I took some deep breaths and figured it was better to unload him, even though I would be alone. Luckily, Phoenix backed off the trailer like a big boy. As he started to jig around me though I started to question my decision to unload him so soon. I set about fussing over him and making sure he looked his best, which seemed to help him calm down. He kept touching me and looking for reassurance. Luckily, after the show the week before, I was as confident as I could be so I stayed calm and made sure he knew that he would be okay. His back was tight as knots as I went to tack him up, which made it a very interesting process. I finally got his saddle on and started to get myself dressed while holding him.
Just as I was finishing up my trainer showed up. She took one look at my cold backed pony and asked me what I was going to do. I told her that I was just going to get on and walk around. I knew it was a little early. I knew that he very well might take off bucking. The thing is, I also knew that the only way I was going to not worry about what he was going to do was just to get on and find out. I could see the worry in her eyes, but I didn’t sweat it. I know Phoenix. I know that the only way he will feel 100% is if I feel 100% and I knew that the only way for me to get there was to get on him. As I walked over to the tail gate of my truck (it makes a great mounting block) I took many deep breaths and said what my fears were out loud. For some reason that calmed me even more.
By the time I put my foot in the stirrup I was okay. As soon as I got on I felt Phoenix tighten up even more. He was so tight over the back that he could hardly walk! Because I was parked in the middle of nowhere I had a nice big field behind my trailer to walk around in. It took a good 10 minutes of walking, changing rein, etc before I even felt comfortable enough to head down to the warm up. My trainer was walking behind me laughing on the way down because EVERYTHING was an issue to Phoenix, but I wasn’t letting him get to me. He would spook, I would stay steady and tell him he was being stupid (he was I swear) and keep going. After about the 10th spook Phoenix started to feel my confidence and finally began to settle.
Because I had gotten on a little early I had time to kill so I walked him around everywhere, including down by the barns were all the big names were stabling. After once last big spook about a storm drain Phoenix took a deep breath and that was it. He was so overwhelmed and he just had to trust me, so he did! By the time we headed to the warm up ring for real he was nervous, but he was paying attention to me and looking to me for guidance. That trust was hands down the best thing about having a baby horse. They look to you for leadership because they don’t know any other way. Over the last year and a half Phoenix learned to listen to me when he gets scared. That moment at the show was the big payoff for all the training and work I had done.
Normally at this show ground there is only a single warm up ring for all 5 show rings. Because this show was a CDI there was a special warm up for that ring for only 4 rings were using the same warm up. There was still about 20 horses already in the ring by the time I got there, but that was better than the 35 that their normally are! After riding in a teeny tiny ring with over a dozen other horses the weekend before I didn’t worry about all the horses flying towards us and past us. I made a plan of how I was going to ride my warm up with my trainer the week before and we were going to stick to it. I refused to get flustered. Just flat out refused! There were many close calls for crashes, but I was steady and didn’t worry about them. I think I need to do a post about universal ring rules, but barring other peoples bad manners we had an even bigger problem.
The footing was a total SWAMP!!!!!!! All the rain from the night before and the morning seemed to have all stayed in the warm up ring. Phoenix was worried about sinking in and honestly, I was a little worried about that also…
To Be Continued…