Well that horse show was… something. It was considerably muddier than I expected, with plenty of standing water and even more boggy mud. You know what horse is a terrible freaking mudder?
I’ve never really ridden one that feels as terrible in mud as Henry does, but bless his heart he just really sucks at dealing with conditions like that and always has. I can’t even really describe how bad it feels. He balls himself up and gets angry, and loses all confidence in where he’s putting his feet. His little downhill short-strided way of going really doesn’t help things. The only time we’ve ever really had problems at shows with him has been when it’s muddy. Plus he’s not drilled and tapped at the moment because, ya know, he’s not really showing right now, so I didn’t have the option of putting studs in (I definitely would have if I could, that probably would have helped significantly). So… I was pretty skeptical about Henry’s ability to horse show as soon as I saw the footing.
I hacked him on Friday when I got there and he felt ok in the higher areas of the field, so I was hoping it would dry enough by the next morning to be passable. I decided to do dressage and see how he felt, and well… that was a shitshow. As soon as he got down there in that boggy ring he got super up and down, and I ended up just avoiding the muddiest parts of the ring (had to kind of chuckle at the “not accurate circle” and “did not use corner” comments… yes ma’am you are 100% correct, that was intentional). Honestly though by the second friggin circle I almost just stopped him and retired, it felt that unpleasant. A few horses pulled shoes, some struggled as much as Henry did, and others didn’t even seem to notice the mud. Henry though – he just was not handling that footing at-the-heck-all, so I went and scratched him after dressage. The footing in the showjumping was a lot better than that dressage ring (except for a couple of the corners) but I didn’t see a point in potentially causing a problem or rattling his confidence over a Novice round at a schooling show. I’d rather be overly cautious and save him for another day. Plus it was WAY hotter and more humid than the forecast had originally called for, and y’all know that’s really hard weather for him. Just not worth it. So, Henry’s weekend ended very early.
Presto on the other hand… he was one of the horses that didn’t even seem to notice that it was muddy. That kid has always been pretty good on his feet and on all different surfaces and that’s definitely true under saddle too. So, we’ll recap his show experience instead.
They allowed schooling the day before the show started, so Megan took advantage of that and got him out to pop over some stuff. The plan right now is to do the YEH at Chatt in July, and 1) the 4yo YEH in the second half of the year includes a lot of Novice, 2) Chatt is pretty big and visually imposing anyway. Megan entered him in the Novice this weekend for that reason, but the Novice at this show was still soft, especially compared to Chatt, so jumping a couple bigger or more challenging things was a smart decision. Plus, like… Presto has yet to notice height or complexity in anything that’s been asked of him. He’s bold and willing and finds it all pretty easy. Megan hopped over a few smaller fences to warm up, then did a couple of Training combinations and called it a day.
It’s easy to forget how little this horse has really done and seen, or that he’s only been in training for 4 months, he comes at it so naturally. In the month since his first show at Texas Rose he’s had most of that time off, and had only jumped once. He’s only XC schooled a few times ever. But it just… makes perfect sense to him. Plus Megan has developed him well and prepared his basics so that the jumps just come more easily, and he definitely doesn’t find it to be physically challenging at all. I don’t think you’d look at him and guess he was as inexperienced as he really is. Definitely a different caliber horse than I’ve had before (plus, ya know.. never had the benefit of being able to put one in full time pro training, which… makes a huge difference)!
On Saturday for dressage, his warmup got a little bit interesting when a train came through. The edge of the warmup area has a fairly busy train track, and it is LOUD and kinda scary to see a massive train speeding by through the trees. He got a little worried and wound up (as many horses do there) but what I really liked about it is that he was able to go back to work and forget it once the train had passed. He doesn’t carry the tension around in his brain the way Henry does, or work himself up into brain overload. He has a moment, and then goes about his business again. It only took a few minutes to get him back together, and he was able to go in the ring and put down a solid test, train completely forgotten.
He scored 32.9, which was about a point higher than Texas Rose, but I thought it was a better test. He was more consistent in the contact and not wanting to look around/gawk quite as much. He maybe was a little less free in his ground cover, but given the footing I think that’s understandable. The stretchy bits are still hard for him (there’s so much to see, and wouldn’t you rather SEE ALL THE THINGS than stretch your head down?) but he did show a tad more inclination to want to reach down for the bit in the stretch movements in this test than he did in the last one. Considering that he hasn’t worked that much between the two shows, I thought there was still a clear difference, even if the score didn’t show it. Either way though, 32.9 is super respectable for his second ever dressage test and first Novice. He beat me and Henry by like 4 points hahahaha (literally no one is surprised by that, right?).
That was good enough to leave him sitting in 4th after dressage, off to a good start!
Tomorrow, the jumping phases…