Sunday dawned sunny but chilly. North wind had blown in through the night and the breeze stayed around through the morning. Amber didn’t have her usual tantrum, no doubt learning from Saturday that she wasn’t going anyway but definitely not happy that Whisper was leaving. Whisper though hopped right in the trailer. It’s nice that the show grounds are only about 35 minutes away, so it’s not a huge endeavor for us to haul.
Whisper was a little more lit coming off of the trailer, but after a short walk around and perhaps only a 5 minute lunge, I could tell her eyes were softer, and she was definitely better/not as wide-eyed as she was Saturday. I was a little overzealous in getting ready right away – I should have talked to the office to see what class they were on, but I think it was okay. When I hopped on, Whisper felt almost exactly as she does at home – relaxed and easy. We walked around for a bit before I realized that they only started the reining class and there were about 10 people in the class (approximately 2 minutes each run). My class was directly after reining, but the last thing I wanted to do was overwork Whisper in the warm up, and leave our best work in the warm up ring as well.
So I hopped off, and proceeded to be very pleasantly surprised when Whisper cocked a leg and started to fall asleep. It was almost 9 at that point, her usual nap time, but I was so happy that amidst reiners practicing patterns and whatnot that she was sleeping. Good girl!
I hopped back on 3/4 of the way through the class and did just a bit more warm up. Her left lope was doing well – her right was strung out. Which….eh. As I’ve said I was more concerned with her feeling comfortable at the show, and she was really trying hard to be relaxed and listen to me, so I called it good.
The first class was a walk/jog warm up – a sort of “train” class to warm your horse up but the class doesn’t count for anything. It allows those in canter classes to cross-enter (same rider/horse combo can’t go in “official” walk/jog classes if also entered in canter classes). She was a little fast at the jog, and I hadn’t gotten a chance to ride in or let her see the main ring, so to a judge, her lifting her head to look out of the arena to the street is a problem, but she kept her pace well. I was happy with her. We ended up getting second in the class, so yay! She also didn’t do her nervous tic that she’s done many a previous show – it’s hard to describe. But she’d nod her head very quickly while biting at the bit, and sometimes take the reins out of your hand. None of that happened, so she got many many pets.
Our next class was just an AA lope class, and I was very proud of her. She was actually close to breaking gait a few times! Oddly enough it pleased me lol. Probably because she only breaks if she’s tired or feeling comfortable, but I talked to her a bit through the class and she was so super! Her right lead was strung out still, and we had a bit of a problem steering off the rail (which is something I plan to work on before the next show), but overall I was super pleased with her. Again, no nervous tic, and the judge was nice and gave everyone little pointers before the ring steward called the placings (Whisper better left side, right lead strung out – accurate lol). But we still placed first! Good girl Whisper!
I did a little more work in the warm up ring, then let her chill again. Whisper was really being great and holding it together, trying her best to listen. I knew that right lead REALLY needed to get fixed if we were going to continue doing well in the classes, but I knew the show was not the place to work on it or fix it. I’ve always taken with me a piece of advice Andrea Fappani said in one of his clinics – “If you haven’t fixed something before the show, you aren’t going to fix it AT the show. Better to show off the things you can do well and conserve on the things that aren’t so good.”
Our next class was senior horse, and it was a pretty full class. Whisper was excellent. Her jog was getting better, but her lope was starting to deteriorate a little. She was probably also tired, but as I said she was still trying her little heart out, and keeping it together despite some “OMG” looks she threw to the outside of the ring. The judge actually called for an extended jog, and I laughed at myself because Saturday after the ride I’d looked at my mom and said – “Wouldn’t it be funny if we had to do an extended jog? I haven’t done an extended jog on her in years. Huh.” Well? Extended jog both ways, and I felt like we nailed it. Good girl with her rusty buttons that still work! lol I tried as best as I could to support her at the lope – really keeping my leg on to help but it wasn’t working the best. We ended up in second, with pointers again of her being close to breaking gait and looking like she was slogging in the lope, but there was no way I was disappointed in her. One of the hardest things I had to work through with her was trusting me enough to help her, that my “correction” or “lift” wasn’t punishment in any way. So the fact that she readily accepted my help at a show and really put her trust in me was a win in my book. It’s only February. We have until the end of the show year to continue improving.
Our last class was jackpot. And her jog was the best yet. As she got a little looky again, I gave her a few upward “bumps” instead of the hold I usually do, and she finally seemed to accept that okay, we’re in here to do work. Her left lead was a bit slogging, and I knew she was getting tired, but boy was that sweet mare trying. She was so solid in the walk work too – no anticipation! Which is miracle of miracles for her since anticipation is her middle name haha. She just walked and walked until the judge called for the next gait. Our right lope was definitely more forward, and I preferred it actually to our previous slogging. She was definitely tired, and I knew the right lope was too fast for the judge, but there were no nervous breakdowns or resistance when I reached out to help her back on her butt just a bit. My lift probably cost us a higher place in the class, but she hit that perfect lope I was searching for for a stride or two, then got a bit fast again. But usually she shows a bit of resistance, and I was so happy there was none. We ended up getting third in the class – and winning $20 – but I was still a bit miffed at the placing. The first place horse broke 3 times, which fortunate for the first place winner the judge didn’t see, and Whisper was actually nowhere near breaking gait that whole class. The second place horse (who I’ve known for years and absolutely adore that little Arab gelding) deserved first, but…well, if the judge didn’t see (and did see my corrections), then the judge can only judge what they saw. I think after Whisper doing so well, I thought she deserved better than the placing she got. So pleased that there was no nervous tic again either, but she did want to make friends with every horse there lol. Which is why she is way better suited to these classes than Amber haha.
All in all, it was a good successful day. After that class I did just a little bit more with her canter. I didn’t completely feel okay with leaving the strung out as it was, so I really squeezed her into a good right lead lope, got a couple great strides, did a simple lead change, lifted the left, got a couple great strides and hopped off. I was a little worried that when I hopped off she might remember the nervousness (she wouldn’t stand still and I had to back her a bit while I tried to roll up my chaps), but I think she’ll be okay. She got many many face rubs, girth loosened, and then we took her back to her food. I wanted to let her roll, and it seemed like she might after a second, but she didn’t. I would’ve loved for her to do that, but that’s okay. She was definitely ready to go home, but refused to load for only about a minute. We’ve learned it’s just because she has to pee (she’s done this for years so it strikes me as super funny that she AND Amber do this), and my mom did a great job of just waiting, not looking at her, and Whisper finally hopped in, pooped, and peed a minute later haha. Silly mares!
Amber was very excited to see Whisper when we got home, and Whisper did finally roll in our arena. That was about it for the day!
I did find out that I’d actually won some stuff with Amber from the previous year though! Not only did we do well enough in the buckle series for us to win a buckle, but we managed to get Champion in Ranch Riding, Western Dressage, Western Horsemanship 18 & Over and Reserve Champion in Reining Open. What do you know about that?! Way to go Amber! I was very surprised by the horsemanship and reserve in reining – those were definitely classes I was not expecting to get anything in! I guess it’s because we just were always in them even if we didn’t have the best placings….? lol I got a hay bag, a bag that could probably fit half a bale of hay, and strap to go with it, a hay bag helper (those black things that help keep the bags open so you have more hands) and a plaque! They did spell Amber’s name wrong, so they’re in the process of getting the plaque fixed, but I am tickled pink that Amber and I won a plaque!
It was definitely a tiring day, but I felt so happy with Whisper after the show. Such a trooper, and her attitude was miles different from the last time she was there, and even different from Saturday. I couldn’t be happier. The show brought to light things that I’ll have to work on with Whisper, but all in due time. She’s had the past 2 days off, and we’ll start back with light riding, getting her supple and starting to give her heavier works so she’s fitter for the next show.
All in all – a huge success!