I`ve been working hard with Llani at home, and he`s been for the odd trip out, but loading had become a slight issue. So, with the diary looking empty for this weekend I figured he needed a trip out.
After scouring local venues I found a small combined training competition nearby. I hadn`t been to the venue for years, so after a bit of deliberation opted for the smaller of the two classes. At previous showjumping competitions Llani has panicked a bit in the ring and forgotten himself so either raced around the course or refused the first jump. I needed him to have a fun, relaxed day to build his confidence.
I gulped when I heard my dressage time for this morning – 8.56am! And I was the second class!
By the time we`d calculated warm up, journey duration, loading time, I needed to be at the yard at 6am – I wasn`t very happy!
Anyway, I think he was so surprised by my early arrival he didn`t take the scenic route towards me (recently he`s started walking away from me in a big circle before letting me catch him) and he was soon groomed ready to travel.
Llani`s problem when loading is that any noise outside the trailer distracts him and he reverses out rapidly to gawp at it. We find lunge lines work best, but as it was so early there were no helping hands. We parked the trailer close to a lorry, to block one side, and then attached a lunge line to the other. We wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, so left it slack as I led Llani up the ramp. He paused … so my chauffeur picked up the lunge line, and he marched on! Then I let him have a handful of feed as a reward. It was a positive loading as he`s not practised for a few weeks and he didn`t dig his heels in and cause an argument.
Llani travels well, so the journey was smooth and didn`t take as long as anticipated. We had a good nose around the venue before unloading Llani to give him a long warm up.
I don`t need to wear Llani out in the warm up, but he needs a bit of time to take in his surroundings, especially a spooky indoor arena!
He looked at all the mirrors, and scary people standing in the corner, but worked in well.
The prelim test rode fine; I was happy with him. There was a doorway at B and mirrors, which Llani spooked at intially, and kept an eye on it throughout the test. I mean, after all, there are monsters hiding in mirrors and doorways! Despite having half an eye on the scary corners and losing attention, he felt better in the good bits than he did last test. Even when he looked at the doorway, he refocused quickly so I feel he`s getting more confident in new environments.
Llani even produced a reasonable free walk on a long rein. It`s a movement he struggles with as he gets tense easily, especially in new environments, and wants to have the rider`s support. Again, him stretching down means he`s confident.
After the dressage I changed the bridle to go jumping. It was a straightforward course, but there were some bright fillers and planks. Height was no issue, but I wanted a quiet, rhythmical canter throughout the course. The first fence was a inviting spread, which is great for getting the horses into their stride. Llani didn`t bat an eyelid at any of the fillers, and was confident in his approach so got a great clear round.
With no idea about the results, I didn`t mind where he was placed. He had done a personal best dressage test (final score was 67% which was a bit generous in my eyes) and had done a beautiful, stylish jumping round with no worries. And, he had been perfectly behaved loading back up and on the ground. So we hung around for a while to hear the results, and much to my surprise we were first!
Next time he can go bigger and keep growing in confidence!