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!
Labor 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.
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!
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!