Most riders decide to enter a show when their horse is fully trained and can perform the test comfortably at home. Usually, I do the same, but sometimes it’s not always quite that simple. The end of May, I had planned to take Liam to a show, and in the days before the show he was a little off, so I quick changed my entry and took Remy instead. Remy was awesome, considering he only had about 6 weeks of full training at the time. It wasn’t a flawless test by any means, but given the circumstances, I was just glad we had pulled it off.
Well, poor Remy is getting thrown in again, this time because I have a schooling show scheduled for my riders next weekend and at the last minute one of them had to cancel. Our trailer pricing is based on the number of horses going, so instead of getting a new quote and then getting new checks from everyone, I figured I’d just take Remy along to the show. He’s coming along really nicely in his training, and this will be a great chance for him to get some more mileage, even though we are riding HC because there is no open division in the schooling show.
As I contemplated what I wanted to work on in my limited few days left before the show, I thought back to the last show. I ran through the test in my mind, trying to remember the comments. Suddenly, I realized what the big issue was. He was nervous, but not because of the show atmosphere. He was nervous about the little white fence surrounding the show ring. He had warmed up beautifully, relaxed and focused, and he hadn’t come apart until I tried to enter at A. Then throughout the test, keeping him on the rail was a major challenge, and we had ridden most of the test in a weird sort of haunches-in. Immediately, I knew what I wanted to work on before the show.
I started by putting two cones in the arena to mark the “enter at A” onto the center line. Then I put a cavelleti on the quarter line parallel to the rail at E, extending it by adding a pole on either side of it. I proceeded to ride Remy between the cones and on the “rail” next to the cavelleti’s until he went where I asked without tension. At first it wasn’t pretty, and he was pretty sure that if he got too close to any of my obstacles, he needed to jump over them. Thank goodness we got THAT idea out of his head before the show! As we worked, I realized that his fear was not of the cones or poles themselves. He would happily walk right up to any of it. But as I attempted to walk PAST any of it, he got nervous. He wasn’t sure how close he could get without stepping on it, and that was the part that made him either want to give the objects *plenty* of room, or else just jump them and be done with it.
So we walked back and forth, between and around the cones, then along the “rail”, then made circles leaving the “rail” and returning the to the “rail” until he was relaxed, then we did the same at the trot, and then finally at the canter. It didn’t take him too long to figure out the idea.
The next day, I took it a step further. I made an entire corner of a dressage arena, using lunge lines and cones to mimic the little white fence on one side, and poles, cavelleti’s, and cones to mark a corner and a short side, complete with a narrow entrance at A.
Remy was much more prepared for this after the previous days work, and handled the new challenge like a pro. We practiced entering and leaving through the narrow opening until it was easy, then we worked on staying right on the rail and making a good corner (without thinking about jumping out of the ring!) in both directions at all gaits. I also practiced making a circle at A, making sure he understood that just because the circle ended at A DID NOT mean he was to EXIT at A! (Which was a mistake we almost made at the conclusion of our stretchy trot circle at the last show! oops!)
Remy was awesome, as he always is. He has a great work ethic and is very trainable. He makes mistakes, like we all do, and sometimes he doesn’t understand what I want from him. But once I make it clear what he is supposed to do, he catches on very quickly and is very cooperative. I’m hoping to get one more day of “little white fence” training in before the show, and I’m really hoping this practice transfers into the show ring so he can do the test like his does at home, despite the presence of the little white fence instead of the sturdy arena walls.