I had another ahh-haa moment at the schooling show this weekend. This was a big one! Our warm up sessions were beautiful, both the mare and I were relaxed she looked and felt great. Once again it all tensed up in the show ring. I never felt myself tense, but within moments of entering the in gate we were back in that place where I am afraid to sneeze because it might cause her to surge forward.After a few rail classes I was looking forward to our equitation pattern class but Grace gave me an explosive lead change on pattern which frustrated me because her changes at home have been beautiful every time. Sarah pointed out that I was allowing Grace to drop her shoulder and then swing her hind end, she was all over the place.
After the lunch break I did an exercise with Grace that we’ve been doing in our lessons. We ride a square; in the corners I ask for an inside bend, push the hip to the outside asking her to step over behind and then capture the movement with the outside rein using both legs to move the hind end forward. The result is a horse that picks up her shoulders, moves over her back and engages her hind end. I was able to complete the exercise one handed at the jog in the warm up pen. Grace looked and felt amazing she could almost be mistaken for a western pleasure horse. Sarah told me to capture that in my bubble and take it into the show pen. But wait, that would mean I would have to keep riding just like that down the rail. To get Grace to move like that means that I am fully aware of the position of her shoulders, hips and ribcage and I am constantly making small adjustments to keep them in line. LIGHTBULB!!! So I actually have to ride each stride in the show pen and by riding you mean not just sitting there hoping for the best. I went into a class of 25 horses and had the best rail class I’ve ever had. We didn’t place against all the shutdown pleasure horses but the experience was better than any placing. I even had a man walk up to me later who told me he really enjoyed watching me and my horse together.
We ended the day with Ranch Horse Pleasure and Western Riding which are a real treat for us since we both actually enjoy those classes. I was too tense at the beginning of my first Western Riding Class; still we nailed the line changes which were set at 24 feet. Sarah made me take my time going into the second class which made a big difference. Grace took over on one of the crossing changes later in the pattern throwing in some of her extra credit flying changes. I shut her down and got on her case about taking over. After that she waited on me before changing lead, sometimes I need to remember to school at the schooling show. I scratched the trail classes because I could tell the mare was tired and I was pleased with how we ended the day.
I’ve been on the fence about showing this year, it’s expensive, time consuming and there are times I don’t see the value in entering the same ring as the crab crawlers. Then I have moments like I did yesterday where I enjoy being in the show ring on Grace. I feel like we are just now coming into ourselves and getting to the point that we look like we belong at a horse show. One of my goals this year is to compete in the Ranch Horse Please class at AQHA shows. For now I plan to focus on riding every stride in and out of the show pen.