Saturday, June 18, 2016

GMHA: Days 1 - 3

For everyone that's not in the New England area, GMHA stands  for the Green Mountain Horse Association.  It's a non-profit organization that maintains an awesome facility for equestrian events.  They host endurance rides, competitive trail rides, h/j shows, dressage shows, horse trials, youth camps, driving competitions, you name it.  It's a lovely spot in Woodstock, VT. 

But the most distinctive feature of this well loved location?  No.  Damn.  Cell service.  None.  For anyone.  It makes your multi-day horse show double as a break from technology.  This is my first time online since I got here.  Want to text your trainer a change in times?  Nope.  Want to google for dinner plans?  Nuh uh.  You better hop your butt on a bike and haul across the show grounds to find someone.  And plan on crossing water or bridges on your way. 

Yes, the fancy dancy dressage horses were crossing water and walking on wood bridges.  There's a way around, but it's a long one.  Most of the riders consider it to be worth the trouble to get your horse used to the water.  Theo loves running water, it turns out.  He was giving leads to fancy FEI horses and even stopped to get a drink at one point.  He also doesn't mind bridges.

It's my favorite venue.  The stabling is spread out and well maintained.  They run four rings with wonderful footing and beautiful scenery.  We spent most of this afternoon sitting on a hillside watching the freestyle and FEI classes.  Pictures are coming.

As for the showing part?  I'm so proud of the green bean.  On Thursday I schooled all of the competition rings on my own.  He had a couple things that were just not okay (cows across the street were not something he was expecting), but he worked through it.  Stuck his head in the judge's booths, checked out the flowers, the usual.  On Friday he had to go in and show.  He had a heart attack for his first test when he realized he was all alone out there and tried to spin for home.  Worked through it and he laid down a very nice trip.  67%!

Our second test, the T3 that we needed for a qualifying score, had a different judge.  Almost identical test, got a 61.2%.  Judges make me crazy.  She wanted more energy and fire out of Theo.  The first judge loved his soft, harmonious test.  Win some, lose some.

Today he had to do his first test at the ring that was furthest from the stabling.  A creek crossing from the warm up area.  Completely alone, surrounded by trees and the stored jumps.   The ring was big and beautiful with lots of room, but for Theo, terrifying.  I got him in there, got him past the judge's booth, and eased him toward A.  We turned down centerline and something amazing and unexpected happened:  he took a deep breath and settled.  The green bean has learned his job.  Instead of fighting him to the scary end of the ring, he marched along the rail because that's where he goes.  It wasn't perfect, he was still peeking at sounds and equipment, but he stayed with me.  We even got a 'too relaxed' comment on the test.  62% and no broncing?  Victory!

Our T3 test was supposed to be more energetic.  We warmed up well and he went to the ring.  Heavens help me if that little brat didn't decide to squeal like a mare and kick at my spur right in front of the judge while trotting around the outside.  Such a princess.  Same deep breath and settle thing happened with the centerline.  As soon as we stepped into the box, he knew what we were doing.  We had two bobbles where he thought I wanted a canter that hurt our score, but 63.2% is our second qualifying score.  We're heading to regionals, despite my screwups!

He's grown up so much over these two shows.  We still have moments of terror and spinning for home, but he'll work through them and he now knows what the centerline means.  It's work time.  Considering last year I struggled with Intro tests since he couldn't canter a circle, this is kind of stunning.  He can now keep it together in a crowded warm up.  He doesn't try to lunge at the other horses anymore.  I don't feel him scoot when horses canter by.  He doesn't like it, but he copes.  He knows what the bell means and how to deal with stall life (kick things and drag your teeth until someone feeds you more).  All the little things I never remember as skills have started to kick in for him.

My new shirt
Tomorrow we have one test, just for practice.  I may let him wear his bling.  He's earned it.