Let’s just start with a cute Mocha picture because, after all, she was the star of the whole shindig and I swear she made this face for DH on purpose! After some other things she did at the show, yeah, she’s that smart a horse. She also was very focused, serious and intent about doing her show work job.
Right off–no, we didn’t win any ribbons. Yes, it was a schooling show but it was a big, slow schooling show. Twenty to thirty horses in some classes, and we went in four walk-jog classes and then bugged out because it was getting late. Walk-jog or any big rail class of that ilk is not something Mocha will necessarily stand out in. It’s not what she’s bred to do, so this was basically a show to put miles on her. And that we did.
She didn’t scream at this show. Rather, she was alert, curious and aware. Despite the funny photo above, the below pic was a more accurate reflection of her attitude:
She knew at some point she’d be coming out of her stall and so she was eager to go. Interestingly, when I first braided her forelock at the barn, she wouldn’t stand still. In the show stall? She stood like a rock, intently focused on me. Note to self: probably best to plan on braiding at the show, if possible. Seems to fit her mood best.
Mocha got a bit pissy about the crowds, especially with some aggressive pros cutting it close to her. But once we got out into the big arena, she relaxed.
Funny thing was, she remembered from her first show that there was a spot in the warmup arena where she could look in the big arena that was now blocked up. She spent a lot of time in the warmup arena trying to figure that out, and getting anxious because she couldn’t see it. Nonetheless, a note for the future is that I need to find a quieter spot to let her stretch out and gallop, because she got tense with the crowds and tight confines of the warmup arena. As a result, it took her a while to relax and soften in the rail classes.
Getting coaching from trainer G.
Finally softening and relaxing. It didn’t help that I kept bracing my back, either. Still sore in the back and three hours in the saddle didn’t help.
What nailed us was consistency, especially at the jog. She’d get pissy about being asked to bend and soften and would drop into a walk for just one stride, and that’s something we need to work on. Also, she’s still a bit of a looky-loo girl, and while her focus was better, it was still an issue of Big! Show! Excitement! and that was enough to rattle her a little bit.
But there were all sorts of good moments, and in the next-to-the-last class, I got about ten strides of a nice, soft, elevated jog with impulsion that reminded me of riding the Western Pleasure two-time world champion in lessons, where G said I was getting his championship jog. She’s got it in her, it’s just getting it consistently. And, notice she ain’t dragging her nose. When she does drag her nose, she ain’t going slow.
I just love it when she gets all round and soft, though. It’s very reminiscent of the videos I see of her sire, Chocolate Chic Olena (whose roundness shows up even racing around at liberty). It’s hard for me to determine just who she takes after most, sire or dam, most of the time, but when she softens and goes round, she’s definitely daddy’s daughter.
G.’s wife told me I looked like an equitation rider out there, which was good. One trick I hadn’t realized was helpful was the use of my Justin work boots as my everyday riding boot, and my Lucchese’s as my show boots. There’s about a 3/4 inch difference in sole thickness, which means it’s easier to extend my leg and drop my heel at the show…but I think that as much as fatigue led to me stiffening my back.
So. Things to work on–softening and consistency of the jog. She’s good at walk and canter. Softening my back. Otherwise, just getting her out and getting her past some of the attitude stuff, exposure is good. I feel pretty good about this show because there were a number of pros riding in the same classes, as well as high school equestrian team types. Pretty competitive, overall. Wish we could have gone in a pattern class, but better not to go into those with an aching back and after a long day already spent (slow-moving classes).
At the end of it all, we took the horses out on the other side of the barn from where we came in. The minute we went outside, Mocha raised her head, located where the horse trailer was, locked on, and briskly picked up a bold walk toward the trailer. This was even though we’d come in the arena from a different side, in daylight, and it was dark and a different side. She knew that was her trailer, and she started nickering at it as soon as we got close. Then she started nickering–a soft little talky nicker–at G to hurry up. G’s wife, with the other horse, started laughing and told him Mocha was telling him to hurry up. She’s not a talker, so it was a big, big thing. DH also told me this morning that their horse got fussy while Mocha was in the arena and they had to bring him down to settle. Once he saw Mocha, he was happy (even though there were twenty other horses).
Got back to the barn and turned both horses out to run and roll. Mocha marched right to her home arena and did her thing, then was ready to go back to her own stall and relax.
Funny little mare. And, obviously, smart little mare. I need to think about the implications this has for her visual/spatial processing, because she’s obviously wired that way.