You might remember me saying in my last Arnie blog that I didn’t know if we would get to the point of competing this year, but last weekend I lost the plot and, just before the 21:30pm cut-off, decided to book him in for his first ever dressage test.

My lovely little Connie has just been going so sweetly at home, I thought: “Why not? He’s got to get out and about at some point.”

Arnie is seven now, but he’s literally done nothing, and this was his first time out since May last year. This time of year, like clockwork, I tend to start having problems with him and have to “re-back” him as such. By the time I’ve done that, and got him back to the point we were at, it’s autumn and then I give him his winter break to mature again.

White horse in coat

But this year is different. His winter break has done him the world of good and, even though he’s a little bit antsy when tacking up again at the moment, we’re still on a roll.

So, with one day to practise, and having never seen dressage boards before, he was entered into the Intro A.

On the day of the competition, I did give him a calming cookie. I have no idea if it actually worked as I have nothing to compare it against, but because he was such a good boy I think I’m now stuck in that routine. He was then bathed and plaited up, and I popped his saddle on before loading him into the box. I put his saddle on to travel in, because doing up his girth is a trigger point when he is feeling anxious. I learnt my lesson when I took him out at the beginning of last year – as soon as I went to do the girth up, he bronced off across the showground until he slipped over, which is what he did when I was backing him. It just works much better this way.

When he arrived I got him straight out of the box to give him time to soak in his surroundings and the atmosphere. This was always going to be a big deal for him, because he is just that anxious type of horse. All he wanted to do was walk. He couldn’t stand still. When he was walking, he was much more relaxed and I ended up having to put his bridle on whilst walking up and down the car park (like the pro I am), but once I was on board he almost relaxed a little bit.

I took him into the warm up, and he was looking at all the banners up around the arena for all of about two minutes and then warmed up perfectly. It was quiet with one or two other horses around, and this was perfect for him as it wasn’t too overwhelming. At this point I could have boxed him up and taken him home because I was just so proud. Greg Fern Equestrian is just the perfect place to take young or nervous horses, or those just starting out, as everyone is so relaxed, helpful and encouraging.

Onto my test, and he was just the best boy. I was expecting him to go in there and lose his outline and focus, but for the most part he absolutely surpassed expectations. Of course, he was green, and had his tense moments looking at the boards (that he’d never seen before), meaning he got a little short and choppy in his strides and a little bit joggy. But I couldn’t have asked for more for his first time out. He came away with a fifth place, and lovely comments for the judges stating how lovely he was and how his marks will definitely improve.

Anyway, I cried coming out the ring (proud mum moment), and he had all the treats in the world. He was honestly so proud of himself. He absolutely knew he’d done something well and, as soon as he came out of the ring, was completely relaxed, as in “the job’s done”.

I’m now even more certain that this is “Arnie’s year” and I can’t wait until the next event.

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