As I’ve mentioned a few times, we were bringing a bunch of students down to Fieldstone Show Park in Halifax, MA for the June show, and since there was a spot open on the trailer, baby horse got to tag along.
All of my plans for him have been so open ended, because when he’s on, he’s great but channeling his energy and getting his brain to stay focused on one task is a huge challenge at HOME, much less a big horse show. GMHA went well, though, so I was hoping Fieldstone would too.
We left Tuesday morning and the dude hopped into the trailer like a champion and rode quietly the entire way. (Yes, we refilled the hay net… we’re not monsters!) He settled into our tent stalls, took a nap, and then marched around the grounds like it was all old hat. While his head was constantly on a swivel, he was respectful and had (mostly) full awareness of his body.
Wednesday started cool and damp, not the best horse show weather but we made the best of it, got our students settled and then got on the young horses to school. Since they have several warm up rings, we had options to stay mostly out of traffic. Eli marched up and we had a great 5 minutes of minor shenanigans but nothing out of character… until another horse cantered up behind him and he lost his marble. I had Ashley hop on him because my nerves were at an all time high, and she ended up taking him to a smaller ring where she got him to settle nicely. I hopped back on, and while he was still tense and spooky, I got him around a few times before we called it quits, and got everybody tucked in for the night in anticipation of a full day of showing Thursday…. and a trip to the SmartPak outlet!
Best. Place. Ever.
My bank account is thrilled I don’t live in MA… because I would move in.
Turn out we got to show Thursday in the POURING rain…. POURING. I hand walked the young horses, did chores and was absolutely soaked through and shivering.
Ashley had a 3′ Open Hunter class and laid down really nice trips despite the weather and absolute slop that was the footing. The show crew worked their asses off, but it was raining faster than the rings could drain. That, combined with the amount of traffic made the conditions iffy, but they got the job done.
Eli took a bunch more handwalks, but that was the majority of the fun for him on Thursday, since we were a lot busier.
Friday brought… more rain in the morning, but the afternoon cleared up and we had students in the hunter and jumper rings, so were running most of the day. I finally got Eli out for a hack after the show was done for the day, and all was well until another horse in the warm up ran into him. We were both moderately frazzled and I hopped off, not wanting to put him in the position for it to happen again. The other rider honestly didn’t mean to, but was on another young horse who didn’t have much in the way of breaks.
We went to the lunge area, and I lunged him for about 45 minutes, and then Ashley hopped on him and hacked him around a quieter part of the grounds with great success. My brain was NOT cooperating, and I’m so thankful she was there to help me out.
After a complete meltdown to Brad on the phone, because this whole fear thing is getting REALLY frustrating, we agreed that I should try getting on him as early as possible and schooling. I checked in with the show office and was told that as long as it was light out, I could ride… so I set my alarm for 430 on Saturday and was at the grounds and mounted by 5 am.
It absolutely did the trick. We went around with no issues. Eli still looked at EVERYTHING and used all the distractions as an excuse to blow me off, but I was confident in getting after him and I got some really nice work out of him in the end. We did have one epic meltdown on the way home, when we passed the lunging ring. One horse blew up and it was just a domino effect… understandable.
Total light bulb moment, and something we will be incorporating into our show routines from now on… dating another horse trainer has proven to be helpful when we aren’t arguing about QH’s vs TB’s!
Saturday was a mostly chill day after the morning hack, with just one student in a handful of classes across two rings, so Eli got a ton more hand walks and even a visit from my folks! Eli showed his appreciation for their visit by almost running them over spooking at a storm drain, they went home and we ended up getting sent back to the barns for a thunder and lightning hold.
None of the commotion bothered the kid, who was happily stuffing his face. Hurricane winds (I’m being slightly dramatic), thunder, hail, lightning, rain blowing in sideways… none of it even so much as caused him to lift his head.. and we were in a TENT. Horses are weird.
I got to sleep off my early morning and then we were back to showing for the afternoon. Our students did an awesome job and everybody wrapped up the day feeling great.
Sunday was another really early, but really good morning with Eli being the Goodest Boi in the warm up ring, and my student with the other young horse lessoning really well. We had a quick morning, with more amazing trips from the kids (there were many happy tears) and more handwalking before we packed the crew up to head home.
All in all it was a great experience for Eli and I. I’ve learned a bit more about how he needs to be prepped, and he’s learning that being a show horse isn’t that big of a deal. We have a ton of homework to do before I feel confident that I’ll give him a great first trip in the show ring, but I was so pleased with how it all went.
As far as shows go, Fieldstone was great. The staff was super friendly and worked hard to make it a good show despite the constant rain. The accommodations were great, the facility was gorgeous, and the food was stellar (French toast sticks… that’s all I’m saying). The only thing I really could complain about was that the set up for lunging was horrific. The footing was a mess, and there was no fence around the area, which resulted in SEVERAL loose horses all week.
No matter what, though, I’m so grateful I have this horse in my life, and I’m so excited to see what we can accomplish together. We’re actually doing this thing!