Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Every Good Play Needs a Game-plan

In terms of recreational sports such as football, soccer, hockey, etc, all athletes have a game-plan set in their heads. They have an idea of how they will face the "play", but at the same time have to be able to alternate on the fly.

I am a large advocate of pre-planning, especially when it comes down to high-stress activities (horse-shows anybody?). Jumping in with both feet is sometimes permitted, but certainly not acceptable in all lights of life. Showing a nervous horse is not exception.

A side-by-side comparison of Suzie at a show VS schooling.
Left: Tense, bracing, wrong lead, counter-bent, high poll.
Right: Loose and relaxed. This is what we want to achieve.
 When I was filling out my entry forms for the BVX, I had to keep Suzie's abilities in mind. Not only her athletic ability, but her mental capacity as well. Sure, at home and in lessons she is sensible, quiet, and even "dead", but at shows she is a whole 'nother demon and I have two significant and important regulations to follow.

1. Make it a good experience for the both of us.

2. Finish on a good note.

That's it.

It doesn't include ribbons and it doesn't include doing our best. Because ya, horses will make you humble and in order to work through the tension issues she has, I need to be open to changing up what I'd normally expect in a schooling ring. That's not to say she can run around the arena bucking and galloping like an idiot because she has a bee up her butt. She still has to try her best and I still have to actively ride.

A friend remarked how funny the difference between Suzie in the warm-up vs Suzie in the show-pen was and her advice? Go to more shows.

So I scanned the show entry form and started to formulate a plan that would allow both of us to "dip our hooves" into the water before dunking our heads. The show is four days long (Thursday - Sunday) and I need to be practical about it as well as not overdo it.

High alert Suzie.
The plan is:

WEDNESDAY - Trailer to the grounds.

THURSDAY - In-hand classes (4)
  •  Halter, AQHA and Open.  
  • Showmanship, AQHA and Open.
FRIDAY - Western Dressage (2)
  • Training Test 1
  • Training Test 3
SATURDAY - Flat Classes (1)
  • Trail, Senior (BCHQ).
SUNDAY - Reining (4)
  • BC Heritage Beginner Reining, Pattern B (Non-Pro)
  • BC Heritage Beginner Reining, Pattern B (Open)
  • Never Won a Buckle 
  • BVX Freestyle, Beginner

Some classes are subject to change (ie. Trail) and I did my best to incorporate classes that would only have us in the arena and avoid the congested Western Pleasure/EQ classes. I also wanted to start out with in-hand classes and work up to busier rings/classes.

I also have another plan in my arsenal, after speaking and brain-storming with a few other show-savvy friends. While I am not a total believer in "drugging" your horse for competition, this may be a good option to help us cross that gap and start to make some real head-way. Omega Alpha's "Chill" is not illegal in competitions and will not make a horse test positive for anything so I don't have to be concerned about that possible outcome. It more or less comes down to moral obligations and personal beliefs.
Omega Alpha "Chill"
This may be our ticket to a "calm and happy" Red-Mare.
I've been a large advocate of not using anything that alters performance and admittedly, have thought less of people who did. But I never dealt with a consistently show-fractious horse and never had to use anything more than Rescue Remedy. So now I'm in a situation where I have to think back to my two goals, readdress and realize that sometimes getting a little bit of 'extra' help to make it a positive experience may be what we need.

Now we have less than two weeks to fine-tune ourselves and tentatively dip our feet in. Anyone got a snorkel just in case?


  1. I use a lavender essential oil product for Simon. It's very minor, but it might help you :)

    1. Interesting! I'll have to pick some up and add it to our "supplies" for the show. I've already ordered the "Chill" but it would be great to have a few things to try.

  2. i also have a lavender balm that i rub on izzy's muzzle, plus i usually give her an extra dose of her daily gastric supplement (mostly magnesium and calcium), plus a tube of ulcergard split over a couple days. just extra little steps to keep her feeling comfortable and happy

    1. Is it just the stuff you'd normally buy at a health food store?

  3. Love the looks of that schedule, best of luck :)