We recently took Joanne's mare Cookie (CHF I Double Dare Ya) to her first real show as part of our show team. Cookie has alot of experience going to shows but not performing as a Trail horse. In Trail, she's still quite the novice.
So, the goal was to get to know her in a yet another different setting. I don't think you ever know a horse thoroughly until you show them. Our other goal was to continue to school her on different Trail obstacles, different bridges and gates etc. Though she truly did need schooling - or, as I think of it, ongoing exposure to different things - she did really well with the new challenges and we were very pleased with her progress.
Earlier this year the Open and Amateur Trail courses would have been very difficult for her and I very much believe in NOT over-challenging a Trail horse too soon in their career (I expect all my horses to have very long careers!). I believe in building confidence, not sucking it right out of them. So, earlier this year we took her to another show but only put her in one class - a non-rated walk/trot class with Joanne (a "ten and way-over" walk trot class!) - where she did very well for her level of training. She was able to warm up on all the obstacles and even school on some lope poles in the warm-up arena. In the main arena though, she did only walk-trot and while even some of the trot obstacles were a push for her, she was able to maintain her confidence and wasn't overchallenged.
Between that early show and now, I've worked to build Cookie's abilities, teach her how to lengthen and shorten, bend in the ribcage and pay attention over obstacles. As she showed ability and confidence with one lope pole, I added another, then three and I'll keep adding various other challenges as time goes on, but always with an eye to maintaining her confidence and form.
So, Cookie continues to learn and become a confidence Trail horse. She still has a ways to go and I will continue to look for maiden and novice classes for her if I can find them just as I have all the other horses I have started in this demanding discipline. But our patient building blocks are paying off.
Does she still have some issues? Yes, but as she gains confidence and learns how to negotiate a course and, importantly, learns to trust her rider, everything will fall into place like pieces of a puzzle! Talk to you next week. JD