I really, really thought Sebastian’s last show at Yarra Yarra Ranch was going to be a peak in terms of scores and ribbons. This weekend the competition was still at Yarra Yarra but with a new judge, on a new day.
After his first test (Training Level, Test 1) the judge commented to Sue, my trainer, “Thank you. Lovely test.” as she rode out of the ring. This is a big deal to hear anything but a “Thank you” as you leave, the equivalent of “you may be excused”. When I heard “Lovely test” I began to have some hopes that things had gone very well. To my eye, the test looked almost flawless but, as you can imagine, I am somewhat biased. Low and behold, he scored a 75.8%!!! For all the non-dressage folks out there, that is *really* good. For his second test (Training Level, Test 2) he was not as forward moving, and we found out why when he finally pooped right in front of the judge’s table. As Sue later pointed out- nobody likes to run around when they really have to poop. So he picked up the wrong lead twice in the trot to canter transition required at that moment and scored a 3/10 for that move. The rest of the test, however, was still awesome enough for him to score a 71.3% overall.
Yep, two more blues!
So there is our victor, enjoying a net-free flake of hay in celebration of winning some totally useless (translation: inedible) floppy blue things his ecstatic mother smooshed into his mane. I had this super cute picture idea where I pinned the ribbons to the mesh of the stall door and was going to have him put his head out the v-shaped cut out between the ribbons, but of course he was too short to stick his head out. Alas, a small horse showing in a big horse world.
On my drive home I was reflecting on the fortune of buying this wild little horse at auction and finding such success in the sports we have tried. There are the important factors of conformation bred through generations of hardiness and early conditioning in the rugged mountains of Nevada, but I also appreciate that Sebastian had time to grow up quite a lot before being handled by humans. There are horses who are fortunate enough to only ever interact with excellent horsemen who understand how to communicate the strange and often counter-instinctual things we ask of our ponies in a positive and effective way, but these horses are rare. I looked for about a year before I bought Sebastian, and I found a number of young horses who would have been huge projects not because of their age or inexperience but because of the interactions they had had with humans. Buying a wild horse with 90 days of training from a natural horseman was actually an easy way to start a good relationship. Sebastian knows how to be a horse, first and foremost. He has suffered from plenty of my mistakes over the past few years but he has a real training foundation (thank you Bob Mundy and Susan Dockter!) that has made everything else we have done so relatively easy. This next piece of dressage training with Sue Corrie is teaching him up to better use his body, correctly and efficiently. I have been fascinated to see how well this translates to show ring success when laid on top of his natural horsemanship foundation. He unloads from the trailer at a show and looks around with curiosity, not anxiety. Sue can hop on without any ground work or lungeing and find that he is mentally the same horse she knows at home. He can really show off what he has learned with Sue because he isn’t nervous. Nope, he doesn’t have the movement to be competitive at the higher levels of Dressage but for me that’s an excellent trade off for a horse that is just so easy to do things with.
Now watch, next show he’ll be a complete maniac because I tempted fate and wrote all those things down. I’m knocking on some wood here. I’ll let you know after March 30th- our next outing!