Anybody remember hearing the line in one of the Dirty Harry movies- "A man's got to know his limitations..." That applies to horses too. And when you are showing your horse or someone elses, you need to know not only your own limitations, but those of the horse as well.
Not wanting to ever be "that horse", (the one that gets pulled out of competition by the officials) I have decided we are not going to push for competing at the CDE next month. Kat just won't be ready and I would rather wait until he is. I don't want to fry his mind or blow him out physically, trying to get ready in time for one event.
This realization came over the weekend after one of our 'outings'. We only made it out into the neighborhood Saturday morning. We managed to get out early enough that the garbage truck was not an issue. We worked a bit in the arena, blowing off some steam and knocking the edge off, before setting out and heading down the driveway. We hit traffic (three cars) at the corner and Kat was fine. Waited patiently while the dually went by, then proceeded on down the street while the other two turned and went on their way.
I decided to let him pick up the trot since we were going away from the house. No sense in trotting towards home and starting that habit. So we moved off into the dirt and picked up a trot. Kat was fine until we passed the second neighbors pasture and their 'herd' came galloping to the fence to see what we were. Up went his head and tail and he thought he was hot to trot! I brought him back down to a walk and managed to keep him on the other side of the street, but he was suddenly very energetic and enthused. No big deal, there is an empty lot up ahead. We will make our way over there and he can work it off.
Or so I thought! We made our way into the empty lot and once there, Kat immediately picked up a swift, striking trot and rolled into a very energetic canter... Which would have been fine, if he was listening to me. I did get him brought back down to a trot and he soon kicked it back up into high gear and was galloping again. He was getting resistant and blasted threw a patch of weeds. That seemed to piss him off that we went through the weeds and somehow in his mind it was my fault. What? Really?
I managed to bring him back down to a trot as we came back around headed for the weeds again. He was still being a bit squirrelly and our steering wasn't what it normally is. He did give in enough that we went around the weed patch this time- not through it- and after that he came back down to a walk. If he had been listening and responsive, by all means- I would have let him trot. Blow off some steam, release the energy, use it up and also learn that you still have to work even when we are away from home and somewhere else. It would have been no different than if I was riding him.
When he was back on the road, he settled right into his elastic, ground covering walk and we went on our way. He seemed to have it in his mind- this is our 'walk only' route, which is fine by me. We both needed to settle down and relax again after that. We came around the corner onto one of the busier parts of the road (yay! no traffic!) and I seen a bicycle off in the distance headed our way. The cyclist was on the other side of the road and as they approached I talked to Kat, told him to walk on, the bike went by and he never missed a beat. Progress!
As we made our way home, I changed the course a bit and we went to the west end of the street. Our neighbor at the end of the street has 3 or 4 horses that ran to the fence to greet us. Kat whuffled to them and that was it. I reminded him he was still working and we went on with no further issues. We worked a bit more in the arena when we came home and although he acted a little tired, when I asked him to go around the buckets and poles out there- he came to life and it was Game ON! again. He really seems to enjoy going around and through obstacles.
We made figure eights, loops around the buckets and poles, went across the arena at a diagonal, serpentines through the poles and buckets and he was having a blast. He remained at a trot, but was kicking it up a few notches and was his usual light, responsive self. I made up our 'course' as we went and he responded by turning it up and playing along. I really think he is going to be a strong competitor in the ADT's as well as the marathon and cones portion of the CDE's. He clearly has fun when all of the pressure to be 'correct' is off.
The next CDE is in March and much closer. I can also get in touch with the facility owner and go there to train ON the actual course with the actual obstacles we will be using. How better to prepare than that? They also have enough space that we can work on the stamina and his endurance- with no real outside influences. Sure an occasional train may pass by, but it's not like you can't see or hear them coming and get far enough away form the track or even dismount the cart and stand by his head until it passes.
There is also an ADT up north this weekend and the local schooling show. The ADT is out of the question and the schooling show is a maybe. There are a few things I need to pick up before then, so it could happen. Although it is a schooling show, I like to be prepared. If there is another entry, I don't want the judges job of pinning the class to be made easy because I didn't have this, that or ??? and someone else did. If I am only going for the sole purpose of 'schooling' a horse, then it is different and things are a bit more relaxed. I still want everything to be presentable, but it doesn't have to be down to the letter and exact. So we shall see. And if we make it to the schooling show, I will be braiding him for it. Part of making sure everything in our turnout is, as it should be.