hiatus from essentially last June. Normally our kickoff is SpyCoast in May, but with it arriving early this year, we decided to start out with something a bit sooner on the calendar.
Local schooling shows for me, are approached with a somewhat split feeling of happy anticipation and dread.
Anticipation for getting out and seeing new people, showing the kids what life can be, seeing them on their maiden voyages in a situation that in all respects, doesn't make or break a career, meeting new people and catching up with the old groups.
Then there's the dread.
The dread of people in your space, navigating a warm up that is, at best uncontrolled chaos, arenas that aren't set up as professionally as they should, making sure that no one dies/cries/embarrasses themselves too badly and above all making sure that said kids have a good time.
I knew walking in what the comments would be, and what approximate scores he would get- and we got them from the judge and the rail birds.
What I, and Mike weren't prepared for was the amount of people who came by and followed us to and from the arenas. Part of it was I think the idea of a stallion of that quality at a show, but the other part I think people were genuinely curious. Either way, it was something new for us, and felt a bit odd. Al just accepted the accolades graciously via carrots, admiring glances and the occasional insistence on a butt scratch.
We came home and addressed what few issues he showed us, and already I feel he's ready to go back out. I was for the most part, pleased about how he behaved in the wake of a Spring outdoor show and how he went to work despite the looney environment that he woke up to.
Next day, everyone arrived. It was pure madness in the barns, and the arenas exploded with people and activity. Ponies, kids, riders who got a little too close while walking near us with their horses, traffic, trailers coming in and out fast, people who lingered at his stall trying to pet him (which he was confused about as to why they weren't scratching his bum).
I wanted him exposed to all of this because it's only going to get busier from here on out. We went on a few long hand walks which helped. Hindsight I should have lunged him, but the available lunging area was a pitched surface and not dragged. So, I put him under his Back on Track sheet to keep him limber and made miles under our feet.
To his credit, Al held himself together.
We were concerned about the warmup, where it wasn't as regulated and my concerns were realized when he was t-boned by a junior rider on her horse (everyone was fine). Even though he was sore he still put in a good, focused test. It wasn't a winning test, but that's what you get with young horses going against horses that have done more than a few seasons at training level.
Overall, we have a better idea going forward what to do with him, and how to prep out. He's back at the farm working towards SpyCoast and the May series.