Back in June, when Leo had been off the track for 30 whole days, I took him to Carolina Horse park for the weekend with P. And while he handled it as well as could be expected, by NORMAL standards, it was sort of a mess.
Since then Leo has had 23 rides at home and been to Trainer B’s 9 times for lessons, and in my opinion, has come such a long way. But the real test was going to be heading back to Carolina Horse Park for the War Horse schooling day/horse trial, because there’s A LOT going on there.
Friday morning we headed to Trainer B’s for a lesson (in which he was perfect), then left straightaway for CHP. My friend was showing there with her trainer and another client, so I stalled with them, and we had another friend coming in to help out, so a really fun group of
day drinkers support.
Leo settled in nicely, then I went to go hook up my trailer in the campsite with the plan of hacking him around the grounds when I got back. Of course as soon as I got back to the barn the heavens opened up and it poured and stormed for about an hour, and I saw my chance of riding slipping away. I was sort of desperate to get on him, though, as I figured my best shot at a calm(ish) ride would be that evening when 1) It wasn’t super crowded, and 2) He’d already been worked that day. So as soon as it stopped downpouring, I tacked him up and we headed out.
It was still sprinkling, there was a bunch of lightning and thunder, the wind had picked up and the temperature had plummeted, but the horse was PERFECT. A little tense, but didn’t put a foot out of place, even when someone came cantering head on towards him. We lasted about 20 minutes before the storms came rolling back in for real and it became a little insane to be out there.
The next morning it poured some more, so everything became a sloppy, disgusting mess. It was the pre-horse trial schooling day, and my instruction from Trainer B had been to get him into the water complex, and also to get him over a few of the tiniest baby jumps IF he was handling everything well. There was a lot of excitement on the grounds, as it was a frigid 70 degrees after 90+ degree heat for the entire summer, and many a call of “Loose Horse” could be heard around the venue.
So when I got on at the barn and walked him past mucho madness to meet everyone at show jumping and he DIDN’T melt down, I was so proud. He did have one moment when a couple horses came at him, but it was more of a “We gotta get out of the way,” spook than anything else. Unfortunately, my friend’s horse and the other client’s horse were having a rough go at life, so our XC schooling time got pushed back while the trainer could get on those guys for their schooling rounds. I ended up walking Leo across the street and just hanging out, letting him soak in the insanity that is XC schooling, and walking/trotting him around the field. AND HE WAS PERFECT. Yes, this is going to be a theme here, guys.
By then everyone else was there, so we followed along while they jumped, because my main mission was water. He stood still while everyone jumped, and didn’t even flinch when a whole group of horses came charging around the corner and up the hill towards us like the cavalry (with the trainer hollering behind them NOT to do that). The only time he got upset was when we were in a little straightaway with woods on either side and my friend cantered off on her horse. There was much sideways motion and llama neck while I convinced him we weren’t going with them, but once they got back, I decided to trot him over the glorified groundpole that is the Green as Grass jump and he had no issues moving away from our group to do just that.
Then we popped over a tiny coop, and on approach he was much more interested in the flag laying in the ground, and did a little pitter-patter with his tooties before popping right over.
But came right around and did it again.
And the water? Oh…a non-issue.
Then we hopped over a couple more little things:
And then finally strung together a mini course…and he was an angel.
Heading back to the barns, I almost got off to walk him because I figured he might get a little anxious crossing the road and going through the trailers and barn madness, but my curiosity to see how he’d handle it all won out, so I stayed on. And we ended up splitting off from the group with one of the other clients so she could go back to SJ warmup and tackle those jumps again, and Leo this time was perfectly fine with the chaos. I got off him so we could be the client’s jump crew and he followed me around like a puppy dog, and stood like a statue while she jumped. You better believe he got praised like he’d just jumped around
Rolex Land Rover for how incredible he was.
He was so good I almost let Husband peer pressure me into entering the actual competition the next day.
And the next day, despite being cooped up in his stall most of the weekend, was perfectly calm to walk around and graze, while I watched some dressage warmup and SJ rounds.
And while I know that there’s still a long way to go, this outing really bolstered my confidence in his brain…not to mention I had SO.MUCH.FUN.