About five months into training, Artie is now a worldly (or at least local) traveler. We ship somewhere for a lesson or to school at least once a week. The last weekend in April and the first weekend in May, we had two sleepovers on our schedule. Horse shows can be pretty overwhelming for horses; for Artie, he’s told me that it doesn’t so much bother him. Staying over at horse shows can be a whole different beast. The biggest mistake a person can make is not prepping for an overnight horse show like the Makeover, or a rated hunter show that you’re going to spend a few days at. You want the best performance out of your horse, so building them up for that experience works the way you’d prep them for anything else.
Traveling is exhausting, photo by Beth Takacs
At the end of April Artie and two of his buddies loaded up and headed to the Thoroughbred Heritage Horse Show hosted at Rosemount Farm in Spotsylvania, VA. It’s one of my favorite shows of the year. It’s a local show with a big horse show feel. They have nice rings and courses, great coordinators, multiple rings, and to top it off it’s for Thoroughbreds!
It’s not too far from my farm, but I take the horses over the day before to school and then spend the night. Artie settled into his stall great and got to hang out while his buddies went and schooled (save the best for last, right?). Our only baby moment of the weekend was during schooling thankfully. Artie was pretty convinced he did not need to be schooling while his friends were napping in their stalls. Fortunately for me and unfortunately for Artie, he’s pretty bad at misbehaving. To the casual observer, it just looked like I was riding a tense horse and couldn’t find a good spot to a jump if it hit me in the face. I didn’t leave our schooling feeling like we’d have the most beautiful hunter rounds the next day, but I did leave knowing that Artie understood that even when his buddies weren’t joining in on the fun, he was still expected to do his job.
The next day he looked well rested and ready to behave like the unicorn we all know he is. I had entered in the 2’6” hunter and jumper divisions. Our jumper rounds came up first, and he was beautifully behaved. We did look more like we were out for a Sunday stroll than trying to get the winning time, but he jumped clean in every course. To top it off he finished the division with a Reserve Champion and won one of his classes. He was such a unicorn I decided to scratch the hunter trips and end on a solid, good note.
Looking all grown up, photo by Beth Takacs
I went into the following weekend with confidence that Artie would be a saint for his next adventure to the Virginia Horse Festival. Instead of just one night, this time he’d be spending two nights away from home, and this time he was traveling with horses he was not pals with. Artie would be participating in two demos for Recareering of the Off The Track Thoroughbred that I was hosting with fellow Makeover trainers Tom and Clare Mansmann. It was a really fun adventure since out of the seven horses we took, one was a Makeover graduate, and four were Makeover hopefuls. Artie was amazingly behaved under saddle during the demos. He had to deal with gunfire, Paso Finos, people on bleachers, falconry and trick riders. The stalls, however, were solid bars, so he wasn’t able to stick his head out like at Rosemount, and that was not his favorite thing. He didn’t have any temper tantrums, but he did spend a lot of time stall walking.
Photo by Amanda Cousins
We’ll have more overnight stays to help with the anxiety he showed at the Festival, but all in all, they were both really great, positive experiences for him. He’ll be a sleepover pro in no time!
Photo by Beth Takacs