I seldom show. Yesterday I did despite ambivalence galore.
It was a small show, advertised as a schooling show. Although I knew it would be small and low pressure, I felt pressure as I prepared.
I worried because I did not have the proper attire. I worried because I want to be seen as someone competent and with something special in the relationships with my horses. I worried because I anticipate being harshly judged. I worried because I did not know how things would go in a setting where I expected to have more control than I usually expect.
I took my two Morgans. They were ambivalent about loading in the trailer. Well, that is not true. They were ambivalent about staying in the trailer -- they both loaded fine!
I was uncertain which horse I would ride in which division of classes. They both qualify for "green horse" division having been shown less than two years. Last year was Rusty's first horse show. Saturday was Kacee's first. Although I quickly regretted my decision, I rode Kacee in the green horse division, and Rusty in the adult division. Why did I regret it? Rusty acted more like a green horse than Kacee. That should not have been any surprise however I was thinking about last year's show and how calm and responsive Rusty was ... then. I forgot about feeling of right now!
After about ten minutes there, I really connected with my intention to consider this experience some enjoyable time with my horses. And that is what it was. Yes, I had moments of "oy vey", but they were few, shallow, and short lived. The show staff and the judge, people I know from other venues, were casual, friendly, and supportive. So were the other competitors, and that is hardly the right word for the other folks there showing.
What I learned is that I let my horses make a lot of choices in general, and when it came time for me to make some choices, they were remarkably able to come through with what I asked. Rusty was not able to maintain what I asked -- such as coming off my inside leg/outside rein at walk, trot, or canter and staying where we got to (I am not a rider who will hold my horse someplace -- I want him to find it and choose it). He really surprised me when he responded to my request to come upright around a corner in the canter where he was leaning way into the curve. He came upright in a heart beat -- what a different feeling to make that turn with that balance! So now I know I can ask that of him.
My learning comes in unusual ways. I suppose if I worked regularly with a teacher who coached me in these things, I might find them quicker and the disconnected ways of traveling might last a shorter time. But indeed we do find them, and once I have experienced a more fluid feeling as we travel, I will look for it, ask for it, find it. I know my horses can give it to me.
Kacee delighted me thoroughly with her cantering! New mindset? New saddle? New rider mindset? Who knows. But it was a controlled and sitable canter, and she got the correct lead right away in both directions.
There is so little I understand about these things. I mean, why exactly would I be so surprised by her good performance? *sigh*
So, during the course of the show, I mounted and dismounted over and over as I traded horses, taking off the half chaps, putting them back on. I rode Kacee in dressage saddle and Rusty in western saddle. I had planned to change into riding britches for the dressage saddle but never had time as the classes were back to back, alternating between green horse and adult classes: pleasure, equitation, trail.
I am glad I went.
I imagine if I were more focused in my "training" and/or more willing to use force (harsher bit and spurs for example) to get a certain consistency in performance I would have horses that 'looked' better on the outside (I am comparing to the performance of the other horses and riders there). I feel pretty darned good that my horses looked fine and more important to me, they felt pretty darned good on the inside. It felt good as well that I held true to my principles and rode on a slack rein all the time unless I needed to take the slack out to get a response to a request.