Now that I’ve had time to process our whirlwind first show experience, I can attempt to put together the lessons learned, both for Smitty and myself.
I think my own overarching feeling is that of relief in terms of the weekend. There have been times in the last couple months when I wondered what I have gotten myself into with a talented youngster [read: handful] like Smitty. I doubted that I would have the confidence to lead such a horse through new experiences and create a positive outcome. But driving away from the show, I felt that even the speed bumps along the way that I made the right decisions and gave Smitty the best experience I could given the environment. He learned to be polite in his stall, to look to me for guidance over new fences, and to focus on his person rather than the horses around him. Though he continues to need lessons in some ground manners, for instance the difference between nuzzling and nipping, I am learning that I can trust him and I learned that giving him a job is the best way to navigate any mental obstacles he may face.
As part of giving him a job, I think I will be proactive rather than reactive in terms of lunging. Getting him moving, and his brain engaged, was a good way of balancing the atmosphere of a show, and while shows are still a novel thing to him, we’ll calculate lunging into our warm up plans. I’m not a fan of lunging much in general, but it’s the safer alternative to a ticking baby bomb. Though next time hopefully he won’t be so tired that I feel like I have to hump and kick him to get him forward in a basic walk trot test.
We also learned that as far as a plan, at this point in time it’s safe to say that having extra folks around is a necessity. Holding a wiggle worm that attempts to eat anything and everything in sight makes even sponging him off a two man job. Once standing is easier, maybe we can manage showing on our own, but for now… not so much.
One of the wonderful things about the weekend was feeling like Smitty and I bonded a bit, as cheesy as that sounds. There were moments walking around, or in his stall, or just hanging out in warmup, that I felt like he would turn and look at me. It’s those little moments when I can tell him he’s a good boy (or you know, yell it at him a thousand times in a row) that makes me see a glimmer of a partnership down the road. Though basically I relish any opportunity to communicate with him that’s beyond “get that out of your mouth” at this point.
Smitty is getting a full 3 days off to recover from his long weekend and hopefully process all that happened. And I’m taking the 3 days off to recover and soak my aching everything. After being stepped on at least 4 times, my feet have been thoroughly abused and staying horizontal is the name of the game until Thursday.
What I haven’t decided yet is where to go from here. I have a couple off-property lessons I am attempting to plan, but no shows on the calendar for now. I think a W/T/C test could easily be in the books next time, but where and when are still up in the air. Still, lots to think about and lots to be excited about for now!