JLE took Dandy down to the show grounds Friday afternoon but I didn’t arrive until (late) the next morning. When I did arrive, everyone was quick to tell me how good Dandy was being.
“He settled right into his stall.”
“He’s being so quiet!”
“How come you or JLE aren’t competing him this weekend?”
Okay, so maybe that last one is more of a roundabout compliment but you wouldn’t believe how many people asked me this question.
“Because he needs more experience in this kind of atmosphere.” I would just reply.
When I found Dandy’s stall, he WAS quiet. His eyes were calm and he was half dozing, half watching all the activity going on. Great! I thought Maybe this would be an easy weekend. JLE suggested I take him for a walk so I slipped into his stall and put his halter on. Off we went. While we were walking through the shed rows Dandy was well behaved. The minute we left the shed rows he just about exploded on me. Head in the air. Eyes white. In my personal space. Jigging in circles. I didn’t even make it down the lane before I decided I need a chain, asap. So much for being “quiet.”
As I got back to his stall (where he immediately went back to happy lazy Dandy), I got a text from JLE saying she had time to ride him right now if I tacked him up quickly. Dandy was perfect as I tacked up and stood so still that I didn’t even have to tie him. Guess that racetrack training at least did something for him. But I warned JLE to bring the lunge line.
We ended up not being able to lunge him in the normal area because he was just too panicked. When JLE walked him down there he just about exploded on her too so we turned around and found a calm quiet corner behind the trailers. There he got lunged for almost 45 minutes until he started relaxing and listening. It wasn’t hot and he wasn’t working that hard but he was so panicked and nervous that he was dripping sweat after five minutes.
“He looks like he just ran XC,” I commented as I watched him.
“At Rolex,” JLE finished. She was shocked. She honestly had not believed that Dandy could get that stuck in his panic and not be able to get out.
Dandy ended up getting lunged again a few hours later, this time just outside the shed row but close enough to the official warm up areas that there was some activity. JLE had tried riding him this time but didn’t thinking it was worth getting in a fight with him and so got off and lunged. Once he calmed down a bit (though it was still far from being relaxed) I took over and just grazed him near the warm up. Or at least I tried. He was so tense that even his eating was frantic, like a last meal before a visit to the executioner.
Slowly we worked our way down so that we were grazing right next to the warm up area. His grazing got a bit less hectic but he could not stand still for more than 30 seconds at a time. At least he seemed to be a little bit more okay with how crazy things were. JLE thought that maybe when all the horses had finished and left that Dandy would be more comfortable. Unfortunately that was not the case.
And he got lunged again. JLE tried to get on but he wasn’t having any of it. And he got lunged again. We calculated at the end that he had probably been lunged for over 2 hrs that day. And he wasn’t acting tired at all.
Finally, Dandy allowed JLE to get up and work him in the field. Once she was on he looked fabulous, but he also than looked exhausted. Again he was soaked in sweat and it took several hours and two coolers to get him dry and cool. All three of us were mentally exhausted after that!
We were all just hoping for a change of attitude the next day.
The next morning, I took Dandy for a walk and while he was excited and looky, he wasn’t stuck in an endless loop of panic. The scheduled storms had finally rolled in and the wind was ridiculous. Silly things like jumps falling over and plastic flags ripping in the wind didn’t bother him at all. Just to make sure, JLE lunged him for 10 minutes before she got on but there were no issues and he came back to her right away. After that he got a bunch of carrots and got to relax the rest of his day.
While I wouldn’t have minded if Dandy had made me into a liar, I’m glad that he actually acted like his “normal” self at shows so that JLE could see what happens. I’m pretty sure that this whole summer she has believed that I was just over reacting and that it was my mental issues that she really needed to deal with. And while I do now have mental issues that need to be worked on, at least now she believes me that Dandy just cannot handle the pressures of a real show.
So there’s a new plan. Go to all the shows we can just to hang out. Try to show at one days. If we can find back to back one days that’d be even better! In the mean time we’ll keep training and hopefully keep improving. If I have to forgo recognized events next year, I’ll make that sacrifice. Now that I’ve got the support of a trainer, I feel more confident about being able to fix this problem.