Saturday, August 02, 2008

The show at Towne-Ayr Farm; August 2

Guinevive decided that she wanted to give the Open show at a local farm a go. So, this morning Chuck, Chellis (Guin’s BF), and I put on our Curly t-shirts, and loaded everything that we needed into the truck, trailer, and jeep. Guin dressed up in her English show gear, and loaded UB Raggae Babe up (like a champ I might add).

At this point, I would love to be able to say, “We had a great time; wowed everyone with our Curly; and won lots of ribbons.” But the truth is, Chuck and I were, once again, disappointed at the inability of the Judge to be unbiased. It had nothing to do with the fact that Babe is a Curly. It had everything to do with the fact that Guin is no longer in 4H and not a “show regular”.

It would be very easy to say that we were suffering from sour grapes, but that isn’t it. It would also be easy to say that the Judge can’t see *everything* that goes wrong with all the riders in the ring. But that isn’t it either. It was the third class that showed the blatant disregard the Judge had for reality.

Guin chose 5 classes: Fitting and Showmanship; Equitation; Pleasure; Command; and Equitation over fences. She ended up scratching the jumping because both she and Babe were tired (and it was so hot and HUMID), plus the whole show was held inside an undersized and too dark arena.

She came out of the F&S with a 4th place. Completely respectable considering it has been 4 years since she has tried her hand at this. In Equitation they combined the Adult and Senior classes. There were five total entrants. During the class, one pair had real problems; the horse reared, wouldn’t accept cues, and when waiting on the sidelines for others to canter, was threatening to other horses. Two of the other horses broke at the canter; two did not. Guin and Babe were one of those. Considering this, we expected she would place 3rd, or perhaps even 2nd. No, she placed 4th putting the two horses above her who had not stayed in gait. We simply shook our heads and figured the Judge had not seen it.

Her next class was Pleasure. Now for those of you unused to shows like this, the Pleasure class is supposed to judge the horse whereas the Equitation is to judge the rider. Basically the horse needs to demonstrate that they are a pleasure to ride: easy to cue, easy to change directions, easy to change gaits, easy to stay in gait, easy to halt and easy to back. In this class there were only 4 entrants. The troubled pair from above had scratched the rest of the show. Again, two of the horses broke at the canter (same two as above in fact), and two did not. And this time both Chuck and I were watching the judge watch the horses. She looked straight at BOTH horses when each of them broke their canters; there was no way she could have missed it. Yet, once again, one of those horses placed above Guin and Babe, giving Guin a 3rd place. The comment the Judge made to Guin was, “This horse likes to go, doesn't it?”

It was obvious that there was no way Guin was going to place higher, and in fact in Command class, she again placed 4th.

Again, it would be easy to say “Well, Guin must be out of ‘shape’ as a rider,” or “At least she GOT a ribbon.” But in all honesty, Guin is a sweet rider. She can handle anything a horse puts out; she knows how to coax, how to teach, how to reward, and how to gently correct what a horse offers. I watched her closely and she made no glaring errors today. It is disheartening to have to deal with such bias. She has reworked Babe from the rushing, rooting, unbalanced mare we got, into a more balanced and confident mare. From Babe, Guin has learned to be subtle with her cues, and Babe rewards that with more relaxed movement. Babe did well today at the show, and so did Guin.

Will Guin show again? It is hard to say, but at this point I suspect not. I believe that Guin may have learned that she doesn’t need an outsider to tell her she is a good rider; all she needs is the willingness of the horse to show her.

ps....on a side note, we did talk with several folks about what kind of horse Babe is. One, who was actually there with a team of oxen, said that she used to have a horse that folks told her was half Curly because he would curl up in the winter. I can't begin to say how many folks up here have told me about "a horse they used to have that got all curly"; but it's been many a one over the years.

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