After a successful summer of showing the wonderful Smart Chic Dot Com, graciously shared with her by our friend Kris Troxel, Annabelle was pretty spoiled. So was her mom. All we had to do was get to the show and meet up with Chic, who was always perfectly schooled and ready to perform, throw on Annabelle’s little saddle and go.
With Chic’s late season injury, we were faced with two choices. Annabelle could sit out the last two shows of the season, or we could try to get her own horse Grumpy ready for her to take to the show pen.
Annabelle had been riding Grumpy all year, so he was fit and ready to go as far as his conditioning went. Problem was, Grumpy wasn’t “schooled up”. Prior to joining our family about a year ago, Grumpy hadn’t been shown or schooled much for a couple of years. Even for a veteran show horse like Grump, it is asking a lot to go out and pack a kid around the arena without time to practice and get back in the show groove.
Moreover, when I had schooled Grumpy in a training show early this spring, he had been a bit fractious in the pen: show fresh and full of himself. I had visions of any parent’s nightmare: Grumpy running off or otherwise misbehaving with his tiny rider, scaring her, and maybe even ruining her love for showing. I had decided that we would wait at least a year before letting Annabelle attempt to ride him in a competition.
With the last two shows looming, though, I gave my little girl the choice: do you want to start practicing on Grumpy for next year and spend the winter getting ready, or do you feel that you can go out and try to show him now?
You probably have to think hard to guess what she said.
Our biggest challenge with Grumpy was Annabelle’s size; more specifically the shortness of her legs. While Grumpy is certainly an accomplished show horse, he was accustomed to being cued largely by the rider’s legs, and with my baby’s legs barely making it past the saddle pad, Grumpy either couldn’t feel or didn’t understand when Annabelle was asking him to spin. He just wouldn’t do it.
The week before the show, I thought hard about how Annabelle could get Grumpy to spin. I realized that if I could make him turnaround for me without using my legs, so could Annabelle. I rode him one afternoon, and worked on getting him into the turnaround using only the reins and a tap on the neck with Annabelle’s little pink whip. While hitting in front of the saddle is not allowed in the show ring, I figured that if Old Grump was properly schooled beforehand, he would spin without the whip too.
We didn’t have a lot of time to practice before the first show, but Annabelle and Grumpy did a bang up job. Grump was quiet and calm, and the duo looked adorable out there loping around the big pen at the Idaho Center Horse Park. Although they didn’t get their spins as well as we had hoped, the team earned Annabelle’s first actual horse show check, along with a beautiful set of white polo wraps embroidered with the Idaho Reining Horse Association logo.
Boy was my girl excited!
Before the date of second show, we practiced more. Annabelle worked on her timing and cadence in cueing for the spins, and Grumpy picked right up on the change. By the time the last show rolled around, Grumpy was spinning like a champion in practice.
Annabelle was pretty excited to be showing Grump again. They looked just fantastic all dressed up, with Annabelle in a new show shirt (thanks again Auntie Shane) and Grumpy sporting the new white polo wraps that the pair had won together in their first outing.
Don’t they look cute? The spots on the picture, well, they were dust on my camera lens. But you get the idea.
Their performance literally brought tears to my eyes. I had been so worried that Annabelle was going to have a hard time adapting to showing a different horse, but those worries were all put to rest by this pretty go.
Annabelle and Grumpy improved on their previous score by a whopping 6.5 points and earned first place in their class. I was so proud of both of them.
The duo is keeping up their practice even though the season has ended. Annabelle rushes out to ride after school, and just yesterday the two of them mastered a few flying lead changes. It was pretty cute to watch.
We will be forever grateful to Chic for teaching Annabelle what horse showing is all about. Under his kind tutelage she learned not only how to show, but how much fun it can be when it all comes together.
Chic continues to convalesce in his comfy pasture in Nampa. He foot is still a little sore, but he has a great appetite and can move pretty fast across the paddock for a cookie. Keep him in your thoughts and prayers, that he continues to improve and get more comfortable every day.
Oh, and Andrea Fappani…….watch your back!