Monday, March 21, 2011

JCHSS Recap

Good times or bad times, the original reason I started this blog was to keep track of Lilly's progress in the show ring. Saturday was definitely not one of the good times, but hopefully one day I'll look back and read this post with a smile on my face.

So far, no smile... but I've managed to pull myself up out of the dumps enough to document the day's events.

For the past 16 months I've been looking forward to getting back into showing. Even with all the other short term goals we've had because of the numerous setbacks we've encountered, getting back into the show ring has always been the ultimate goal. Every time I think I'm almost there and I start running towards that goal, someone throws down a giant brick wall and I slam right into it. I dust myself off, bandage my wounds, and start heading that way again, doing whatever it takes to get us there.

Lately, that goal has been closer than ever... I can see it, but I still can't quite touch it. Saturday was just another brick wall, and it's getting more and more difficult to keep picking myself up and starting over again.

Without trying to sound like a drama queen, Saturday has really had an effect on me. I have never been as frustrated with her as I was on Saturday, and we have shared many frustrating times together, including this gem of a weekend many years ago.

This isn't about her trotting too fast, or her not carrying her head where I want it, or even how she screamed and pawed at the trailer all day long. This is a serious, even dangerous, problem that I absolutely have no idea how to fix.

I can make excuses for her all day long, and I do it all the time. Oh, she was in the stall all night and she's just full of energy... she's been on and off stall rest for 15 months and has been through a lot lately.... it's possible she's in heat this weekend... maybe it's the grain, maybe she has ulcers, maybe she's just having a bad day...

If there's a legitimate, physical reason for her to be acting out, that's one thing, but we all know that when it comes to horses, even if there is a reason, sometimes there's no excuse for certain behavior.

Here's how the weekend went.

Friday night I clipped her, gave her a bath, and banded her mane. She was a really good girl compared to how she acted when I got her ready for our first show. She even seemed slightly interested in her grain, which is something she hasn't had much interest in at all lately. She stayed in her stall for the night and didn't seem upset at all when I left. Saturday morning I got there early and took her out to the round pen to exercise her a bit. She seemed pretty mellow so I let her eat grass until M arrived and got Baby ready. We loaded up and headed out to the show grounds.

Because of my constant begging for M to take Baby in halter, she finally signed her up. We were running a little late, so shortly after we got to the grounds, Baby left Lilly standing at the trailer all by herself to go into her halter classes.

Baby was much better this time around than she was last time, and after a few cries for Lilly during her halter class she quieted down. I thought maybe that would help Lilly relax as well, but despite the fact that she had a full bag of hay, she just screamed and pawed at the trailer until it was time for us to head up for showmanship.

Baby won her stock type halter class, the championship halter class, AND the "Best of Show" halter class. Perhaps M will put her in more halter classes now!

Baby, looking good as always!
M also entered Baby in showmanship, so we had both horses near the arena practicing our patterns. I tried to keep Lilly at the opposite end of the warm up area to keep her away from Baby as much as possible. She wasn't being horrible, but she always had one ear or one eye cocked toward Baby's direction, and I never really had her full attention. She continued to whinny every so often even though Baby was standing right there, so when she did, I made her back up. It didn't seem to make a difference...

We had the same showmanship pattern as the first show, but here it is again for a refresher:

I had already decided that I was going to blow the class if Lilly acted up. I wasn't going to let her whinny without repercussions, and if she did something else, I was going to take the time to correct her behavior. M and I decided that I should go in first and then she'd do her pattern after me.

We actually had a really good pattern until we were doing the inspection part of the pattern. After the judge walked around and I was getting ready to do my last crossover, Lilly decided to step sideways and move her body over so she could get a good look at Baby standing ready at the cone. "Here we go." I thought. So I moved her back over, set her back up and then "presented" her to the judge again assuming we had blown our chances of placing. The judge finished walking around us and gave me the signal to finish my pattern. Lilly nailed her pivot and we walked back into line.

Baby was actually quite a bit worse than Lilly and her sidesteps were much more exaggerated. They ended up a bit far from the judge, so I figured we both were out of the ribbons.

When the placings were announced, my number was called for second place. I was quite surprised because there were 10 entries in the class and at least 3 other patterns looked better than mine. If I was the 3rd and 4th place entries, I would have been upset. You never know what the judge is looking for, but it seems a screw up like mine would have knocked us down quite a bit. When I left the arena, I was approached by a spectator who told me he had me pegged for first and thought I got cheated. Was I the only one who saw her move sideways?

I took Lilly over to the far end of the warm up area again while M took Baby back to the trailer. Every time Lilly whinnied, I backed her up, and every time she tried to hurry herself back to the trailer leaving me behind, I backed her up. It took us a while to get back to the trailer, but when all was said and done, she was walking like a lady with her mouth shut.

The noodle head...
The two mares shared a hay bag while M and I ate lunch... all was quiet for a while until it was time to get Baby ready for western. Since M was going to take Baby up to the arena for warm-up, I thought it would be a good time to work with Lilly on her pawing and screaming. Of course she wouldn't paw while I was standing there, so I untied her from the trailer and stood with her waiting for her to whinny. It seemed to work okay earlier, so when she did whinny, I backed her and backed her and then backed her some more.

It didn't seem to work this time. She'd whinny, I'd back her up, she'd be quiet, then she'd whinny again... we must have worked on this for about 45 minutes, but it wasn't making a difference. All this took place behind the trailer along the fence line out of view, but somehow it seemed I was drawing a few nosy spectators, so I tied her back up to the trailer. I wanted to go watch M's classes anyway.

Baby did really well. Not a peep came from her cute little nose and she performed like a superstar. She didn't place as well as I thought she should, but she was in the ribbons and she looked great!

At least someone was a good girl!
Meanwhile, back at the trailer, miss mouth never stopped whinnying and she had quite a hole dug in the dirt from pawing. She had a hay bag the entire day, but never ate out of it unless Baby was at the trailer with her.

This all happened at the first show too, so I wasn't letting it bother me too much because I was expecting her to perform much better once she was under saddle. M was showing Baby in hunt seat too, so we got our horses ready and made our way to the arena for our 15 minute warm up.

I took Lilly in the arena and she came unglued... she started chomping on the bit, avoiding it however she could, and she started prancing wildly at both the trot and the canter, refusing to walk. She was throwing her head up and swinging her hind end wildly, trying to side pass to the other side of the arena where Baby was. There were a lot of horses in there warming up so I exited as soon as I safely could and took her out to the warm up area instead.

The meltdown continued there, but escalated slightly as I worked her in circles trying to get her to round up a bit and listen to my cues. The light pressure I had on her mouth trying to get her to give seemed to piss her off more, and she would sling her head in the air as high as it would go. So more circles and more circles, although they weren't very round because she was constantly side passing in the direction of Baby. No matter what I did, she always had one ear cocked in her direction, and I might was well have been invisible. If I managed to get her to stop (by pinning her between two trees) she would scream and stomp her front feet.

After realizing I had a good 8 classes before I was to go in, I decided to try something I had never tried before... I took her back to the trailer, removed her bridle, put her halter back on and longed the hell out of her. I longed her at the canter until she seemed like she couldn't go anymore, and when she was lathered up and had that exhausted look in her eye, I stopped her and offered her some water.

Do you know that she screamed for Baby with her nose IN THE WATER BUCKET?!

That told me she still wasn't tired enough so I longed her some more at the canter. Then I decided to take her over to the warm up area and longe her there. That way if she screamed for Baby, or even looked at Baby, I could push her to move faster.

I only had about 2 classes before mine at this point so I took her back to the trailer to get her ready for our classes. She was completely lathered on her neck, and was dripping sweat from everywhere else. I was hoping I had worked the stink right out of her.

It was only a few minutes later when we got back to the warm-up area that she picked right back up where she left off and was back at her antics once again. Prancing, side passing, slinging her head and avoiding the bit. She was screaming and pawing.  She's never been a horse you could "wear out" by longing or working.  I've tried it in the past and as soon as she catches her breath, she's right back at it again.  I was out of ideas, though, and it seemed this one didn't work either.

I thought about scratching my classes but in the end decided to take her in anyway and hope for the best. She did the same thing in the class as she had been doing all afternoon, although I managed to keep her on the rail by riding her completely sideways, with her nose wrapped around my leg. We never did walk during our 3 classes... prancing was all she did.

I was invisible to her. She didn't care what I did, her focus was on Baby and nothing else. It was a disturbing obsession... especially since Baby was right there in the class with us, or right there in the warm-up area. By the end of my last riding class I was fighting back tears... frustration had set in, she had won, and I was out of ideas. 
My body ached, I had blisters on my fingers, and I just wanted to be rid of her.

17 comments:

  1. Wowza. Dontcha wish bullets only had a temporary effect?

    Well, we've all had bad times at shows. One thing I want you to remember is that worrying about the looky-loos is the same as Lilly worrying about Baby. Both need to stop. You need to focus on her. In turn, she'll focus on you.

    It was too soon for the both of you to get back to the shows. She's been stalled and on light duty for how long? Her brain forgot Work. I'm gonna guess that she has her shining moments at home in the RP or the arena, but I'll bet you my boy scout badges that was a learned behavior that either got her out of work our got her some cookies.

    I may sound tough, but really, I'm rooting for ya.

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  2. Anyway, that crap-ass above, that Andy guy...that was me. This new blogger deal is a pita.

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  3. Thanks Cedar (AKA Andy). I do wish bullets were temporary because I would have emptied my magazine!!

    I took her to a show last year in the middle of all that tendon stuff and she did great. The show we went to earlier this year went better than this one. I thought she would be better this time, not 10 times worse. She's been working really well at home and I really thought we were going to have a great show.

    I just don't see her working out of this over time, and I bet if I took her to a show by herself she would be wonderful. So now I finally have someone to show with and I can't show with her and her mare because Lilly is going to have a mental breakdown? And if I don't take her to shows, how do I fix it?

    I wasn't really worried about her being worried about Baby... my expectation was that she'd be fine when I hopped on and we got working in the arena. Then she flipped out and I was totally surprised by her behavior.

    She hasn't acted like this since the first show this year (unless you count our trail ride back in '08), so I'm not sure where this is all coming from all of a sudden.

    She was possessed by demons on Saturday.

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  4. Oh wow, Lilly was bad, very bad. The only thing I can think of is similar to what you did, but when she is near Baby, like in the warm up or tied at the trailer, lunge her there, make her work hard anytime she is NEAR Baby. Then when she quits hollaring, as a reward take her away and let her rest. Keep repeating. It definitely will take time and a lot of patience, it sounds like she has a bad case of being herd bound with Baby. I feel for you because I know how long you have been waiting to show again.

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  5. Bad Lilly, making mom feel bad like that! I'm dealing with the same thing right now. Missy is obsessed with one horse, and it's making me crazy. I'm all for the working while she's loud and obnoxious and only letting her rest when she's calm and quiet. I think the big thing it she' just out of practice. My guess is that she learned somehow all this hooting and hollering eventually just gets her what she wants, so you need to prove to her that it doesn't...

    HUGS!!!

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  6. Just buddy-sour (not that that's nothing) and getting back into things after a layoff. I'd start easy with this. I sometimes find when this stuff's happening - it's better to ignore the horse when they're doing what you don't want and praise them when they're doing what you do want. You might want to start with smaller steps - just tie her to the trailer at home out of sight of her buddy, ignore her completely if she's calling or screaming and pet on her when she's not. Do it in short increments - and don't untie her except at a moment when she's quiet. If you have the ability to rig up a high line, she could spend a lot of time there - it's a safe way to tie and it also has the advantage of giving the horse the ability to move, which tying doesn't.

    There was a horse at the Mark Rashid clinic last year that had this exact problem - I think it's the one called "Boundaries" - see the sidebar on my blog.

    It's a difficult problem, but you can deal with it. Don't worry, don't get angry (she has to learn not to do it and really can't help herself at this point), just work on it and take things in small steps - and keep yourself safe.

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  7. Oh no! My stomach was sinking for you as I was reading. So frustrating, so disappointing, so upsetting. I'm sorry. :(

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  8. I am so sorry you had such a terrible show with Lilly! Ugh, I can only imagine the frustration you must have felt and I seriously commend you for keeping your cool with her.

    The only advice I can offer (I don't even know if you want advice) is what we did with a horse who is very herd bound at my "trainers".

    This particular gelding is actually a very experienced show horse. The owners were told upon purchasing him that he gets herd bound and cannot be turned out with other horses. Of course, thinking that was harsh, the horse was eventually turned out with other horses. It wasn't long before he became extremely attached to another gelding (unfortunately owned by his owner too). He started screaming, tossing his head, and even rearing and acting dangerous in the show ring. He continued this behavior until finally it was determined to separate him from ALL other horses. He is stalled as far away as possible and he is turned out alone. He is worked on a very regular basis and is not allowed to get away with ANYTHING! I know this is extreme, but it worked like a charm. The horse doesn't seem any worse for wear, and he behaves beautifully without a peep at the shows.

    Regardless of what you try, I truly hope Lilly shapes up and gets with the program. Don't give up and keep your chin up!!

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  9. I agree with what Kate had to say. Im really sorry that you have to deal with this, but Ive learned the hard way how to deal with Milo's antics as well. His screaming when we are gone, or his mouthiness (both of which we are starting to combat). Ive found that if I get upset or feed into that, it only fuels the fire and makes things worse. Of course, thats far easier said then done especially because you want to tear the snot out of them when they do that.

    But I agree, work on this in increments at home. Ignore it. Spend as much time as necessary. If she screams, tie her and leave her for as long as possible. Take her to anther show where you have no wishes to compete at and just let her scream and scream tied (embarrassing to be there, but she has to learn..)

    I wish it were easier for you and again Im sorry you have to deal with this. But I appreciate your opening up to us about it.

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  10. Gosh that sounds like the opposite of fun. I don't know anything, but if it were me in this situation and I had a trailer of my own (which I don't but you do) I would do an experimental trailering somewhere and see how she does. Since both of these occasions she was trailered with Baby, and tied next to her, I'd be curious to see how she'd be if she thought she was only there with you. Would she look to you more? If she was better in that situation, then I'd try trailering her alone to your next show (or somewhere else) that Baby will also be at. See how she does when she isn't immediately aware of her presence. Try keeping them apart and if they can't "sense" each other try to let them actually see/interact with each other perhaps at the end of the day when you are done with the classes.

    Again, I don't know anything, but that would be my first course of action since you know she has been alone at shows successfully in the past.

    Hang in there.

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  11. BIG HUGS! I know exactly how you feel - I just want to ride endurance and life keeps knocking me down. You got some good advice from everybody else, so all you get from me is sympathy. You have the patience of a saint - I'd be in tears.

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  12. Oh how frustrating.

    I sure know about the getting knocked down and struggling to pick yourself up again. That's the way I felt last year when things went so south with Moon at the barrel races. The fun was definitely gone. It just seems that it is year after year that I have to deal with something with this horse and it is getting o.l.d.!

    I think it may take some time for Lilly to grow her show horse brain back, but have you thought about trying a calming paste or if you started treating her for ulcers, perhaps feeding her a dose of that at the show?

    I don't know a lot about ulcers, but Sue Smith was telling us at her barrel clinic that sometimes horses that start getting frantic before competition respond remarkably well to a dose of UlcerGuard** prior to. It has something to do with how the acid levels rise in their stomachs when their stress levels start rising. Even if a horse does not have ulcers, the tension cause the stomach acids to rise above a normal level in the gut and causes horses to become excessively over-reactive to an already stressful situation.

    I dunno-Obviously that won't cure Lilly's herd-bound issue, but it might help her handle it better?

    **I haven't ever used any commercial ulcer products. I just keep throwing out the UlcerGuard name because that is what Sue Smith said she used. I'm going to have to look into these a little more and try a few myself before I figure out what product works for me and my horses.


    Hang in there. Lilly and you have had a lot of time off and a lot of things to deal with in the last 15 months. I'm sure you will get it all figured out and things will come together again.

    Congratulations on the 2nd place in Showmanship.

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  13. Thank you SO much everyone for your suggestions (and condolences)!! I'm going to elaborate on all of your comments in my post today and hopefully figure out a solution for this nonsense.

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  14. Are they still in the same pasture together at home? If so I would stop that asap. Lucas is like that with Tanker, to the point that we cannot turn them out next to eachother (in seperate turnouts) He loves her, but hes distracted to the point that he will hurt himself to get to her so they cant be together.

    It might be somthing to think about, and I know you like being able to trailer with M, but if you dont like showing with Lilly's behavour maybe you could try taking your own trailer to the next show to try it out.

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  15. My little filly, Ember is buddy sour. We're working on it and ground manners, which is something she was never taught at the training barn that I bought her from. (So far,) I haven't had her be too disrespectful when riding at a show. Just on the ground when she's away from her friend.

    I'm so sorry you had this trouble. :( *Hug*

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  16. M said.... this is a very fustrating thing to deal with. But I want to commend you Becca, on your patience and your ability to keep it all together! Don't let it get to you, though I know its hard, I"ve had horses that where worse at a show. The way that you wrote the story and explained how things happened was just great...thanks for the wonderful pics of Baby also. I'm here for you anytime you need some help and I agree that next time we head out for a show, we"ll take separate trailers. Mares are funny sometimes, but I know you can get Lilly back where she needs to be so she"ll be that "show" horse you had before :)!!!

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