Lola and I have been busy these last four weeks. Our first time out was a Dressage schooling show. Despite how calm and relaxed she has become going to the park to ride, she was nervous unloading from the trailer at the show. The atmosphere is very different from the trailer parking at local parks. Walking is Lola’s way of unloading her tension, so we spent lots of time walking around the grounds in-hand and under saddle. We did two tests, Intro Test A and Intro Test B. Both are walk/trot tests that are very inviting to inexperienced horses. Lola was able to navigate through both tests, but we did do some lovely imitations of a Llama and had a hard time standing still for the salute.
Show number two followed the next weekend. This was another Dressage Schooling Show. She unloaded from the trailer better and stayed more relaxed through our warmup and tests. The warm up area was very busy and other then almost being run over by another horse and rider, Lola handled her tension much better. We did the two intro tests again, this time in an indoor arena and there was only one Llama impression! Yay!! Lola really liked riding inside and didn’t want to come back out. She did find some of the mirrors on the wall surprising and wanted to top and say “HI”! To the pretty horse looking back at her.
Next, we were signed up for our first Hunter Derby (a Derby is a schooling show that offers dressage and a hybrid stadium/cross country jumping class in preparation for competing in Eventing). It forecasted rain but we decided to still give it a go. I wanted to give Lola lots of confidence, so we entered to compete in the Starter division which is a walk/trot Dressage test and jumps not exceeding 10”. Third time showing was the charm for Lola. She unloaded and stood by the trailer eating hay like a pro! We saddled up and warmed up for our Dressage test. She stayed quiet and focused on her job and gave me a solid ride with no Llama appearance, even with horses running around in a pasture next to the ring!! We had a 4 hour wait before our jumping faze so Lola spent time in a stall and after a good roll in the shavings happily munched on hay and took a nap.
There was as steady drizzle throughout the day and soon we began to overhear other competitors talking about pulling their horses from the jumping faze worrying about slipping and traction on the course. Not having shoes or studs was the biggest concern. Lola and I weren’t worried, she has been riding barefoot on various ground conditions without a single slip! The rain had slowed down to a light drizzle when it was time for Lola and I to get warmed up. She came out of her stall a bit excited and we had to spend extra time walking to encourage her to relax. We did one warm up ground pole and then it was time for our jumping debut!
I am very proud to say that Lola did amazing! She waited calmly outside the start box then the countdown began. At zero, Lola calmly and happily trotted out the start box and continued through the whole course, never batting an eye at any of the jumps. As we were cooling out we had several people come up to us to say how much they liked Lola and surprised that I rode her bitless cross-country. I happily explained that all my Off-Track Thoroughbreds are transitioned to riding bitless right off the track. As a matter of fact, Lola would prefer to never wear a bit if we didn’t have to for Dressage! We ended up winning the open Starter division, but the best part of the day was Lola receiving the Good Egg award. This award was created to recognize the horse who took the best care of their Starter division rider. Lola was the youngest and most inexperienced horse in Starter that day. I’m so proud of how well she took care of me throughout the day and what an amazing example of an Off-Track Thoroughbred!
Lola did a lot of growing up over the last few weeks. I knew she had great potential when I found her, but I didn’t think she would start figuring out her new jobs this quickly. She has the next two weeks off from showing and we will be enjoying going Scooting on some new trails around Michigan! Then we are back at it with more Dressage Schooling shows and another Derby! Stay tuned as next month we will be talking about how Lola will be tackling different trail obstacles and putting her scoots to use on some rugged terrain.