My Superstar!

Saleem and I were at our first horsemanship event yesterday. I have to say, this is my kind of event, much more than anything else. First off, because I got the chance to try an agility track. Considering that I have been doing this with my horses since they were tiny colts and fillies, being able to finally take it with me to a show, was pretty awesome. Especially since I realized that we need way more equipment to prepare them for this kind of events.

Clearly, we need a tilt at home, and some kind of platform we can train with. Saleem found that rather strange…

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I have to say, at an event like this, it felt a little wrong, how much the judge tried to guide me through it. Again, with my issues with authorities… But I know my horse better than anyone else, and yes, making it take a step up, and backing it down again, works on most horses, but not on Saleem.

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The thing about Saleem is, he is not afraid. He gets stressed if he can’t solve a problem, like the tilt for instance, and as soon as he does that, he shakes his head and looks away. The constant loss of focus. He just shuts down. If you try to split up the task at hand into small steps, like one step up, one step down, he will lose interest and focus. Which he instantly did, once the judge told me to do just that.

And once Saleem loses focus, things get dangerous, because he stops looking where he is going. With the tilt and the plat form I tried doing as the judge told me, and with the bridge, I handled my horse my way, and we got over it in no time. I have had Saleem for six years, it is all about focus and explaining the task.

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So, I had a lot of fun, Saleem found us slightly amusing, when he paid attention, and if I may say so, if it is a competition, I would very much like for the judge to stick to judging in the future… not to interfering with the training and handling of the horse…

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But then again, horsemanship shows are a rather new invention, and as a trainer I can understand how it must be hard to keep quiet.

Don’t get me wrong, one step up, and down again, would have worked on a lot of horses. I honestly don’t think it would work on any of mine though… Since they are truly not afraid of this game. A horse like my old Apollon, yes, if I had got one leg of his near a tilt, my life would have been complete and I would have asked him to back down instantly. With a horse that is afraid, yes, you back it down the instant you get any kind of positive response.

Here we have Saleem, on the bridge, keeping his focus.

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He is concentrated, he never found it easy to walk in a straight line, but he is not scared at all. This, I managed to explain to him.

I love how positive he is. This horse has got the most amazing spirit and the most fantastic attitude. This last obstacle though, I knew we couldn’t do. I would love to have one of those at home though. Saleem is so touchy down his sides, as is Apocalipse, this is just what we need… still, we made it through it, but we didn’t stop under it, like we were supposed to, and we didn’t stop after it either, no we instantly spun and looked at it.

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I have to say, for a horse this touchy, and this unfocused, to give me a response like that, INTEREST in something he truly does find uncomfortable, was worth it all. This single response, made my entire day.

It was a long day though. Five hours. We rode a trail program as well, and kind of sort of didn’t make it through most of it, mostly because I felt that Saleem was again, rather unfocused, and unimpressed with the task at hand. I do know that I am going to be building platforms and tilts for the rest of the summer. I love this, I love training my horses like this, and I can’t wait to actually have the time and the focus, to work out how to get Saleem safely across a tilt. As far as inspiration goes, this was a brilliant thing to try.

I realized too, that my old arch enemy, the labyrinth, is still haunting me. It took me ten years to get Poseidon through that without a bridle, and without him ignoring me and the labyrinth. As for Saleem, we wore a bridle, but he kind of still ignored me. In the slalom as well. He is not used to turning that sharply. One of the dangerous things about training at home, you just adjust the space to fit your horse, and once you get to a show where there is a little less space, well, you are kind of screwed. Note to self… must teach my horse to turn better… good thing to know, really…

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And then, at the end of the day, there were dressage. Not usual dressage, no rullkur, no LDR, no, dressage the way I want it. A relaxed horse, a relaxed, strong frame, self carriage, a four beat walk, a two beat trot, a three beat canter… you know, the way dressage should be.

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So, we had to try that.

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To be honest, what I was most interested in finding out, was how Saleem would hold up his head, at an event, without the noseband. Mostly because he usually shakes his head a lot, and he stopped doing that since I removed the noseband, but this was kind of our real test. Would he shake his head at this event, even without the noseband? Had we truly fixed the problem, or was I just kidding myself?

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Saleem was perfect. Just perfect. No headshaking. No angry chewing on the bit, no irritated snorting…

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So there we have it. No more noseband. Ever. No matter how lose, it is still a bother.

I wrote an email to the Danish Equestrian Federation, asking why the noseband is mandatory in dressage, by the way. It should serve no purpose, right? Because you are not allowed to tighten it, and tie the horse’s mouth shut with it, so why must you not ride without it? They have not answered me. Maybe I will get a public reply, like the last time I wrote to them… Who knows… Maybe this time, they will just ignore me…

Anyway, Saleem got a 9 for his beautiful walk and a 10 for our last stop. I was snickering a bit about that, because really, it shouldn’t be possible to get a 10, or a 9, and it sure is a first for me, ever. I was even told in my critique once, to let go of the rein. That had me grinning all over my stupid face. Usually I am being told by all the judges I have ever ridden before, to shorten the rein. Letting it go, that one I have never heard before. I love this kind of event. Who knew, I could actually be judged in the game I have been playing all of my life. For once, that is a critique I will pay attention to.

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So Saleem won the first program, with 74,76%

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Now that is the kind of score you get once in a life time.

The next program only had two participants, Saleem and me and our friends LHK and Louvre, meaning that there would only be a first place. Saleem and I gracefully took the second place in that one, with 69.62%

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We have no pictures of that, because it rained. Saleem didn’t mind. Amazing horse.

I have to say, if there had been shows like this one, when Apollon was alive, this was what we would have been doing. I love that I didn’t have to wear a saddle, I love that if the horse didn’t like to be alone, it could have a friend in the show ring with it, I love it that the noseband and the spurs were forbidden… this was exactly what I have always been looking for, with Apollon.

So maybe Saleem had to help me out here, had to help me brush that chip of my shoulder, of that dressage horse I used to have, that never worked out quite right. Maybe, training all of my youngsters in walking across things, and under things, and in – when the time comes- being ridden without a saddle, and by a lose rein, without a noseband, is my way of never again, ending up with a horse like Apollon, who found this world so hard to live in.

And maybe I am being unfair, maybe Apollon and I were fighting a losing battle, because he was always sick, but I will never know, and I will always wonder, if there had been events like these ones… How would we have done?

I do know, that is it not the last of these events I have been to with Saleem, and I can’t wait to bring the youngsters some day. This is where my heart truly lies. With the horse. With the happy, healthy, well prepared horse.

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And by the way, drop dead gorgeous young man, if I may say so myself.

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About Starstone

-Owned by horses. Writer, Photographer, Director, Musician.
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