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If I were to tell you how the show went in one sentence, it would go something like this: We made it, and we had fun.
And that’s really all that matters.
But I’m sure you want more details than that, and even if you don’t, well…
We learned so much from the show. Since this was the first show we had ever participated in, there were a lot of things that we didn’t know until we actually experienced them. Other things we knew from our years watching the show (we had been spectators for three years before this) but didn’t fully comprehend until doing them ourselves. Probably the biggest surprise was the amount of time spent waiting. Since we didn’t know how long it would take us to get the horse tacked up and get through inspection (I didn’t even know there was an inspection until we got there), we usually ended up getting ready for our classes far too early and spending lots of time sitting around. Another thing we underestimated was the amount of conditioning a horse needs in order to perform well in a show environment. Our stallion, Rocky Mountain Man, is so naturally talented that we thought he’d do great in the show ring even if we maybe didn’t exercise him quite hard enough before hand. “Surely he’ll be energetic enough in the ring to cover up a lot of mistakes,” we thought. Well, the energy was another thing we weren’t expecting, and it didn’t work in our favor either. Rocky got out there in the ring (and boy, did he remember what was going on!) and we couldn’t hold him back. In all the classes we entered him, we fought the canter because he was just so amped up (and partly because he just wasn’t conditioned enough in a faster gait). Another thing that surprised me was how much Rocky got attached to Windy Gail, the mare we took along. They aren’t pasture buddies or anything at home, although we do ride them together quite a bit; but under no circumstances did he want to leave her back at the barn; and if he saw her leaving, he went nuts. Thankfully he’s not the kind of horse to do himself bodily harm by throwing himself around, but he would rear back on his hind legs to try to get his nose over the partition between their stalls to try and see if she were there.
Katelyn and Windy Gail did a very good job in their classes. Windy wasn’t fazed by the big arena, all the new horses, or the loud organ music. She gaited her little heart out, although she was a little stiff at the beginning of some of the classes. Considering that Katelyn and Windy were mostly competing against professionally trained horses and riders who had done this type of thing many times before, they put in a very good showing-one to be proud of. Windy also did well for my little sister Nicole, who rode Windy in the Youth Solo class. They brought home a red ribbon!
Rocky definitely did not perform to his full capacity. He was distracted (he wanted to get back to Windy) and very amped up a lot of the time, although by the third day he seemed to be settling in. On Saturday (we got there Thursday) we didn’t enter him into any classes, but I did ride him twice before the stallion showcase so he almost behaved during his “spotlight” (you can see the video below).
We did not place well. At all. There are many things that we realize (especially with Rocky) we need to work on in order to improve our rankings, but it would be nice to be able to talk to the judges and know what exactly they do judge on. Even though we didn’t place well, we had a lot of fun. We didn’t go to the show for ribbons; we went there for our own curiosity’s sake, for experience, for practice, for networking, and for making friends. And I think we accomplished all our goals. We learned some things to implement more often into our regular training routine (longer rides for more conditioning, fast gait work, relaxed walking, and standing still). Our time at the show was profitable even if we didn’t bring home any blue ribbons.
Even though Rocky didn’t place very well, we got a lot of positive comments about him. People could tell he was from old blood, but most of them didn’t know how old he was. One lady said she saw him down there and thought he was probably about 6 years old. Haha…he is pretty well-preserved for 24.
One of the best parts of the weekend was getting to know so many new people. Everyone was so nice and helpful, and we made some neat connections. We met the sister of the lady who actually produced Rocky, reconnected with old owners of one of our horses, and even met some people who are from our area right here in South Carolina who own Rocky Mountain Horses! It truly is a small world.
My favorite part of the whole time was getting on Rocky Saturday afternoon during the lunch break and riding him with Windy down in the big arena while there were no classes going on. With Windy down there, Rocky relaxed and smoothed out in his gait. When a horse (especially a horse who’s been a nutcase) smooths out and is perfectly controllable…that’s one of the best feelings in the world. Like riding in a sports car. We may not have been judged during our best moments over the weekend, but I felt some good stuff, and it’s that good stuff that I want Rocky to be able to do in any situation so people can see what he really is.
The Kentucky Horse Park was such a nice venue. The entire campus is basically horse friendly, so we had fun riding on the roads and seeing the sights. And I can’t tell you how amazing it was for this mountain girl to be able to ride in a big *flat* arena.
Will we show again? I’d like to, just to show people what Rocky can really do. And it was a lot of fun. There’s an element of “belonging” that you get when showing a horse that you don’t get when you’re just a spectator. So who knows, maybe you’ll see us next year…
Here are a few pictures of our time at the Internationals (I actually took a lot more video than pictures). Please excuse the quality; arena lighting is not the greatest and we were trying to watch the classes and take pictures at the same time. If you’d like to see more pictures (that also happen to be more professional), check out the ones I’ve shared on my Facebook page.
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