First of all, schooling at home has been pretty up and down lately. Mostly I think I'll write about that another day, but for now: Jumping is going well, although he makes some green mistakes, which is obviously fine. On the other hand, he's decided that rein contact is for the birds and flips me off when I pick up the reins. He's already on Ulcergard and ranitidine and I've had his teeth checked, so I'm quite confident that this is a schooling issue. It's fine. He'll get through it. I was pretty happy with this jump school (I hope the video quality doesn't suck):
As for the more fun stuff--our trips off property have been going pretty well.
On May 9, I signed him up for a fix-a-test clinic with Brian Ross, one of the best dressage judges in the world before he retired a couple years ago. It was only $45 and about half an hour from the barn, so even though I'm on a very green baby, it sounded like a good idea. And it was! He was very helpful. If I can ever get the video uploaded to YouTube, I'll share it with you. My mom taped the whole thing. Here were his takeaway points:
1. Mo is a bully sometimes and no matter what excuse he's trying to throw at me, I have to kick him.
2. He often exhibits his bullying behavior by throwing his head up and trying to pick a fight up front so he can be disobedient with his hindquarters. Hence the kicking when he's being bad.
3. Even if he starts cantering, if I want him to trot, I have to post in the rhythm I want. That... is hard. But I got it done, and he seemed pleased, so yay.
So no "here's how to do this fancy thing with his shoulders" or whatever, because of course the horse isn't ready for that yet. I have to keep him between the corridor of aids. He saw Mo at his worse--tense, inverted, spooky, and generally being an asshole. But by the end of the ride, things were going better, which set us up well for the next day: a combined test with w/t dressage and crossrails.
Things went a lot better on Sunday. For one thing, I rode him for an hour before I put him on the trailer, ha. He needed to listen to my words instead of blowing me of, and I wanted to avoid some of the problems we'd had the previous day with exploding at the trailer (second time he's done that), running through my aids, etc. So by the time I got him ready for dressage, he was in a better place than he'd been the day before. I had a VERY LONG TIME to warm up, and since he was being good, we spent plenty of time standing around.
His test was pretty good for where we were in life. He got 8s on his medium walk (??) and his second trot circle (earned--I rode the shit out of that circle). Other marks ranged from 5.5-7. It was good enough to put us in second place, ten points behind the first place rider and five points ahead of third place. I like a judge who isn't afraid to use all the numbers. He trotted right around the crossrails like it weren't no thang (which it wasn't. It was crossrails) so we held onto that red ribbon. Fun.
I was worried, though, about the horse trials at Loch Moy coming up. Not so much the show rings themselves as things like tacking up, getting him lunged, riding him until he behaved, etc. The rest of it was just gonna have to work itself out. So in order to best prepare him, I took him off the farm both days the next weekend. We went to my awesome friend's lovely hunter barn and had a marvelous time. They were like "kick that fat horse and make him go!" and I was all "you want to get up here and kick? Because last weekend Brian Ross was all 'good thing you have a neckstrap on.'" Ha. It was a really good time.
So finally it was May 24 and time to go to Loch Moy. I'd had a pretty tough ride the Thursday before, but my ride on Saturday was much chiller and more fun so I felt better. Without going through every painful detail of the day, I'll say that Mo really pleasantly surprised me with how quickly he settled in. Almost as soon as I started lunging him, he took a deep breath and licked his lips. I'd given myself more than an hour to warm up before dressage (ideally I like a 20 minute warmup for dressage at this level but this horse is an unknown). So I cut the lunging short because yuck, and my mom helped me get on in the warmup so I wouldn't have to walk him down a very narrow path crowded with people/dogs/other horses. (PS: My mom is the best at going to horse shows. She can really anticipate needs and loves to help. She deserves a prize.)
I thought maybe he'd blow up in the warmup, but no! He was chill and happy. We walked for a LONG time and then picked up a pretty quiet trot. As he worked in, the trot actually got pretty good. I didn't think we'd necessarily be able to replicate that in the ring, but he got a blue ribbon from me in the warmup. The test itself was fine. He spooked at A on the way in, and then at K right when we needed to cross the diagonal. Otherwise, I was pleased with him. I think next time instead of just hoping we live through the test, I'll ask him to step it up a notch. So hooray for that.
Loch Moy runs SJ before XC, which worked well for my purposes because Mo, as you may or may not have realized, has never seen an XC jump in his life. We were just doing intro so the jumps were mostly little logs, but I figured a chill SJ round would set him up nicely. And chill it was. He handled the zoo of a jumping warmup really well, and was very happy to be in the show ring. I trotted him to the first one and from there on out I let him decide if he wanted to trot or canter. He picked trotting, but not in a backwards thinking way. It was great. I could have kept him in a canter if I'd nudged him along with my inside leg, but the jumps were seriously tiny so who cares. I couldn't have been more pleased with his round. Here it is--again, not sure if the video quality is worth watching:
In that video, you can hear my mom talking to my nephew. He was pretty fun to have around that day. On my way to the jump ring from the warmup, he said, "I think we should all give ourselves a big thumbs up." Made the whole show grounds laugh, I think.
The wheels started coming off the bus when we walked up the hill for XC. I trotted some circles until he settled in, and then he spooked at the start gate. He wasn't looking at the first log AT ALL, but I was like, "whatever, it's like a foot tall, he can jump it from the halt." So when he balked at it, I kicked him, and he reared. The stop I didn't mind so much, although it surprised me, but the rearing pissed me off. So I got his bastard ass over that one and the next two, and the fourth jump was down a spooky hill in the woods to a funky looking gate. That was a pretty challenging question. Before he even had a chance to stop at the gate he reared again, so we went back up the hill, came back down, and I swore at him the whole way. He jumped it the second time, jumped the next one fine, and then found the sixth jump mysteriously scary. He spun away from it. I halted him, took a deep breath, walked a circle (we were technically eliminated at that point anyway, but this was a schooling show). Our second and third attempts to jump 6 were unsuccessful, so I asked the judge (who was judging the whole tiny course) if I could just take a crack at 7 and call it a day. She said sure, as there was no one else on course yet, so we took another breath, walked a minute, and then trotted 7. I patted him a lot and we walked back to the trailer.
I was a little disappointed in him for losing it like that, but honestly, he'd held it together super well over the whole morning, and he hung out for the rest of the day like a champ while we waited for everyone else in the crew to finish up.
Here's where half the blogging community will say, "OH MY GOD, I would NEVER ride a horse who rears, she should SELL THAT HORSE because he is DANGEROUS."
That half of the blogging community can stuff it. My horse isn't dangerous. He's green. I'm a good rider, and this isn't my first rodeo. If I felt like he'd been about to flip over on me, I'd be worried, but it wasn't that kind of rearing. The horse needs to go trot lots of logs in fields is all. There is no part of me that's afraid of him. In fact, my confidence in him increased a lot this weekend because of how he handled a lot of very spooky and weird situations. Oh, and he's not in pain. He's green. He will be totally fine. Six months from now, I bet he's taking me to the XC fences as politely as he is in SJ. And if he never decides he likes XC, that's fine too. He can be a show jumper who also does a little dressage.
So all in all, I'm very happy with Mo. We're going schooling on Sunday, then he gets the first weekend of June off so I can groom for Mary at Middleburg. The next weekend we'll do the combined test at Morningside, where I plan to do an actually good dressage test.
Show season: way more fun than winter.