I woke up at 3:30am. (I also woke up at 11:30pm and panicked that it was 11:30am and I had overslept, then realized it was dark outside and went back to sleep.) I had my alarm set for 4:30 but decided to go ahead and get up at 4am anyway. We had the 6 horses loaded and were on our way at 6:30am. I tried to nap in the truck but just rested mostly. I was my usual nervous/nauseous/antsy/tired/yawning self, Junior was pretty awesome. He loaded like a pro, unloaded like a pro, lunged pretty well, but spooked when he realized we were next to a hill and there were things (people/horses/cars) MOVING on that hill. But he calmed right down. Show started at nine but we were not on until class 12 so he rested with some hay and kept us all entertained by his silliness. He LOVED the 1/2 doors on the stalls and his face was over/under the door at all times begging and nodding and being Junior. I brought along my awesome horsey friend, Jessica and she played "show mom" and photographer/videographer, so the photos are all hers and I'll put up some video when I have time to edit something.
He was very calm all day, even with the big show crowd and he was awesome in the VERY tiny and VERY busy warm-up area. I cannot fathom what he would have been like in May in that kind of situation! Horses going every which way, not all of whom had riders who were defensive drivers, kids on frighteningly un-controlled horses, you name it. After the jumping KAT was yelling to us about how disgusted she was with the scoring of the jumping classes: "If I had been judging I would have brought all those kids back in the ring and told them they ALL needed to go back to walk/trot and find new trainers!"
I was very pleased that when we lunged (he did one spook during the lunge when he realized there were people ON that hill next to us but forgot it immediately) there were hardly any people/trailers/horses around, but when we came out for our classes it was a zoo and he didn't seem to mind at all. Smartcalm? Mileage? He was not as polished looking as he has been at home, but I could see lots of improvement over the last show so I am happy we are making progress. Rome wasn't built in a day, after all.
He's funny about Max, though. He's not buddy sour, just buddy concerned. He wants to know where Max is, is visibly irritated when Max leaves him, but doesn't freak out or anything. Between my 2 English classes I kept bringing him to Max at the side of the warm-up and they'd nuzzle and then I'd take Junior back in and he'd be just fine. Happy to have a little Max-time, but just fine regardless.
Our first class was English Pleasure and we did not place, but I was not disappointed. There were some nice horses there and the judge seemed to like the bloodhounds. English Equitation was next. I spent the time between classes in the warm up trying to get him to frame more and it worked somewhat. I was surprised watching the video how slow we canter but we seemed normal in comparison to the rest of the class. Coming down from the 2nd canter to trot I lost my outside stirrup but watching the video it was actually hard to tell. Much to my surprise and delight we got 2nd out of 8! It had started to rain lightly during my classes so as soon as we were done we headed to the barn to rest and get ready for Western. It rained all during the break, but miraculously cleared long enough to do my western classes.
We did not place in Western Pleasure, again, I was not disappointed nor surprised. Just like the English, he did essentially everything I asked, but wasn't consistent in his frame (he LOVES looking around) and we got into a little traffic jam at the lope and he threw a little hoppy-buck-thing. Not pretty. In Horsemanship he was better but threw in an un-asked for flying lead change and then wouldn't switch back until about three tries. Luckily the judge was distracted by two other horses getting into a train wreck in the other corner and must not have seen anything but me loping past said train wreck as if nothing happened. I'm sure due to a combination of the aforementioned train wreck and subsequent obliviousness to my lead issues we were awarded 2nd place again! I guess he liked my riding much better than he liked WHAT I was riding. I had signed up for the Western walk-trot class but scratched it. There were too many horses and he wasn't jogging up to snuff so we decided to end on a good note.
We received several comments from strangers on what a gorgeous horse I have and I accepted them graciously and with a smile. I can't help it, I think he's beautiful, too and I am very proud to show him off!
You may notice that Junior's tail miraculously grew fuller....yes, I did it, I bought a fake tail. I feel like a hypocrite because I am morally opposed to taking the tail off of a dead (slaughtered) horse because you are too lazy to put the hard work into making your own horse's tail fuller. So I'm trying to convince myself I'm honoring the deceased animal(s) by using their otherwise forgotten parts. It's the same way I look at vintage furs: if it had lived a natural life it would be dead and forgotten, but preserved in a coat it will be cherished forever.... or something like that. Anyway, I figured since I managed somehow to find a freakishly exact match of his tail at Rod's (labeled as Dark Sorrel Mix...) when I stopped there on Saturday to get rain gear (which they sadly do not carry), that it was somehow meant to be. He holds his tail out a little too far so it doesn't look as nice as some other horses, but at least he looks like we're serious about showing. Maybe next time we'll tie it in a little lower.
I am much relieved that the shows are done for us for this year. We'll have a whole 'nother year under our girth for next year's shows and I am much more confident now that he will continue to get better and better. I was so upset after the June show that I was very nervous about a repeat performance this time. I am very glad to say I feel very differently now and I love my silly pony even more now. He just seemed "mine" at this show. He looked to me for instructions and he tried very hard to please me.
Oh, and this was weird: There was a horse I almost bought before I settled on Junior. By "almost" I mean I kind of fell in love with him and sent a deposit, but decided to have my vet friend (actual DVM, but is now teaching college instead of practicing refularly) come with me to see him a 2nd time before getting an official vet exam, just to see if she saw any red flags. I also took her to see another paint I looked at and she was very helpful in pointing out conformation flaws my inexperienced self didn't really notice. Anyway, back to "Flash", He was 15, sorrel, adorable. A little small, only 15 flat, and he had suspicious front legs, over at the knee with long toe/short heel. My vet friend informed me, once we were back in the car that he was lame. Not extremely, but enough to give a big red flag. She talked me through what it could all mean and I decided that for a 15 year old horse with terrible front legs, I didn't really want to settle on him when it could mean all kinds of vet bills down the road, or at least an expensive pre-purchase exam simply to conclude what I had already figured out. So I didn't buy him, obviously. He was at the show yesterday. I heard his name called in one of the English classes and about jumped out of my skin trying to see where he was. Instead of the adorable glowing red gelding I met, I saw a skinny, bloomless, weepy eyed, sad little horse who paddled as he jogged on his crooked front legs. My heart broke (as would the heart of the sweet and caring woman and her daughter who owned him before) for him, wondering what on earth had become of him, but at the same time I hugged my beautiful silly pony and thanked the fates for putting us together. I knew when I saw his picture he would be mine, but for some reason yesterday he really became mine.