Monday, February 8, 2016

Prior and Proper Preparation - 1st Show in 10 years

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 1.

 The trailer. Nose neck maybe the feet day for sure. I got Maraschino into the float, no pooping, and off again without rushing, but not staying in for very long without backing off. That's ok. Garbo coped admirably in the yards out of sight of us, he called out about 30 times in 30 minutes. I took a time lapse video on my iPhone of him, and he didn't capriole, kick or rear, which I'd expected. I didn't have a Parelli friend to help so I had to improvise being on my own.

Day 2

Nose neck and the feet easily today, but with me in the float with him. No pooping yay. Garbo called out about 15 to 20 times. Better. I was able to leave him in the float and back off myself, even walk around the front door and give him a treat. A few times. 

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.

Day 5

He was moving over well but not moving forward enough so I couldn't get the divider latched. I was able to latch it up finally, then put the tack box in, and the ramp up, and flap closed. All closed up. Garbo called out only three or four times. Pats words were ringing in my ears. Don't just close the trailer up as soon as they're in and drive off. So off he came, calmly in the wind. I was aware we'd need a little drive before the day but also conscious of taking a backwards step. I was one day short of my 7 days.

Day 6. 

Short drive time. Once he was in the float, I unloaded him again, then loaded him one more time, and closed it all up and we drove to the local roundabout and back (about 12 minutes), and opened the door expecting to see poop but nothing! He wasn't sweating either. Great! My butterflies had calmed immensely knowing that this was going to be stress free. I'd left Garbo loose and much to my relief, there was no calling out when we went out of sight, and when we got back home he didn't even look up from the grass. Another thing I didn't need to get stressed out about. I decided to feed him in the trailer, he was totally ok until the neighbours started a weed-eater machine. He backed off and was hesitant about going on. In the end I took him closer to the noise so he could see what it was. Once he licked and chewed I loaded him again, unloaded and gave he the rest of his dinner next to the trailer, with the weed eater going strong. 

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. 

In the ring, I wasn't nervous because I know I can handle ANYTHING on the ground, no matter what happens. I also knew that most people in that ring, never do much on the ground with their horse so I felt confident. Even if I dropped the rope I know he'd stay with me. I didn't expect to win anything, it would be a win for me just to have attended without drama. First was Best Combination. I was a bit blown away when we got 2nd. Then we won Best Gelding. The judge commented on how he moved so well. We got 3rd for Best Head, 4th for Obstacles (had to do a turn on forehand with horses front legs in a hula hoop) plus over a sack and trot poles. Then we also got placed in best handler, but what blew me away was how chilled Maraschino was becoming, apart from the odd call out, he was rapidly chilling. Well a feather could have knocked me down next because we were awarded the Champion ribbon. I was so proud of him. His calling out was becoming less and less. I let him graze in between our turns and he wasn't grabbing the grass in a rush which was good. 

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 !!!
I was super pleased and to be honest would have been more than happy to go home then with what we'd achieved. But I decided to go into the ring. We'd never trotted in a large group really so I kept wide and we got third for rider horse combination, then 2nd for best gelding, then 5th for trot poles. !!! 

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.

No comments: