Within our schooling horse show association, someone looked at the calendar and picked Fourth of July weekend as a great time for a horse show. And actually compared to the heat wave of last weekend, this show with its balmy 90 degree plus days was cooler. I was there Friday when trainer Dev started the mare Feather out in the big arena. Feather, six, is continuing to progress. This show we had planned to move her up in jumping height to the 2’9″ – 3 foot division of Schooling Jumper.
Kona was with me, his nappy poodle coat acting like Velcro to all the dust, spider webs and debris that was present in the arena bleachers.
We watched as Dev got a choppy ride from the mare. She seemed hot, her grey coat soaked in sweat, and unwilling to make an attempt at more than an occasional jump. Getting her to take a combination of fences was met with sloppy jumping and lackluster style. I was afraid that by the time Lauren got to ride there would be no horse left.
Nagging at the back of my brain was the thought that maybe we had seen all this mare had to offer. Extreme, I know, but who really knew what this young mare could do. Lauren rode a few jumps and we called it a day. I didn’t know if it was the heat, the horse or just one of those things.
Saturday, we were thinking the jumper ring started at 10 am. We needed to ride, trailer home and get to Kendyll’s birthday party. As it rolled on towards noon, I checked with the office. The schedule was to not start before 10. So, we waited some more.
Finally, the jumps were set and Lauren was third in the line-up. As they started their round, it was just like a playback of yesterday. Feather was slow, unwilling, and sloppy over the fences. There is a maximum time set for each round and Feather was almost ten seconds slower. I did not think I had ever seen her do so poorly.
I understand the heat was pretty brutal, but this is a young, well-conditioned athlete. Second round, Feather jumped one jump from a dead stop, walked on course (it’s supposed to be about speed!) and I heard one man remark, “boy, that horse sucks!”. I was stunned. I knew Lauren had to get the mare moving.
Mickey, Lauren’s jumping companion of many years, FLEW over the jumps. Going too slow was never an issue. Feather, well, I wasn’t sure what was up. I yelled down from the stands to Dev. “Crop?”, I suggested. He shook his head no. But he said she would try Caroline’s spurs in the final round. I was not sure what would happen. We had not used either on this sensitive mare before. Caroline completed a good round with Roy, hopped off and started trading gear with Lauren. Lauren had already been called to start. The was no time to try out spurs. At the last second, Dev handed her the crop as well. I held my breath.
Spurring the mare forward, off they went towards the first jump. Feather put in a great, athletic and quick round. She was, glory be, the new leader as they ended. Feather said it was hot and she did not want to jump but if it was that important to us, okay!
In the end we missed first place by 1/10th of a second. We were pretty proud of that second place after the day we had! We got a lesson in personality. Feather is not Mickey. We will need to learn and respect who she is. It is all about personality.