Friday, March 4, 2011

The Mock Show

Another one from the archives:

My sister, Ellen, and I are serious trail riders. If we can ride on the trail, we do. Bad weather is not a deterrent—it is a challenge. Don’t get the wrong idea, though, we don’t just goof off all the time. We take our riding and training very seriously. If the weather is dreadful or it is dark out, we school them in the arena and work hard on improving our riding skills. Long ago, we realized a good trail horse needs to be an all-around, well-trained horse. We also work on training them while we are on the trail to be obedient and responsive. Not all training has to take place in the ring. One last ingredient to making a terrific trail horse is for the rider to skilled enough to ride balanced and tactfully. How can we expect our horses to behave well if we ride crooked and make them sore, or if we are leaning on the bit? Remember, we don’t work for just a half an hour like someone would in an arena, we go out riding for several hours at a time. Our horses can get quite sore on the long rides if we ride poorly. If we make the time unpleasant for our horses, they will make it unpleasant for us.

We work very hard to keep our horses’ training and our riding skills up to our standards, yet Ellen’s horse, Ranger, has never been in a show, and my horses have only been in one once. We love trail riding so much that we don’t want to spend a day at a show. Not long ago, there was a local instructor who was giving a “mock show” class. She invited anyone in the neighborhood to meet her up at the local show ring where she would evaluate the riders as if she was a judge. Ellen and I thought it would be a good experience for our horses to work in a ring with a group of other horses. For years, we boarded at small barns and didn’t have many opportunities to work our horses in large groups.

We rode our horses up to the show ring early and met the instructor. She didn’t know us, so we introduced ourselves and told her we were just “trail riders” who wanted to work our horses in a group and had no intention of showing. She welcomed us and soon the class began.

Right from the start, our horses showed up the rest of the class. We were the only riders in the class who would even try to go through the large puddle along the rail at one end. Our horses didn’t even hesitate to do it. The rest of the riders cut inside to avoid it—not even trying it. Maybe they just didn’t want to get their horses muddy, but good trail horses have to go through mud whether they like it or not. Just to stay with the rest of the group, we cut inside to go around the puddle after that. Whenever we were in a crowd of other horses and wanted to get away from the group, we would leave them and head for the mud. They would then happily go along the rail and through the water.

The instructor gave us some good advice on how to improve our riding. Most of it was aesthetic, such as looking forward instead of down at the horses head. I think we have spent too many miles swatting mosquitoes from their necks. At the canter, I held my hands a little too high and sometimes my heels came up a bit. Of course, I expected to have some criticism, but I certainly thought there would be more than that. I will now work on these things when I am riding on the trail. It will just be a matter of changing some bad habits that I picked up.

The great part of our ride is that our horses behaved beautifully. Remember, they’ve had little experience with working in large groups. It instructor was impressed that they did fine in the group, yet worked well independently when we circled them to get a better spot away from the other horses. Even though our horses are best of friends, they didn’t mind being away from each other as we rode around the ring. They were quiet and obedient. At the end of the class, the instructor told us that, for horses that were “just trail horses,” they did very well. We were quite proud of them. Instead of going right home like everyone else did, we went on a short trail ride. Not much will keep us from our passion.

It was good to know that all of our hard work has paid off. We both felt that if we wanted to go in a show, we may not win anything, but our horses would do just fine. The question we have to ask ourselves is, "Do we want to spend the day at a show ring and miss a lovely trail ride?" I don’t think so. The trail calls…


Anonymous said...

Very well said. I too "have just a trail horse". I have no intent to stand around all day looking clean and proper at a show for some silly satin ribbon. Unless it's a fun show with games, now those I do do. But like you, I'm also a trail queen. But what is so true like you said, when we do go to fun shows our horses have been exposed to so much that nothing in the ring phases them. It's so funny because my horse will run her heart out at these fun gaming shows but the minute we come out of the ring, she falls asleep or lazily stands around waiting for her turn to shine again. There's nothing more fun though than being on the trail so close to nature.

achieve1dream said...

I'm with you on that one! People who spend all of their time showing or preparing for shows don't seem to understand how great trail riding is. If I had to choose between showing or trail riding I would choose the trails any day. I just would not enjoy spending forty five minutes a day schooling and never hitting the trails for several hours. And the stress of showing would not be fun at all. In my opinion the trails just can't be beat. :)