Monday, September 9, 2013

Showtime for Courage

Since it was the six week anniversary of Courage coming off the track, it seemed like a pretty good time to take him to his first show and start building up positive experiences for him. We didn't pre-enter since it's such a crap shoot with babies, but we loaded up and headed over about an hour before we thought our classes would run. Our information was based on a conversation with the organizer the day before.

You can see where this is going.

Pretty much as wild as it got
Pretty much everyone around here who jumps had the exact same thought. We barely squeezed the trailer into the parking area and would not be able to leave until a lot of people ahead of us decided to.

Accordingly, the show ran late. Very late. Instead of tacking up and hopping on ASAP, we now had a very long wait. The good news was, standing around is an AWESOME way to teach greenies that shows are boring and easy.

We spent hours standing around in the holding area and just taking it all in. Horses jumped big jumps, kids trotted by to get to their classes, people came and went, the loud speaker got used.

Courage didn't so much as spook.

His beloved Honey Pie Pony
I'm pretty sure it was his first time to ever see a pony and we did establish one thing about his personality:

He LOVES ponies. The smaller and cuter the better, but pretty much anything under 14hh looks like a good friend to him.

Given the opportunity, he wanted to trot after them and be their friend. I didn't let him, since I thought giant prancing thoroughbred might scare the small ones.

Still. Adorable.

After many hours of standing around and visiting and meeting his facebook fans, it was finally time to saddle up and go. Bear in mind that we were here for the experience. We signed up for ground poles and the whole point was just to go out in the arena and see what it was like and let him see new stuff in a different situation. I wasn't planning to push him or work on contact or do anything he'd find challenging in a new environment.

The best.
We avoided the warmup, because it was chaos, but eventually we had to go stand by it while we were in line for our class. As horses cantered past us and people milled around the in gate, the horses in the pasture next to us took off galloping and bucking.

Courage stood on the buckle on watched it all. What a stud.

Finally, it was off to the show ring!

I let Courage walk around the far side of the arena so he could see the standards and the indoor next to us and the spooky hay barn, then we headed for our course.

He. Was. Awesome.

A wee tiny jump
Fancy jumps, flowers, leaving his buddy, whatever. He trotted calmly and listened to me. He did decided to actually jump the flowers, but he listened and I stayed with him.

I kept my reins soft and just asked him to follow the pattern. I let him canter after the poles, but brought him back to trot in the corners.

So fancy
To my complete surprise, he was totally relaxed and easy. He continued working on stretching into the contact of his own volition. Again, he wasn't consistent, but the fact that I could put him in an intentionally spooky environment and have the same work I get at home?

Amazing. I still can't believe it.

A mighty leap
We did have one tiny moment just so I'd remember that he is still kinda green. The last two jumps on the course were an outside line. The first pole was decorated with flowers. He'd been very willing to go over them, but very respectful of their space, which I think is perfect.

It was pretty late in the day at this point, and he cleared them with room to spare. It was definitely the biggest jumping effort he's given me yet.

That was a little exciting, so there was a land/scoot/something to follow it up with. I'm interested to see the video, just because it all happened so fast that I was pretty much riding on instinct.

He got a little hoppy/light in front and I corrected immediately. 


When I think about it, I would have preferred to respond differently. It didn't feel naughty or wild--more like he just sort of surprised himself. The excess energy isn't bad, but I would have liked to put him to work on a little larger circle. As it was, we demonstrated an excellent rollback for everyone and then carried on.

The focus was on having a positive experience, so I rode to the next obstacle and forced myself to loop the rein and trust him.

Wouldn't you know, he was fine.

Looking cute
I'm sure we entertained the judge and spectators by my constantly praising him for every minor thing (you turned!! you're like baby einstein!!), but I was just blown away by how awesome he was about everything.

Jumps, ponies, warm up, judge's tent, loose horses, whatever. At six weeks off the track, he was perfectly happy to hack around on the buckle and visit with new and old friends.

And one last shot I have to share--I am an obsessive groom, but I've been strapped for time lately. I broke down and pulled him mane right before the show.

Now he looks like a proper grownup. Too cute!


  1. YAY! Courage! I'm sure you handled that scoot/spook as well as you could have! Based on the photos it simply looks like you were working on your canter pirouettes midway through the outside line:) *Also, when I go back to get your breastplate I'm throwing in one of Bartville's beautiful neck straps!

  2. What a grown up baby horse. Congrats on an awesome first show outing! And I'm finally breaking down and asking: WHAT are you're breeches?? I am seriously in love with them.

    1. They are the smartpak piper kneepatch breeches. I'll write a review once i have sufficiently abused them.

  3. How exciting!!! Congratulations! What a good boy :)
    Eek for them leaving jump cups up though. That scares me especially with greenies.

  4. very awesome. He's such a great catch!

  5. Super job on the part of both rider and especially, horse. You have discovered a gem indeed.

    Congratulations on your first real outing!

  6. You give me so much hope about getting an OTTB!!!! So great!!

  7. This post makes me so happy! I love all the pics! He is fantastic and so are you! Congrats on such a successful outing!

  8. Congrats on a great first outing! Way to go Courage!

  9. In which Courage lives up to his name! So wonderful :)

  10. It's amazing what these OTTBs can do! I have now witnessed my trainer bring dozens of them off the track and with very few exceptions they have all been as easy as this. Way to go Courage!! I think he is definitely living up to his name.

  11. I love the photos. What an awesome pony you have!

  12. Yay!!!! Wow he is so incredible. What a good boy. ::pats::

  13. Sounds like a great first outing!

  14. Just catching up on your blog... what a good boy!! And SO freaking cute!!

  15. What a good boy at his first show! Can he come give Dandy lessons? :)

  16. What a good boy!! Hes so super cute and the pulled mane looks great on him :).
    Sounds like a very good first show experince for him.

  17. I <3 your boy. What a good man he is! And of course one should give flowers respect - you never know if mean fairies live in them ,or there may be a troll or two. I also talk to my horse and tell her good girl for every little thing. She deserves it -- she puts up with me. LOL


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