Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Growing Up at Morningside

After last week's fabulously educational (if at times frustrating) XC school, I wondered what Mo would think about getting back on the trailer again on Saturday to go to the BEAUTIFUL AND AMAZING Morningside Training Farm for one of their combined tests. This is the site of Lex's one and only show just about a year ago, and I'd been eager to go back ever since. The facility is amazing, the show is professionally run, and you will seriously never ever find nicer footing. What's not to love?

My excellent mother came along with me for this excursion, and I'm very grateful because I'd have been alone otherwise. And I think Mo will be a horse I can easily take to a show alone in another year or so, but at the moment, he still needs some time and I find a lot of reassurance knowing someone can help me get the saddle on while I'm managing him, and stand there while I get on (often the hardest part of the day for me with him). So ten million thanks to my own SuperMom, who stuffed his face with carrots the whole time. And get this--because he had a bit in his mouth the entire time he was off the trailer since he has to be bridled on the trailer, she'd bite the carrots into smaller bits for him. What a hero.

So anyway, we got there and did all the things you do like pick up packets and walk the course. I was thrilled with my number. I've always had a thing about numbers that I'd never articulated until I started going to shows with M and her BFF K this year. They're numbers-obsessed. Fives are good, and look: I got two of them. I texted K and she was like "OMG buy a lottery ticket."

I lunged him in a grassy corner of the parking lot before getting on to warm up for dressage, because I don't need a fall in the dressage warmup, ha. But he was fine after a couple minutes, even stopping to eat grass, which made me laugh with surprise. Pro tip: if your horse is trying to graze while lunging, he is not freaking out about the surroundings. So I hopped on and trotted some circles where I'd been lunging him. He was fantastic--soft, responsive, happy to change the bend. The only time he spooked was when a pony with an ear net walked by. M is firmly anti-ear net and I'm not sure he'd seen one before. I figured it would be better to get him used to the chaos in the dressage warmup sooner rather than later, so we walked up a path which went over a ditch some horses wouldn't cross happily, past a starting gate (I don't think he knows what that is, ha), and around the training track (again, he's technically an OTTB but I don't think he has strong enough memories of the track to have gotten wound up about it).

Dressage warmup was FANFUCKINGTASTIC. I had a horse under me who could have won training level dressage if the canter would have been as good as the trot. The only hairy moment was when the pony with the hat and another pony came TEARING down the track at a dead gallop. One extremely kind woman on a quiet horse kinda got in front of them and was like "YOU HAVE TO STOP NOW," because Mo was literally spinning. The kids didn't know better, and no one wants to take away their fun, but... that wasn't okay. And their trainer should be a little embarrassed.

Anyway, the test wasn't as good as the warmup because he's a green baby, but it was definitely his best test yet. The judge really loved him. She said he has to go forward more (yes. It's about time for spurs) and solidify the connection to the bit (absolutely, this is what we're working on at home), but that he's "a very nice horse" and "quite a good mover" and we just have to smooth out the edges. I appreciated her feedback and patted him a lot. I was pleased with our score and the collective remarks.

35 isn't a world-changer, but it's respectable enough for now
He hacked back to the trailer on the buckle like a professional show horse. And honestly, that made my heart swell even more than his good behavior in the dressage warmup, because it's one thing to have a horse be calm and listening when you're giving him a job, but it's another thing to have such an all-around pleasant mount when he has a chance to look around. THAT was the blue-ribbon moment for me.

We swapped out the dressage tack for the jumping gear and headed right back up. We were nearing the last 15 minutes of the window for intro jumping--just tiny cross rails--but it turned out I could have taken my time a bit more, because intro was running behind. No biggie. I jumped a few cross rails until he understood the job and then waited for our turn. He stood very nicely, and then went in the ring calmly. The trot was a little behind my leg to the first jump, but he popped over it. On the way to the second jump he spooked like eight times and then was like "WHO PUT THAT THERE" and took a step back. Sad trombone, because we would have been third and there's no reason to stop at an X, but who cares. Onwards! The rest of the course was great, and he got lots of pats and kisses from me while we waited for them to put the jumps up. I'd added a second HC round at 2'3", because I thought it would be fun and it would be a chance to let him canter around a course away from home a bit.

And man am I ever glad I did. For one thing, he had to wait around for quite some time. I let him choose whether he wanted to stand or walk quietly in a circle, because those are both acceptable and fighting about standing still would have been a pointless waste of energy. He mostly chose to walk. As they put the jumps up, someone raised the one warmup fence to a vertical, which I shared with a kid on a bad pony (that pony literally dumped the kid and then stepped on him when they were on course, yikes). A couple hops over the vertical to remind Mo what we were doing, and then we got in line. Where he stood still with strange horses and people all around him, some of whom were making a lot of noise in the warmup, and through all the commotion when the kid got unloaded. And the ring steward fell in love with him (he acquired quite a fan club over there, to be honest, because he's so stinking cute). He let her pet him, and another lady who clearly didn't know anything about horses also got to snuggle with him a little. Again, I almost got choked up, because it was only a month ago that Mo wouldn't let Brian Ross touch him (still dying of shame over that one).

We went back in and I made it my mission to establish a strong trot to the first fence, and then trot or canter the rest depending on what I was feeling under me. So he landed cantering from the first jump and I told him that I was still mad (note: not actually mad) about the stop at 2 in the first round. He trotted RIGHT over it this time, and we cantered a few strides before trotting 3, then cantered 4 and 5 (a bending line with some spooky fill). We maintained a nice canter up the long side and around the top before turning back down the diagonal to 6, a spooky sailboat thing. He trotted it, but in a positive way, which is fine. The canter on landing from 6 was SPECTACULAR and 7 showed up right out of it. It was a left turn to 8, and the canter was good until he got wiggly because 8 would be a B element for the next height up and they'd put standards in the way. No problem, we trotted it so he could get straight, cantered 9, and then another just glorious canter around the top of the ring. It was a hard left turn to 10, and we trotted the turn and the jump because we do not yank baby horses off their feet. Twenty five million pats later we were out of the ring, and I just could not stop smiling. There's video but I'm still trying to get it uploaded.

My mom was like "that canter was INCREDIBLE" and I was all "I KNOW" and honestly if the jumps had been 4'3" instead of 2'3", they'd have been just fine out of that stride. He grew up SO. MUCH. in that round. Here are some crappy video stills of his grown up canter:

Um hello uphill canter with literally no effort from me

And then? Back to the trailer on the buckle, right after cantering jumps away from home. Good god do I love him right now. Because while pretty much every thoroughbred can figure out jumping, not all of them can do this:

A real show horse.

I'm glad we went XC schooling before we went to Morningside, because I think he learned a lot there about trusting me and about keeping his marbles away from home. And he gained even more maturity at Morningside, where he listened to my words, tried his very best, and seemed to genuinely enjoy himself.

We should be out at Hunt Club for their starter trial in another couple weeks, and that'll be it until fall, but if we had to stop here I'd be okay with that, too. I'm so so so happy with my horse, y'all. He's really something special.


  1. Baby horse is turning into a boss!

  2. very exciting - seems like he's really understanding the job and excelling !

  3. awesome job at the show. Sounds like a fun day.

  4. How could anyone not be a Mo fan? He is the cutest! I'm really happy that he is growing up so fast for you Also, "We trotted the turn and the jump because we do not yank baby horses off their feet."- that's why you're awesome! If everyone had this mentality about young horses, there'd be a lot less of them get so messed up. It's about good experiences and giving them the opportunity to understand. You and Mo will go far because you do what is right for him.

  5. Wonderful!! Sounds like he is getting it and enjoying it!

  6. So. Gorgeous. I'm glad Mo is remember that eventually he needs to be my Ammy-Friendly mount, LOL ;-)