Sunday's show was a terrible disaster. No flowery prose or thoughtful reflections:
- Sydney was so tense that it felt like I was riding an un-broke three year old.
- The judge scored both tests, but really, most of the movements were simply un-scoreable.
- We "earned" a 56.5% at Intro C because the judge was being kind. I am not exaggerating. The walk was nice. Everything else was not even dressage.
- We "earned" a 50.208% at Training Level Test 1 with numerous comments that simply said, problems. And don't think that I am criticizing the judge in any way. I spoke to her before and after each test and explained that he was very tense so I was simply at the show to school. Her other comments, didn't happen, some canter shown, issues in halt, were her very polite way of writing something other than WTF? She was a very encouraging judge and even added the comment, Cute horse, lots of potential! Too bad about the tension!
- I tried my warm-up strategy, but he just got more and more tense.
- He simply couldn't "hear" me.
As soon as I was finished riding the second test, my first thought was ... that was a waste of gas money and an entry fee. There is no way that we got any "mileage" out of this show. NOTHING was gained by being there.
But that's never true, is it? The horse is always learning something even if it is not what we want him to learn. While I am very disappointed, I have to admit that there was incremental progress, just nothing like what I expected there to be. Sydney works brilliantly at home, and now I have a witness to prove how lovely he moves and works, so I expected something decent at the show. I guess I was just expecting too much.
Here is what was improved or remained solid:
- He loaded very quietly in the dark at home - remained solid.
- He rode super quietly the entire two hour trip - remained solid.
- He unloaded like a gentleman, and while he had big eyes, his feet stayed planted while I got out of the trailer - improved.
- He tied to the trailer with ZERO pawing and minimal whinnying - improved.
- I felt comfortable leaving him tied to the trailer and didn't time my away trips. Last time he was good for only up to about 5 minutes of away time - improved.
- Each time I returned, he looked relieved to see me, but he wasn't overly nervous, and he was standing there with no other horses in sight - improved.
- He ate a ton, peed, and pooped - all signs of a horse dealing with stress in a healthy way - remained solid.
- He actually walked for a few minutes as I started my warm-up - improved.
- He did whirl and spook a few times, but he never bucked, he never kicked out, and he never reared, all of which he did at the last show - improved.
- After my last test, I rode him back to the trailer without any feelings that he might lose it - improved.
- He loaded up quietly for the ride home - remained solid.
- When I stopped for gas, he looked fairly relaxed in the trailer as he munched on hay; there was no whinnying or pacing (I've pulled the back divider so when a horse travels alone he gets two stalls) - improved.
- When I got home, I turned him out where he rolled, trot around, got a big drink, and then wolfed down his lunch - remained solid.
The good is that he is traveling well and dependably standing tied to the trailer even when left alone with no other horses for moral support. The bad is that he is a nervous wreck when asked to work.
I fought tears the entire afternoon and evening. I felt like such a total failure. I couldn't stand to write anything down as even thinking about the show left a bad taste in my mouth. I have started on a plan that involves two different strategies. I'll write about them as I get started. For now, I am not giving up; we'll do the Tehachapi show in two weeks and then go back to Hansen Dam in October.
Some of you ride OTTBs. Is progress always this slow? Will he ever be "relaxed" in a show environment? How many more outings will he need before he realizes that death isn't imminent? I would love some (positive) feedback.
If you really think this is never going to happen, kindly keep it to yourself as I am not there and, I am not big on quitting.