Remember that plan I wrote about in my last blog, the strategy you devise through months of showing to show your horse to his best? Whether to handwalk, whether to lunge in the morning, how long to warm up, how many classes a day or a show?
Yeah. Scrap it.
No, don't actually, because it's a good starting point. But then bear in mind the advice Lendon Gray gave me six years ago, as I lamented to her on the phone that a then five-year-old Ella was totally different from day-to-day, show-to-show, and it was making me crazy: "Lauren, there's no good time to show a young horse."
She's right. I agree, and add this: if you're going to show a horse - young, old or otherwise - be prepared to roll with the punches.
Your plan might fail, for example. Your horse might have grown overnight, something we see in young horses all the time. He might worry himself all night and be exhausted the day of your class. She might be sore or stiff from a change in footing. You might have seriously misjudged how much (or how little) energy your beast has on any given day, and over any sequence of days.
You might have a tricky horse in your schooling session on the pre-competition day (Fender) and then have an AMAZING ride the next day and decide to really turn up the volume (Fender) and then, come Championship Day, find you've spent your best horse (you guessed it!).
You might come in to Friday with a plan to show your horse, who was wild on Thursday, only to find him pretty much comatose in his stall with that please-don't-touch-me look (Billy, remembering that he is, in fact, 21 years old, and that leaping is unbecoming in a gentleman of his age).
You might break your finger, and possibly also your foot. (Poor Kathleen!)
And you might be halfway through your test when the garage door attached to your arena decides to randomly open itself in the middle of a very nice extended trot.
This was not me or one of my students - it was another rider in my Championship class, the poor thing. I was warming up at the time, trying to use as little of Fender's limited energy as possible, and so I've heard that the garage door either opened once or twice or even three times, none of which is really ok. The horse she was riding was, understandably, quite distraught, and then there was conversation about whether to have her finish her test or come back later, and if later, then when. And then there was fixing the door to ensure it wouldn't repeat it's destructive performance. And all this left us 15 minutes late, making me sit on Fender for almost an hour, which didn't help the exhaustion factor.
But I adjusted my plan. I warmed up very little, and spent lots of time doing turns on the haunches and leg yields in the walk, and while I didn't have enough gas in the tank to really dazzle, Fender still let me ride him quite nicely, and he ended up fourth on 68% in a HUGE and VERY competitive class with excellent horses in it, plus earning me a Wildcard invite to our inaugural USDF National Championships, wahoo!
Little Kristin rode her pony, Whisper, to a 65% and a Third Place in a big open class, and Big Kristin had the misfortune of being first rider of the day in her Championship class, and was therefore swindled out of a ribbon, boo. And Allison earned a 68% on a young horse she shows for the breeder (and she agrees that, really, there is no good time to show a young horse).
Tomorrow is the first of our really crazy days - multiple Championship classes, plus a few riders schooling in preparation for their Sunday Championships. Fortunately, the Lexington 7-Eleven has both Blueberry and Pumpkin flavored coffee on tap, so I have a selection to choose from. That's the start of MY plan for tomorrow, and I'm optimistic it will work.
After that, it's anything-goes.