We did it - we got Bob the big wimp out to his first pole clinic on grass and to make it even better, I stayed aboard!
As minimal as it sounds, this was a huge achievement for the both of us for several reasons: we have not ridden on grass since Summer 2021, it was the first time I had taken him out in a fairly new place to do ridden work on grass, it was a windy day, and the field is next to a train line!
We managed to tick off a couple of positives off our list on this outing - we got tacked up calmly (tick), I got aboard with no issue (tick) even though I had internal nerves about getting aboard; as I had the vision of me with one leg in the stirrup and Bob bolting off across the field at hunt speed, yet shockingly he did not even flinch as I got on. He was a tiny bit nervous looking at the bushes and trees blowing and the cabins, jump trailers etc. that were dotted around but he kept his cool and behaved so well. He liked having my friend’s pony there as a new companion/support, although he did tower above him. When I first introduced them, I swear he puffed out his chest and made himself as big as possible (my friend’s pony is 13hh and Bob is 17hh).
We went in with our friends for our session which my instructor was running and she was so pleased we had got him out. He had a look at the poles - which to be fair I was a bit daunted about as there were a lot, but I walked him round and over them and let him sniff the things at the side of the arena etc. to relax him. We then started to go over the poles in a more organised fashion and stepped up to trot, the first few times were fine, but he did begin to speed up - him and my friend’s pony were getting quite excitable by this point, so on one of the next tasks he decided to nap, and this happened at various points throughout the rest of the session. At one point he had a tantrum on the spot but instead of getting worried or stressed I just laughed until he got over himself (tick). I found that if I just sat the naps, gave him a few seconds to calm then reassured him with a gentle pat or neck rub, he would then stay calm and continue. This was a massive accomplishment as previously I would have been a bag of nerves, wanting to get off and go home, but for some reason I just was not worried, which has made me so much more confident that I managed the situations and we got passed them. It can be daunting when your horse plays up and can be a tricky thing to get over (especially if the horse is a large muppet who has a history of ditching me) but you can get passed it!
From my newfound confidence I became extremely excited for our next outing and planned to go to the next riding club show at the same location the following weekend. Well, I can say it went better than the last one as he walked straight on to the horsebox (tick), he was less stressed at the show (tick) -although again he said hello to every horse in ears reach. He tacked up fine, ate hay and even grazed which was positive. I got aboard with no issues and got him to the warmup ring and that is where it all went wrong.
A bit unsure of the line up of plastic chairs (he looked at them but walked past as I asked), then a few meters down was the first aid tent – we were one stride from being level with it when someone dropped something loudly inside – cue flying sideways, spinning, and freaking out. I took him to the other side of the warmup to calm down and a further five mins he began to settle, we had not even been able to do more than a minute of trot before we were called for our class. We went in and managed the walk round the arena fine, when we all had to trot, he had a mini meltdown then settled but asking for canter and he had a huge wobble napping and spinning. We stood to the side allowing the rest to do their show. We did get the opportunity to go round on our own, but he played up and the same when trying to do our individual show so again I stood him to the side. He just had not calmed form the warmup incident which was a huge shame. The judge gave us fifth place (last) as a sympathy result but at least we were not eliminated, and I didn’t fall off. The in hand went much better although Bob was still nervous and decided to poop right as the judge was walking round him – he picks his moments! Despite all this he behaved impeccably and came away with a third place which made me incredibly happy. It was good to get him out - was slightly embarrassing about his behaviour but as it was his second proper outing, I will let him off. There were a few people my friend overheard talking about ‘the big bay that was spinning,’ and luckily it was only a few as others said directly to me how well and calmly, I managed him (and how handsome he was!). It is just a shame some people in the horse world make negative comments towards others especially when they do not know the history behind what happened or how/if they could manage the situation themselves; instead of being critical offering help or support is so much better.
Bob has not fully redeemed himself yet especially as he has not been in my good books during the week as he has bitten Autumn again - poor girl has been through the wars looking at the marks on her. I think its related to the poor grass growth/being hungry as the grass had not been growing as much due to the heatwaves, so I’ve upped the hay I’ve been putting out and given them more foraging bits like beech and hawthorn branches as well as fibre blocks to keep them occupied but anymore issues and he may have to have his own paddock. Luckily the ‘new’ wound is not deep or near the saddle area, so I have waited for the swelling to go down and am bringing her into some light ridden work as it heals.
I think we will be having a few weeks at home now (although I might get Bob to an arena for a jump practice locally) before the Pass wide and Slow ride in mid-September, but I will be planning Bob’s next outing too – hopefully to a jumping show!