My alarm went off at 6am this morning, and I jumped out of bed even though it was still dark, and a Sunday. My first show in 10 years. I wasn't nervous which was surprising, I jumped in the shower and made myself a herbal coffee.
Less than a week earlier I'd emailed off an entry to the local Ribbon Day with Maraschino, and just the mere act of entering gave me butterflies.
Here's why: it had been 10 years since my last ribbon day. That particular show was with my Palomino, and before I'd discovered Parelli Natural Horsemanship. As soon as everyone started trotting my Golden boy just bucked on the spot over and over again. I got off and went home in tears.
So fast forward my 8 years studying Parelli part time, all the DVDs ever available, the savvy club, two Colorado Campus courses, one riding clinic with Linda in Australia, and last summer I completed the Level 4+ Riding with Ryan Pfouts.
I'm still studying In Level 4 but the horsenality portions and the confidence programs for me were so valuable. I learnt that my Palomino is a high spirited LBI, and my second horse, who I bought 6 years ago was an Right Brain Introvert, and not so high spirited, and, as it turned out he is a much better fit for me for these dressage tests and ribbon days etc.
Garbo - the palomino taught me about patience, balance, and softness. Each and every one of Linda's videos with Remmer were so helpful to me, because it was like watching Garbo.
Without Garbo I would never have found Parelli late in 2007. He still makes me laugh everyday, and we have come along way, but we stick to trail rides and liberty now. I have had him since he was 7 and he's 18 now.
When I got Maraschino as a yearling, I was plunged into another big learning curve. A right brain world, asking softly, asking less, waiting. Around the same time Linda's DVDs with Hot Jazz, again, were so helpful. It was like watching Maraschino.
Needless to say I have taken a considerable amount of time in his foundation, he's now 8 years old, and today we went to our first show, and our first show alone. Without Garbo.
So rewind back a week with me sitting in a cafe having just booked myself into the show. This list immediately appeared in my head.... Separation training for Garbo, and sole trailer loading training for Maraschino. Garbo is super protective of his herd and he was much worse with Maraschino leaving his sight - but I was always able to take Garbo out on his own just fine.
I had 6 days. I kept hearing Linda and Pat saying "do it for the next 7 days". Eeek.
The butterflies hung around.
Day 3 and 4.I decided to trial Garbo being loose instead of in his yard - he ran around briefly as we disappeared out of site, but calmed quickly. I started moving Maraschino's rear end over, I have an angle load so he needed to go into the float, and then shift onto an angle. I was really happy with the progress and still no pooping. He was coming off quietly backwards and would come forward when I ask before backing right off. I managed to get the divider latched, and tack box closed, and leave the float, and come around to the personal access door before finishing for the day. It was super windy that day too.
So back to today, 7am and I was ready, the trailer was packed, and I was feeling great. I haltered Maraschino and started grooming him. I'd been riding every morning this week as well, so it was just another morning for him. We loaded up, Garbo didn't even look up, and off we set, it was about a 20 minute drive away.
Maraschino was a bit high headed on arrival and calling out to all the other horses. I don't think he'd ever seen that many floats and trucks and horses all in one place. Each ring had 15 entrants. There were four rings. I was in Cautious rider. We immediately started doing figure 8s online, I know that always calms him down. After a few minutes he wasn't completely calm, like at home calm, but calm enough to eat some breakfast, in between whinnies.
Inhand was first.
We went and chilled together for lunch, just him and I, and chatted about the day, had water, and then saddled up for the riding section. I'd gone with the idea that I'd entered but wouldn't ride if Maraschino was not calm. He was quite chilled. And what happened next was amazing.
After worrying about the ride from the float to the ring (quite a long way with floats, horses, people, cars, gates, and much craziness) I got on with the idea that I'd get off if needed. My friend walked next to us for moral support, and he just turned into this incredibly calm brave horse and we walked all the way, then through the gate, then into the warm up area. Then we walked a few circles, then I asked him into trot. He was calm and focused. So was I !!!
My two good friends were there for moral support and that meant so much to me seeing friendly faces outside the ring. Paced and mannered class was next and I saw there was cantering. At this point I thought - you know, I'm tired, he's tired, he's done so well... We're going to quit now and go home. And that's what we did. It's not about the ribbons. It's about going home feeling successful with confidence intact, for both of us. Not only that but I bridled him the way I do at home by taking the halter off completely, and have him seek the bit - and he did it without hesitation at the show.
He loaded perfectly, and we drove home to find Garbo grazing. No running up to see us, he just looked up when Maraschino announced he was home "and you'll never guess where I've been!", Garbo called back to Maraschino to say welcome home and carried on grazing.
So - 10 years since I've been in a show and first one since starting Parelli, and such a super rewarding successful day on all counts. Preparation was the key, float training, separation training and in the saddle too. We'd practised transitions, riding in an open paddock, keeping rhythm, in trot, non emotional transitions, elbows by my side, and everything that I'd learned on my position.
Add to that, a year now of Pilates every week, and 10 years on we're in much better shape to be entering a ribbon day. Some would say that's very slow progress but thanks to Linda my confidence grows every time I ride now. It's a daily thing!
Thanks to Pat for the never ending sayings. All the way to the show today I repeated "your horse is only as brave as you are", and thanks to Ryan for any amazing two weeks in Colorado last August. That course was another confidence booster for me, but one thing I took away from that course and incorporated every time I ride was the session we had with Dr Jenny Susser. She said that if we rely on other people like instructors to always tell us how we are doing when we ride, we will never be able to move forward. We needed to learn to recognise our own mistakes, and then how to fix them. That was a real gem for me, and it's worked so well.
Feeling very grateful for Pat and Linda Parelli right now. Thanks. From all of us.