After one more successful training session with Piper, the weekend arrived... the weekend of his show debut.
Saturday, Jeddien competed first. With blowing winds, flapping judge tents, and a snapping flag overhead, she managed to put in a good showing. We won the 3rd Level Test 3 class with a qualifying score and came third at 4th Level Test 1 with a score that gets me a step closer to my USDF Silver Medal.
Sunday, the wind continued and the warmup was busy. So I decided to avoid the big warmup area and warmed up in the quieter staging area in front of the 4 arenas. Piper was a little star! He was coping much better than we expected him to. And he stood quietly at the end of our arena, watching the lovely coloured cob mare and her rider who rode before us.
But when it came time for him to enter the arena, he was having NOTHING to do with it. He was totally panicky over the idea of approaching the judge's tent.
After elimination for failing to even reach X for the initial halt, we moved to the big warmup area. The FEI horses were warming up. Horses were passaging and pirouetting while we walked, spiraling closer and closer to the end of the area where the concessions were placed. More tents.
It took an hour. But by the end, Piper was coping with the environment. And so, instead of risking having our second test result in another failed entry, we decided to end the day on a very good note.
Horses are interesting creatures. In demonstrations, Piper has happily walked over and even worn large blue plastic tarps that would scare even the calmest of horses. But, that is because he was slowly introduced to tarps over a period of 15 or 20 minutes. Given time and space, Piper learns to accept things.
But in a show situation, horses have only a couple minutes to accept a new dressage arena setting. They need to accept that the rider is putting them into a safe environment. This is where work with Piper needs to continue.
We learned a lot about Piper at this show. And, with exception to his panic attack, he actually was a pretty good boy. But there is lots of room for improvement. :-)
(Thanks go to Carole MacDonald of Equine Photography in Westboro MA for capturing these great moments with her camera !)