So, a long time ago in Cedar Falls, Iowa I gave a demo with Fabulouso, aka Elliot, the imported Hanovarian who came into our lives through the benevolence of Susan Brigham. Elliot is the result of a couple hundred years of German breeding and culling and he’s proof that God is benevolent. He looks like this:
So, when asked to do a clinic, of course I took him as a demo horse. He jumps around like the dang rock star he is, does some lead changes and basically grins at everybody like the goofy German he is. (And as a Stockhausen/Steinke, I can say that with impunity.) And I thought the clinic went well.
The overwhelming feedback from the crowd to the organizer was, “yeah, we know she can do that, and that’s a pretty horse, but how do we start to do that with our horses that are sweet and lovely, but not 17h warmbloods?”
Point taken. The next year I came back with two 3 and 4 year old PMU horses and let them make every mistake in the book in jumping and showed the audience how to help the horses learn and the essential skills for staying in the tack. The loved it.
So, at the Horse Fair 2017, I decided I was going to bring out the young tbs and teach them to jump live and in-person in the Stock Pavilion. (Yeah, I’m not that smart, but I can be amusing to watch anyway.)
The first seminar was on Saturday at 11 a.m. and I had texted his breeder and former owner and asked him if he might come and watch. This is the same guy who, when I told him we were doing the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover and that he could follow my blog about it, he said he didn’t have much interest. Ok, I accepted that, but I sent the text inviting him to see Howdy at the Horse Fair anyway. He didn’t respond, so I figured he wasn’t coming. Ok.
So, I started the demo with Bravado
and I don’t have any pictures of Bravado’s part of the demo, which is probably a good thing. It started out pretty ragged and that is glossing over a lot. His heart started pounding when we entered the arena and he was seriously on his toes. There was head-throwing, there was the occasional idea that he might just leave the arena, there was a back so tight you could bounce a quarter off it, and there was some serious sewing-machine-style trot. I never thought he was going to buck or rear, but anything else seemed to be on the table as an option for him. Through the grace of God and some serious cajoling, by the end of our 40 minutes he was jumping 2’6″ and making a pretty good show of it. So that was very satisfying. (Especially since about ten of my good foxhuting friends were in the audience ostensibly for support, but it might have been partially for the beer and the potential stories when I swear into the mic or fall of or some other such brilliant thing that could definitely have happened. God love my friends – fun-loving free-spirits they are! )
My premise throughout the time with Bravado was that as riders, we have to lead the dance. If the horse is nervous and we follow him and become nervous ourselves, then the horse is leading the dance. If, however, when the horse is nervous, we purposefully relax our bodies and breathe and stay elastic in our connection, as well as give them a simple job to focus on, we can lead them to more relaxation. Then we have led the dance.
I should say I am very grateful that the Rawhide and Dusty Show, which was right before us, ended a bit early, so I was able to snag another ten minutes in the arena for my demo, which Bravado definitely needed.
Then it was Howdy’s turn.
My friend Sabrina Wright brought him into the ring and he walked nearly flat-footed in, stood for mounting, let me adjust my stirrups from the tack, and pretty much aced the whole thing. He was a little tight and very green to jumping, but with the crowd now really rolling into the Pavilion because the Parade of Breeds was next up, I’m stunned he kept it together. This is video Sabrina kindly shot of Howdy near the end of the demo. He had not jumped before that day.
Obviously, I was pretty pleased with that. But then an added treat was that his breeder/owner met up with us on the apron outside when we left the arena! He came to see his ol’ boy Howdy. Since I didn’t expect him to be there, it actually took me a minute to place him when he walked up, but then he was so obviously proud of Howdy and affectionate to him that it helped ring some bells for me. We had a nice chat and I was glad to see him out and he was clearly glad to see Howdy do so well and be loved.
The next day a woman I did not know walked right up to me and asked me if I was Camie Stockhausen. I almost said, “That depends,” but before I could get too funny, she said, “because I used to groom Howdy at the track and my daughters are here and could we see him?’ Well of course! I opened the stall door and the mom threw her arms around his neck and one of the kids was hugging his leg and Howdy was grinning.
It turns out that Mr. I-don’t-have-that-much-interest 😉 had texted Howdy’s groom and said she had to come out and see him go because he couldn’t be there on Sunday. So good. Well, then we go to do the Sunday demo and who shows up but his track trainer too who also got a text! It was old home week for Howdy and we all loved having them around. I hope they all will plan to come with us to the Kentucky Horse Park on October 5-8 of this year.
I snapped this picture of his groom and his trainer leading Howdy and Bravado back to the stalls after the Sunday demo. It was wonderful to meet them and great to have them along for the ride. What unexpected fun!