The day of the show dawned cool and calm, with the threat of heat later in the day. Indy did not seem surprised to see me at the barn at breakfast time and greeted me with his usual whinny. Being a gray, of course, he had laid in poop so he got a quick spot bath.
I was worried that he would be upset about the change in his routine, but he was very relaxed and went along with our new plan. He stood quietly for his bath and while I put on his standing wraps for trailering. He perked up when he saw his friend Borky on the trailer, and proceeded to literally run up the ramp and into the trailer. Guess all that trailer training paid off!
It was a long drive out to Lakeville, CT, we actually wound up going into NY and then coming back to CT to avoid traffic. We could see the boys through the trailer windows, playing “bitey face” the entire way out. We stopped twice to check on them and they were perfectly fine.
Indy hopped off the trailer and proceeded to talk to every horse at the show. Not nervous or scared whinnies, but literally sounding like he was answering each horse with a hello of his own. He marched into his stall like it was his home stall and settled in to the task of eating the grass that his stall floor was made up of. While Indy didn’t seem to mind the solid walls, Borky insisted on keeping an eye on his little friend.
Indy had a couple hours to relax, then it was time to prep. I had been carefully pulling and shortening his mane over the past several weeks, to make his braids look nice. We gave ourselves plenty of time, as braiding was a new thing to him. I needn’t have worried – Indy took a nap while Borky’s mom braided him with impressive speed. Even his teeny little forelock braid was of no concern to Indy.
Borky joined us as we headed out of the stabling area and down to the arena. They were a bit behind, so we headed into the indoor ring to wait our turn with the other yearlings. It was fun to see all the other babies, including Indy’s half brother! So fun to see other Riverman offspring. I did note that Indy was only the second tallest and seemed to fit right in.
I had brought a lead with a chain just in case, and was glad I had. I hadn’t used one on Indy but once before. I was glad I did; with an indoor full of babies there were lots of little explosions. Indy, excited and a little nervous, did have a few little “scoots” where he may have gotten away had I not had the additional leverage.
Finally, it was our turn in the ring. He had relaxed quite a bit by now, until we got in the ring. He knew immediately this was something different and I felt him tense right up, despite having all of the other horses grazing right next to the ring. I talked to him and patted him, he did relax some but was still tight. When standing up for the judge he would only stand for a moment, long enough to call to his friends before wanting to walk off. The judge was very understanding and asked that I halt every few moments to show off his conformation, then allow him to walk a bit. Getting upset with him for not standing still at this point would have only upset him more. He will get used to it in the future and will calm down on his own. Picking a fight with him now will only make things worse.
Next we had to perform the triangle. For the in hand portion of the FEH and YEH, you start by walking a triangle with 15 meter length sides. You then trot a 20 meter triangle, re-present to the judge, and you are done.
I was very proud of Indy here. He was very tight in his back and didn’t show off his big swinging walk, or his floaty, ground covering trot, but he was well behaved. Other babies were rearing, bucking, and leaping away from their handlers. Turning was the hardest thing for us. Otherwise, he was super.
And that was it. It was a lot of prep work, long drive, and a long weekend for our 10 minutes in the ring. That being said, I would do it all over again (and will next year!) in a heartbeat. The positive experience that Indy got from this weekend will transcend all of our future plans. After our ring time he grazed with the others until we had the awards ceremony, where Indy got a lovely pink ribbon.
That night when we returned to do night check, Indy was passed out cold! Despite the very bright lights, he was snoozing away, nose resting on the ground. I changed his water and gave him more hay without him noticing. It was only when I opened his Lucerne Farms Alfa-Supreme chopped hay that he stirred (he loves that stuff!) Clearly, he was exhausted!
The next day, we did have a minor incident while going for a walk. I had gotten too bold, and took him out with just a lead rope and headed out towards the rings. He was a little high strung, which I attributed to him not having turnout, but when the sprinklers directly in front of us gurgled to life, that was enough. He spun quite fast and launched into a full speed gallop towards his stall, leaving me with rope burn and an embarrassed look on my face. With calls of “well he’s got a lovely gallop!” as I went back to stabling, I scolded myself for over facing him a little. He ran right into his stall like a good boy, and thankfully nobody’s horse threw them off! I patted him and took him out for a short walk around the familiar stabling area instead. Later that day we would go for a walk with his friend, and he was very good.
I was worried about him getting upset while horses came and went all day, but didn’t have to. I had to leave to go on a sales call for a saddle and upon my return I found a sleeping Indy who wasn’t caring that his friend had left his stall. When we returned later after Borky’s XC, Indy was the only one in the stabling row, as others had completed their day and left. He didn’t seem to care at all, casually munching his hay.
It was another long drive home but this time the boys were quiet. We got back to the barn after 11pm and they were clearly glad to be home in their own stalls.
I couldn’t be more proud of Indy. He really was an absolute champ, acting like going to a show was something we did all the time. He was well mannered, not acting herb bound, and brave. Despite the weird things we were doing to him, he trusted and tolerated.
Can’t wait till the next one!