As soon as I was all dressed for the show ring I grabbed Phoenix’s bridle and went to put it on him. I was told by someone who has tons of experience with young horses to always put the bridle on before I unloaded taking away a chance that the horse would get away when you take the halter off later. It has been good advice, so all year that is what I have been doing. Phoenix gets a bit up at shows (what horse doesn’t?) so it can be a challenge to get his head still enough to do it. Saturday was no exception. Luckily Speedy’s Mom is very patient. As soon as I unloaded Phoenix his owner came by on her way to get her baby horse ready. I took advantage of someone having 2 free hands and made her hold him while I put the saddle on.
I was impressed with myself at how smoothly the tack up process had gone. In no time flat I was ready to head up to the ring. My game plan was to walk Phoenix for a good 15 minutes before we did anything else. He is cold backed and young so walking around gives him a chance to settle down before I really put him to work. Since his owner still needed to get her baby horse ready she grabbed Speedy’s Mom for help and I went up to the warm up alone. It was quiet, which surprised me because there were two rings going at the show. It was so quiet that it was just Phoenix and I and a girl on her (very cute) pony. It gave me time to clear my head and really focus on getting Phoenix connected from my inside leg to outside hand. By the time his Owner came up I had already walked/trotted/ and cantered.
How was my warm up going? It was okay. Phoenix was kind of listening to me, kind of not. He was absolutely looking to me for comfort and hanging on my hands, yet at the same time throwing his face in the air. We had moments of not steering, moments of not being in rhythm, and moments of beauty. If I had to use just one word to describe my warm up it would be inconsistent. Phoenix was acting like a baby horse. It has been the same for two weeks when I started to bring him back to work. He would listen when he wanted and would fight when he didn’t want to. Which annoyed me because I expected more of him at this point. At the same time watching Phoenix’s Owner on her baby horse reminded me that Phoenix was not really acting like a baby. He was acting untrained. Big difference.
Why was he acting that way? Most likely it was something I was doing. I have no video of the warm up so I don’t know for sure. His owner told me to try and canter one more time to the left right before I went into the show ring. And for the first time in a long time Phoenix did not pick up the left lead. That was my fault though because instead of rising to the transition I was not prepared and had run him into it. Nothing like a reality check right before you head into the show ring right? Regardless of how inconsistent he was being it was my job as the rider to stay totally solid. I needed to cut him a break, we had only been canter for about 6 days at this point. He was not strong at the canter. I needed to be his rock in that show ring. I marched right out of the warm into the show ring. I took a deep breath and willed my baby horsey to listen to me. The judge in this ring is known for being nice so I wanted to take advantage of that and break a 60%. We had the potential to do it. So up the centerline I went.
To Be Continued…