Making Progress!

Before I talk about our latest adventures, can I tell you how comfortable this horse is?  The first time I rode him, he was so boing-y I thought I would bounce off.  Heels down, I kept thinking! Now after consistent riding, his stride has lengthened and he has become a soft, smooth ride, one where you could ‘do your hair’ as you trot along. His canter transitions are no longer rushed, and its easy to sit and enjoy the ride.  Although I’ve never ridden side saddle, I imagine his gaits would be perfect for it!

LCJumping1

LC1Labor day weekend brought Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show, the big Chester County 3-day show and country fair with lots of white tents, ponies and people everywhere.  As Banker and I headed down to the main ring, I felt him tense up under me as he saw all the tents and general busyness.  A cowboy friend of mine told me that when a horse is tense and unsure, do something they are comfortable doing. So we headed to the schooling ring and after 3 minutes of just trotting around, Banker was much more relaxed.  When our turn came to school in the ring before our classes, he kinda kept his eye on what the other horses were doing, I think to make sure no one ran into him.  Banker showed very well, jumping the jumps easily and getting all his flying changes.  We had a few baby mistakes where he didn’t understand what I was asking, but I was very proud of him.

LC hack1

 

During the hack class, he started each transition with his head in the air, then would relax into my hand and lengthen his stride. Our canter was so soft!  While we didn’t win any ribbons that day, I was thrilled with how he accepted the commotion that is Ludwig’s Corner and focused on his new job.

That next week we went for a lesson with Troy.  Banker warmed up with a nice trot showing off his much improved long and low hunter pace.  Troy had us trotting a 2′ jump with a ground pole 9′ out and told me to just let Banker figure it out.  I used a lot of leg to get Banker moving up into my hand and balanced around the corner and coming down to the pole, then just supported him.  He was slow off the ground the first few times, then figured out how to roll back and jump off his hind end.  Troy had us alternating the approach direction  to prevent becoming one-sided.   We finished the lesson by trotting a 2′ brick-colored box with a rail on top, which really got Banker’s attention.  He had to think about what he was doing and ended by cantering off nicely with a balanced turn.  Troy is very happy with Banker’s progress.

This past weekend found us at the Fair Hill Thoroughbred Horse Show, a lovely show with inviting jumps and friendly volunteers. We met Bev at the show grounds and headed in to school before our classes. Banker felt like an old pro, hacking around on a loose rein and jumping the jumps.  We didn’t school very long, I just wanted to make sure he saw all of the jumps.  While I know as his career progresses he may not be able to look at the jumps before going into a class, there is no reason not to let him see them now.  Our goal is to build his confidence, so no surprises! The first division had 2 hack classes and Banker won them both! He just poked his nose out and relaxed. All his upward transitions happened quietly and he kept his head down! The jumping class in the first division went very well until the last line where he pulled 2 rails on a line coming home. Whether it was the heat, the gate or just being a green bean, we don’t know, but he wasn’t upset by it.  We ended that division with the championship!

The next division found us with 2 more blues in the under saddle classes. I’d say he has the hack class down pat! The last class was a hunter hack where we had to jump the 2 fences where he pulled the rails. I was anxious to redeem ourselves, but we pulled a rail over the first jump in the line. We finished 6th in the class and Champion in this division, too!Fair Hill Ribbons

I’m not too concerned about the rails we had down because he is so green and is so careful about picking up his feet in our lessons. Since he’s been with me, he hasn’t pulled a rail at home or at Troy’s.  Being at a horse show is a totally different experience than being at home, with lots of noises and sights to distract even the most seasoned horse. I am confident that with more time and training that his concentration will develop to match his jumping talent.  He is one super horse!

Horse Showing 101

With several lessons and one foray into the horse show world under our belt, it was time to go to the Maryland State Fair Thoroughbred Horse Show. Because of parking issues, Banker, my friend Gwen and I drove down to Timonium on Tuesday night for the Wednesday horse show. The barns and showing arena are tucked away behind the main fair, so even though all the rides and games were in full swing when we arrived, we unpacked and got settled in quickly and easily.
Wednesday morning dawned beautifully as we arrived at the quite fairgrounds to find Banker braided and ready for breakfast. Once he was done eating, I tacked him up and headed into the ring to school a bit before the show started. As we got to the ring, Bev and Valerie arrived just in time to watch as Banker picked up the trot and soon relaxed into a nice rhythm. We cantered a bit, then trotted to a jump. I was not quite sure what to expect, but he put his eye on it and just popped right over it. We cantered off, turned the corner and went down to the first jump in the line, and he jumped in beautifully. He just kept cantering and jumped his first oxer! We finished up with a few more fences before letting him take a break and relax.
Our first class was the Jump Start Hunter Under Saddle, which was not a big class, so we were able to find a spot on the rail and not have to worry about other horses. I was most concerned about our canter transitions, and rode my plan which was to hear the command, take a deep breath, think outside leg, inside rein, and ask. By taking my time, Banker hit the correct lead each time and settled into an easy rhythm. We were 2nd in the class!
Next up, the cross rails class, 6 jumps around the outside. My plan was to ride deep into the corners and get straight to the first fence in the line, then just support him. The turn to the first fence was by the gate and I had to press him past it, as he always wants to slow down and chat with the spectators. Once we got over that fence, he just clocked around, even getting a flying change. We finished off with a nice circle and I left the ring ecstatic! Minutes later it was announced, “In first place, D’Sauvage”!! No time for celebrations, I had to focus and go back for the second trip. I learned during this trip that coming home towards the gate I need to sit back and hold a bit as he wants to get to that gate again. He understood what I asked and adjusted beautifully and put down a lovely trip. We won that class, too! I am proud to say he was champion of the Jump Start Hunter.

Champion!

Next up was the 2’ hunter, and Bev and I thought it would be good experience for him to jump a course with boxes and gates. He hacked well, but the class was big and had several more seasoned horses in it. Our first trip contained several baby mistakes. For instance, he wasn’t paying attention to the first jump by the grandstand and kind of tripped over it. My goal for this trip was to give him a positive experience, so I turned him out of the line and regrouped. Once he relaxed, we picked up the canter and finished the course confidently. As we jumped our second course, the light bulb went on and he seemed to understand the new questions being asked when jumping 8 fences with turns in between.  He settled in the lines and made very nice turns and was 6th place in that class. I was so proud of him!! Oh, and his auto changes kicked in during these classes. I would think about asking for a change, look down and realize he already changed. He’s so smart!

After a rest, we caught up with our lead-line jockey at the barn, and got him all saddled up for the class.  George was boosted up and he gave Banker a big pat as we headed to the ring.  Banker seems to know when little George is up there as he seems to take care with each step.  After a few passes around the ring, George was awarded first place – he got a ribbon and one of the softest teddy bears I have ever held!  Well done, boys!

George's bear

Here is a video of our day where you can see Banker’s great attitude about horse shows.

I do need to mention that on the way home I had a tire blow out on the trailer. We had to drive on the busted tire in order to get off a dangerous road and find a parking lot to hang out in until Justine came to our rescue. During this whole process, Banker was cool as a cucumber. It was during our wait I discovered that he is a dunker. I offered him a bucket of water and he took a mouthful of hay from his hay manger and dunked it right in the bucket! I placed the bucket in the manger during our wait and he just dunked and munched away. Once Justine arrived, we unloaded him and put him into Justine’s trailer and continued our trek home. As I said before, Mr. Steady Eddy!

After another lesson with Troy, we headed off the Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show, the big Chester County show and country fair.  More about that next time!