tldr. Our first show. From an objective POV, proof of concept, at best. We are a long way from being competitive in any discipline. From a personal POV, a huge success. We went in & went around. Happy kid on a happy pony.
30a (Academy) Open Hunter Pleasure (Walk-Trot), 2nd of 2
31a (Academy) Open Hunter Equitation (Walk-Trot), 2nd of 2
The fee for Stepping Stone Farm Advanced Camp included the entries for a local show at the end of the week. At first, I wasn’t planning to go. Trailering for two hours to trot a few times around the ring in a walk-trot class seemed a silly thing to do in high summer. I asked about applying the credit to a closer show. After our various camp experiences, I decided that just getting in the ring would be valuable experience.
I would like it to be noted that they did not create the class for Milton. The class preexisted from a previous show. We even had competition, in the form of an ASB hunter from another barn, who kicked our butt. Well, we kicked our own butt. That’s not why we were there.
A detour for background …
(This was more writing that I had time/energy for at the beginning of the week. I always planned to tell you the full story.)
On the Monday of camp [The Three Stages of Drill Team], the acrobatic displays continued all day, including once when I thought Milton’s brain was about to leak out his ears. After the drill session, we went for a walk down the driveway. On the way back, we got caught between a horse in the field having a separation anxiety attack on one side and horses cantering in the ring on the other side. He just couldn’t even. Fortunately, I was able to land the plane, spin him in a tight circle, avoid crashing into Promise (Promise may have had something to do with this), walk gingerly to the trailer, declare victory, and dismount. Then after the group lesson, he spooked and cavorted when we cantered in the covered arena, which is usually his happy place.
On the Tuesday of camp [Hittin’ The Trail], Milton was great on the trail itself, but he was a turkey in the parking lots. We shipped over to SSF to pick up another passenger. Five trailers of various sizes, horses going every which way. Milton did not cope well with the confusion.
At Oak Mountain, Milton came off the trailer like a kite. There were several points along the way when I was convinced we were not going on the trail. Greg had the brilliant idea of starting Milton the way we have been hitching him. This was Coach Courtney’s suggestion when Milton acted up at Mid-South [Here for the Experience]. Tack up. Halter goes over bridle. Chain goes over nose. Groundperson walks alongside until it is clear that harmony reigns. That’s why Milton has a halter on in the trail photo. We did this thing, using the ring at the equestrian center to start in a contained space. We went step by tiny step. I eased up to the area where the rest of the horses were milling. Suddenly, our leaders were off and we were on our way. Even then, I still wasn’t sure I was going.
About 100 feet into the trail ride, Milton said, ‘I … I … oh, this requires too much energy.’, softened his back, and was amenable for the rest of the day. Mostly. He took a turn when we got back to the parking lot, I headed for our trailer & the rest of his posse headed for theirs.
On the Wednesday of camp. We went over early in order to go back to what Milton knows, i.e. me, Greg, & Milton all by himself in the ring at SSF. A brief, 10-minute warm-up seemed to settle him for the day. Maybe he was just happy he wasn’t on the trail.
On the Thursday of camp, repeat.
On the Friday of camp, Milton had the day off while I went to Auburn [Up & Over].
On the Saturday of camp, show.
So, camp had many great moments. Camp also had many learning moments.
… back to our story.
Due to the above, I spent the drive to the show utterly certain that Milton was going to be a total twerp and I would be a leaf caught in the horse storm. What is a one-day show but a huge parking lot of horses? Would he have another case of the hops? Or maybe he would have a meltdown the way he did in Tennessee [not a post]. Or another horse would strafe us and Milton’s resulting hysteria would upset the other horse and disturb the other horse’s – probably young – rider. Or … or … It was not a pretty two hours.
Milton did not misbehave.
Was he better behaved because he had a better attitude, or because we are getting better at Milton management? Or both?
Or because I’m not as bad a rider as I am convinced I am? I couldn’t possibly be. I wouldn’t be able to trot out of my own way. But that is a subject for another post. We were talking about Milton.
Hurry Up & Wait
Milton had a chance to experience the full range of horse show timetables. The schedule was suit classes, a handful of camp classes, then the academy classes. We were the first classes in the academy section.
Regular cars don’t travel as fast as Google, at least mine don’t. Horse trailers even more so. I should have calculated that. We arrived a little bit late. Then, for the first time in recorded history, a horse show ran early. As we unloaded, the final suit class was in the ring. What?!
No rush. No rush. We still had the break and the camp classes. We had plenty of time, just not the excess that I had banked on. We walked Milton in-hand. Then, we tacked up and walked him in-hand some more, including a few trips around the show ring during the break. I got on. Greg figured out how to disassemble and remove the red halter so that I didn’t have to either dismount or show in it.
And then we waited.
Instead of the usual 3 or 4 camp classes, this show had an infinitude. We walked. And walked. And trotted. And walked. And stood a bit. And walked. Milton got so bored, that I started spiral in/spiral out to give him something to do.
I could have done without the scramble at the beginning, but otherwise, the warm-up was everything I could have asked for, including having the tiny warm-up ring to ourselves most of the time. By the time other horses joined us, Milton was too chill to complain.
Milton gets a big, rainbow-colored, blinking star for surviving the warm-up ring.
On one side of the small ring was a white tent (in photo) filled with small children running around, parents fanning themselves with various flappy bits of paper, as well as puppies in a pen and a dog who, from time to time, objected to his harness.
Next to this was a small paddock with goats, chickens, and miniature horses. Milton’s eyes were on stalks, particularly when the rooster began commenting on the day’s activities.
The third side was a cow field. The only things that separated us from the cows were ring fence, hot wire, and an expense of grass. I’m glad I didn’t know that. At first, I thought the cows were one field over. As the day progressed, the cows gradually sidled our way. Milton was aware each time the cows moved. Fortunately, they chose to stay in the shade and never got closer than the middle of their field. This alone would have sent Previous Horse over the edge.
It was a lot to take in.
One side of the ring was lined with spectators in lawn chairs under shade umbrellas. After walking Milton around the ring, Greg had warned me that Milton did not like the look of the assembled masses. He advised that we cut to the inside of the track on that side.
Didn’t help. Milton still trotted the entire line with his head corkscrewed to the outside, giving the peanut gallery the side-eye. He had a point. It was a lot of umbrellas. I told Milton that looking was okay, as long as his feet continued in the correct direction. They did.
On the non-umbrella side of the ring, he trotted quite pleasantly.
In the second class, Milton spooked and broke into a canter for a few steps. It was a gentle spook and a soft transition. So, no harm, no foul. Now, technically, we have walked, trotted, and cantered at a show.
The Line Up
There was no riding accomplished, in the sense of presenting the horse for a hunter class, or piloting an accurate, responsive dressage test. Milton basically ran around with his head up in the air. That was fine. Were weren’t there to demonstrate what we had learned. We were there to ask Milton a question.
Does Milton like to show? Yes. Yes, he does. At least, if he must have a job, horse showing beats drill team or trail riding.
As for me, is the fun I have while showing worth the angst I put myself through beforehand? I honestly don’t know. We’ll see how torqued out I get at our next show, in two weeks.
Thank you for reading,