Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Showmanship...can you drive AND be a porcupine?

That's me there on the right with Abbey, my 2008 super horse show partner. See that HUGE cheesy grin on my face?

Abbey and I finished the weekend as High Point Green Rider/Handler and overall Green High Point for the year with the Arizona Paint Horse Club!

I'm smiling because we just finished a great showmanship pattern at the Harvest of Color Paint Show in Buckeye Arizona this past weekend. Next to Trail, Showmanship is my FAVORITE class. Abbey is a showmanship queen - this horse can litterally dig a hole in the ground pivoting on her back right foot (when we pivote to the right) or on her left foot when we complete a pull turn and pivot to the left.

It was always fun to go into a class and show the judge how clean we can complete the maneuvers. I showed this horse at the Pinto World Show this year and if my nerves hadn't gotten to me (oh and that starting cone had been on my opposite side) I think we would have placed Top 10, if not snagged a championship.

I've been watching some of the other girls in the barn work showmanship with their horses recently and seeing how frustrated they can get when trying to teach their horses to pivot. At any given time we are asked to do 90, 180, 270, 360 or 720 degree pivots during a pattern either from a standstill or just after we've walked, trotted and come to a halt.

I realized some of the girls can DO showmanship with a finished horse - that is, one who already knows what to do - but not all of them can TEACH the various parts of it to their horse.

When you break it down, a pivot is really nothing more than the horse moving away from the pressure of you walking into his (or her) space while keeping a hind foot planted - in other words, driving game.

Your horse walking and trotting in sync with you when you walk and trot is really the "stick to me" game combined with the Porcupine game - follow the feel. Although a pivot can make or break your routine as far as the judges are concerned what's really thrilling is what comes before and after the pivot.

Great showman make it look effortless and can't even see that they are signaling or cuing their horse in any way. In fact, if you look again at the picture, you'll see that my hand is actually quite far down the lead. I almost never have to engage the chain for any reason - my horses know they need to follow my lead when I'm walking, jogging or backing; in other words they stick to me!

When I work with my gelding Jayden (who was TOTALLY wet behind the ears with this stuff when I got him), our showmanship time together is not a drilling session! It's a mix of fun Parelli games to help deepen our relationship, build his trust in me as a leader and to to have fun. I did enlist some assistance from my good friend and showmanship queen Stacy when I got stuck trying to get him to plant that right hind foot but for the most part, it's just me and my horse :)

Bottom line...anyone who does Parelli can easily teach their horse Showmanship. When Pat says there is litterally nothing you can do with a horse that isn't games 1-3 - he's TOTALLY RIGHT!

Next Up: I'm starting Trail (in hand) with Jayden to teach him to follow the feel and meaneuver through objects.