|...YEAH, THAT UPPERVILLE.|
Long story short, I don't know for sure that we'll be in the area this time next year to contest the most historic horse show in the United States. I've been to Upperville as a groom and spectator, but never competed there. I grew up looking at the photos and the results in The Chronicle every year and dreamed of showing there one day. I figured this summer I would get Soonie out showing in the area, and build up some experience to do Upperville in 2018. But since I can no longer guarantee we'll be here a year from now...this year is the year. We're doing it.
To be fair, I did wait until I took Soon to his first "real" horse show - you know, the kind where you have to get on a trailer, stay over at the show grounds, deal with crowds and thousands of children on ponies and banners and vendor tents and all the horse show atmosphere crap. If he completely wigged out, I wouldn't send in the Upperville entry. If he handled it and was relaxed, I'd go ahead and enter the two tiniest jumper classes on the Upperville prize list. I'm happy to report that's exactly what happened. We're entered in Upperville and will absolutely be that combo that is "just happy to be there."
First Horse Show
I made the last second decision to take Bubba to a local overnight show at the show grounds 20 minutes down the street. We could have easily hauled in to school on Saturday, gone home, and hauled back in on Sunday, but I wanted him to experience "sleep over camp," and see how he reacted. After easing him into it all afternoon, and a somewhat jumpy first warm up experience, he settled into the show atmosphere well, jumped around the show fences (Saturday warm up) like a superstar, and seemed to almost enjoy the nonstop attention back at the barn. He went out on Sunday morning like he'd showed all his life - his two baby jumper classes looked like poised hunter rounds, he napped next to the ring, he had no issues with the covered ring (which he had yet to be ridden in), or the fact that he didn't get a proper warm up due to the schooling ring footing being trashed from three days of rain. He was relaxed and happy to perform. By that second day, it was clear he understood what the game was, and he seemed to be having fun with it.
Second Horse Show
Since the first show didn't have "proper" jumper fences (only rails), I wanted to see how Soonie would do at another venue that had a proper, more impressive set of jumps to look at. So, the following weekend we hauled up to Loch Moy for their hunter/jumper show. We arrived Saturday afternoon, and despite a minor foul-up with the stabling (where Soon had to stand on the trailer and eat hay for a bit, which I was happy to see he did without protest!), it was a smooth afternoon. I got him settled in the barn and unpacked, then we went down to school.
|The face of someone with no sleep and zero desire to play.|
He got a little behind me, but he went right over the one-stride with no issue. He figured it out and the second time was lovely through the whole line. The experiment was to see if he could go in the ring and jump an interesting set of fences (planks, gates, flowers, combos, etc) without needing anything explained to him. I also wanted to see if the height would catch him by surprise. None of it did. He was relaxed, focused, and happy to do his job. It answered all my questions for Upperville, and at that point I was perfectly happy NOT to show the following day. I almost loaded him up and came home on Saturday night, having just done the schooling. I probably should have just gone for that, but I had already paid for the stall, for the hotel...I figured stay and school again in the morning. Maybe show. Maybe not.
|Sleeping...I think he got the hang of the show life.|
He was a little "up" again in the morning, but settled well and was very rideable. We did a nice little dressage school while the mass of hunters and children flew by in the adjacent rings. Once he was done flatting, I wanted him to just chill ringside for awhile and take more of the show scene in. Once he was consistently falling asleep in the middle of the four rings, I decided he got the memo and we were good to do. We packed up and came home, and I called the weekend a success.
He ate and drank well at both horse shows, seemed to settle very well in the new environments, and was a complete gentleman each time out. He has this holiday weekend off from traveling. We'll hack around, maybe haul out for a quick lesson, but otherwise we're relaxing this weekend and getting geared up for our three days at Upperville. I'm excited. We're not going there to ribbon, we're just going to say that we showed at Upperville and had a good time. I just want a calm, happy horse. That will be my prize for being there. I can't wait to make this memory with him.