to show time and I had not ridden him yet, so in a fluster, I decided to do skip ground work and ride him so he would be ready. As he was cantering, I thought, "Gosh, this is scrambly," then Blu fell over, going right under the plastic dressage chain. He stood back up, I stood back up, we were fine, but that snapped me out of it, that direct-stupid-line thinker I was being. I told my mom I was scratching out of the first class and going to take the time to play with Blu on the ground so he could canter properly in the reining class. I was ticked with myself for even going to that spot I had been at, but hind sight is you-know-what.

Some things happened that got me very upset and emotional and my whole noble plan ended up going belly-up and Blu's day in the ring was much less awesome than it could have been. Our reining pattern was trashed and so was our horsemanship pattern. I was planning on scratching from dressage, but as we were walking over to watch, a show mom asked if I had asked her to read for me. Right then I decided I wanted to do this. I looked at the pattern, watched the other competitors, relaxed, let go of a lot of tension, and went into the ring. Blu was much better. I did not worry about him being physically collected, round, etc. I just let him relax and make lovely transitions, perfect circles, straight lines, and settled halts.

Some more things were said and I ended up running Misty in speed in a very poor emotional state (both of us). I rode English for the first time competing and had to do a bit switch from snaffle to kimberwick after speed and action. I really wanted to just trot the patterns, but that was not happening. For poles, Misty hardly needed any direction. For speed and action, I fell off (it was the most feathery landing, and the 7th or 8th time I have fallen off in my life. Definitely softest fall). I just remember losing my seat, thinking "I am going down," very calmly, and in slow motion, leaning down and pushing my hands on the right side of her neck so I kind of launched myself away from her. As I floated through the air, I looked after her and watched her swerve to the left to avoid trampling the judge and go to the gate. Then I relaxed and just slid through the aren. The breath was not even knocked out of me. I did skid six feet and as I lay there for the first moment and went "Puh" my dad saw the dust cloud poof out of me. I stood up and shook like a dog, waving a thumbs-up as my 4H leader who was announcing for the night told me to stay down if I was hurt. I looked like I had been freshly exhumed from a beach and there was more sand in my breeches than I care to share, unless you need some for your children's sand box.
I did the bit switch because in the snaffle was folding up and pinching her. The kimberwick made a world of difference. She stopped gagging, I could keep light hands, and she was no longer tossing her head. In the flag race, I have a photo of picking up the flag as well as throwing the thing right into the sand and watching it plop on the ground. Misty ran fast and went right next to the barrels, though. Our cloverleaf barrel race was a 23 or 24 second run, I like it to be at about 19 seconds. Misty tooka long drag toward the gate after going around the first barrel and I was barely able to get her back on track before we hit the time line and got DQed. We got 5th in that class. The last class was a new pattern called the bowtie. Misty did another huge drag toward the gate after going around the first barrel.
This show, to me, was a huge learning experience. It was Misty's second speed show because she has been injured at all the others but one. Her gate problems were the same, her emotional problems were the same--I really did not want to run her in my heart, but other factors that I am not at liberty to discuss made me feel like I had no choice but to do the show. I spoke with a lot of people, especially those wanting to hear about my fall (I "never" fall off, obviously).
There are some situations where the horse cannot come first, even if you want to put her first, unless you plan on hurting some people. I felt so out of control that night, like I could not make the decisions I wanted to make. If I could have a do over of the night, what I would do differently is . . . have Connor step on my foot and take myself to the hospital for the evening? What I really struggled with was communication. I was trying really hard to make myself understood, but my perspective was just not being accepted. The most terrible things were said. However, from the pain of Tuesday, I went home, slept, and woke up the next morning with a clean slate and a new day, ready to love my horse.

Wednesday: I played with Blu, don't recall what my online play was, but went into the first class, may have gotten 7th out of 10 or something in equitation, then got 5th or something out of 10 or something, but I understood that Blu and I would not place high because Blu has not mastered collection and at the canter and he does not have the "head set." I of course am not aiming for head set, but collection. He has a "head set" at the walk and trot because he can collect at those gaits. Most everyone in the class has achieved the proper "head set" via martingales and tying their horses' heads down while longeing. Lovely. So, I don't use ribbons to determine success in these rail classes. Blu was wonderful. He was mentally and emotionally with me, a huge improvement from yesterday.
Jumping was absolutely the best part of my fair. I had him signed up for a two jump hunterhack class and an 8 jump equitation over fences class. I was pretty sure that I would scratch from the 8 jump class because by the time you get to jumping, your horse has been through a long day, and this is only Blu's third show this year. So, went in to our first jumping class with competition it--there were 6 of us. The practice jump was to go over the 18'' jump then swerve before going over the second jump that was 2 or 3 stride following. Blu looked great. We went straight out and Blu got his bite of food from Maggie who was standing with it. Lights went on and I knew he knew what it was for. "This is just like at home!" In the class, Blu had great impulsion, and the horse who can only plow and scramble through jumps jumped the 18'' then the 24'' inch like a pro. He went to do the same swerve we did for practice, but I put him back on track to go over the second one and he put up no fuss. Just an "Ok, yes ma'am." My mom could not even tell he started to swerve. Then, to make matters better (!), Blu performed a lovely hand gallop and then halted right where we were supposed to with absolute willingness. I attribute his readiness to stop to the fact that my dad was watching the class and holding Connor right where I needed to stop (Bridget could not be there to get him out because of her foot, so my dad was grazing him when my class started and he had moved over the fence to watch, not knowing how that would affect the dynamics of Blu's performance). I don't think anyone noticed him. Well, we got FIRST PLACE. I was so proud of Blu. I watched the others jump and he really did deserve it. We did very well on the rail and Blu got his grain after the class let out, plus many hugs and snuggles from my family. Blu loves a munch and snuggle. I scratched Blu from his other class and let him relax in his stall with some hay. I placed in bareback, not in trail, but I don't remember much about those classes because my mind was totally focused on pink bunnies and purple unicorns after that Hunter Hack class.

Thursday: We got there very early and I did some circling game in the arena, first so Blu could get comfortable in the ring before it was time to do the class in it. He was very exuberant and we played a lot of bucks out of him!

I saddled him and played with him some more. More bucks of exuberance taken care of before I was on him. Then it was off to class. We totally bombed the pattern because he got groggy standing in line to go in. I attribute that to his show experience. I just go in and he is not paying much attention to me or not mentally fast enough to understand me. He did have really nice pivots and back up, plus a very smooth and relaxed jog. Actually, the only problem with the pattern was that he took off on the wrong lead and pushed through my leg into an awkwardly shaped circle for that lope. I guess totally bombed is incorrect. It was a good pattern with a two large faults that put us out of contention for a ribbon. In pleasure, though, I was very surprised when Blu got 5th out of the 12 or something there. In trail, Blu tried everything, but struggled over the fan at the lope and then followed me when I ground tied him, so I had to go back and reiterate "Whoa." We got a 35.5 score, and the 6th-1st range places were 44-52, so no cigar. I think we should have gotten a higher score on the rope gate because Blu did it nearly perfectly but for one step to the right when we were backing up. He was relaxed, willing, etc. We only got a 5 out of 10 on the obstacle, though. Oh, well, I know how awesome my horse is.
Bareback was the best class. Out of 6, we placed 2nd. The horse/rider we did not beat is a girl in my 4H club (I think of her as the sweetest person in the entire universe) who goes to circuit shows and has been high pointing or reserving at every show they go to this year (I think they have been to 30-40 shows this season). That is the pair we did not beat. I felt good about that. I did ride-a-buck, a fun class and placed 6th out of 20 or so. In that class, a person puts a piece of paper under your knee and you win by keeping it there the longest. It used to be a dollar and the winner gets to keep all the dollars. I won it when I went in and they used dollars. I think I won twenty bucks on Misty. It is fun.
The other awesome moment on Thursday was when this young girl was practicing the trail obstacles and could not get her horse through any of it, especially stepping on the bridge. After watching her few times, I asked her if I could maybe help her with the bridge. She said sure. I told her that I would ask her to stop and go, so to be ready to stop on my cue. Go. Before he could put his feet on the bridge or step to the side of it, I had her stop and back up. After waiting a few seconds, I asked her to go forward again. This time, I asked her to stop as soon as he had one foot on the bridge. He stepped his second foot up and after no more than 5 seconds, I asked her to back him up. He got a rest then repeated, but this time after stopping with two feet on, I did not have her back up. There, on the bridge, I said to her, "Now, let's wait for a bit and he will probably start licking his lips like this," I imitated a horse licking and chewing. She gave me a funny look and leaned over to watch his mouth. When Sunny began licking and chewing a moment later, she looked at me with her mouth open then exclaimed, "Are you psychic?!" I laughed, because that is just not the response I expected from her. I explained the theory behind why horses do that and why we did what we just did. "Now, ask him to walk over." He stepped all the way on and went right over and I asked her to stop again and let him relax. Her mouth was open again. "Now, let's see if he can walk fluidly over it." Tralalala. Perfect. She then trotted over to her dad and asked, "Did you see that?!!" It was the most rewarding thing, helping her. She is friendly with me because her speed horse looks just like Misty and ever since we have been buddies, so this was really cool. Oh, and by the way, that simple little change in how she handled the bridge made Sunny more trusting and cooperative with the other obstacles. She got 3rd in her 10+ class.

Thursday Night: I played with Misty on the ground for a LONG time getting her left brain so that all the 4H kids could ride her for our bareback horse-swap-athon. I started with aiming for her attention on me. It looked a lot like the level one video of Linda and the one-eyed horse. She was stary eyed and high-headed for a long time before she finally started coming around. I played with my homework items at that time and got really great transitions after Misty finally put slack in the line. At first in the arena, Misty was tight and tense, but after some riding and relaxing, she finally chilled out. I was able to let several people ride her and they all got down reluctantly and commenting on how smooth she was. I got to ride (and vaulted onto) a 17 hand Hanoverian named Zouse (rhymes with "mouse"). He was one of the jumping horses today. If his rider sticks with it and betters herself, he has a TON of natural talent jumping (duh) and they will be able to do a lot together. Otherwise, I WANT HIM!! He was very tight and head-tossy with her, and she could not stop him very well. By keeping a loose rein, I was able to go from a canter to a trot to a walk without touching the reins. His trot was a lot of motion all over, but using what I know about fluidity, I was able to sit it just fine. My mom said I made it look like it was smoothest ride ever. The other horse that sticks out in my mind is a horse named Bunny. She was ticked. I waited for her to give me permission to get on, which took a long time. Then, once I was on, I did not ask her to do anything. We just stood in the middle. The rider thought I was afraid of her, but I explained to her that Bunny was taking it very personally that all these people were just getting on her and pushing her around. The rider said that this horse was the biggest challenge she had ever had because she has such fight in her and gets so angry (the horse, I mean). I got down when bunny offered to walk without pinning her ears and the rider put her in her stall so she did not have to be ridden by any more random people.

Many hours. Many days. Many horses. Many lessons. My last fair.

Natural Horsewoman Out.

No comments:

Post a Comment

About Me

My photo
I am a young horsewoman with a million things on my mind. I have been a student of the horse all my life. As a little girl, I had a desire to understand horses on deeper levels. I believed that there was no such thing as a bad horse, and I believed that all horses were beautiful. One might say that I was a naive child, but I guess I don't have an excuse anymore, because I still believe all of that, and Parelli Natural Horsemanship is helping expand on this perspective.

What We Are Currently Playing With

  • Moving Close Circles at Liberty
  • Soft, Balanced Canter on 45' Line
  • Zone 5 Driving