We woke up to a cold and wet day on Sunday but thankfully we were snug and dry in my SUV. Did I tell you how much I love car camping now?! It’s definitely going to be a good option for future horse shows.
We were a bit late getting up so arrived just as Vicki Wilson was finishing up her session in the round pen before Murray presented. Lilly was on her toes today with the weather and the umbrellas around. Much more so than yesterday. But Murray again worked his magic and took lots of time getting her focused on him in the session before moving on to bridling. Lilly was a champion again and accepted the bit and the bridle with little fuss. She is such a lovely horse.
One of the main points that Murray reiterated over his sessions was something that really made sense to me – he said that because horses are prey animals they seek peace and relaxation over rewards such as pats or treats. Humans, as predators, seek reward (such as catching a prey animal) to release all the happy chemicals in our brain but that only happens for horses when they can relax and chill. The happy chemicals are released when they are safe. So as humans, we need to create a safe space for them and be a safe space for them if they are going to trust us. It also means that instead of praising horses with pats, rubs or treats like we might think is a good thing, we instead praise them by letting them chill out. You do that by taking a deep breath which they can then also do, allowing them to drop their poll and start licking and chewing which releases the dopamine and gives them the reward that makes them want to do it again when you ask.
It’s a lot more complicated then what I’ve written but creating a safe space for them to look to you as their safety involves asking them to concentrate on you as the leader and not look at the things around them. You want their concentration on you and you want them to understand that they dont need to worry about the rest of the world because you will keep them safe. You do this by giving them a job whenever their mind flicks away from you such as backing up. Once they have backed up and they concentrate on you, you take that pressure off, take a deep breath and let them chill. Eventually they are looking to you only for their safe space and not worrying what’s going on around them. This gives you the trust you need to start training them. I really don’t know if I explained that well but the concept really stuck with me and made sense.
Anyway, by the time Murray’s session was over I was freezing despite my big rain jacket so I popped back to the car for more warm clothes and then went to watch some of the Beyond the Barriers showjumping competition. If you don’t know, Beyond the Barriers is a competition series that is set up for off the track thoroughbreds who are being retrained as sport horses. It’s designed to showcase the versatility of the thoroughbred and encourage people to take on the challenge of retraining an OTTB into a new discipline. Hundreds of thoroughbreds are retired from race work every year and need a new life instead of being culled so this competition is an incentive to encourage people to do that. Watching the competition really made me want to enter with Birdie next year so if things go well, we may be able to.
It was then off for a bit more shopping. I had seen that prices had dropped even further thanks to the show coming to an end so I scored two more riding shirts for half price – such a bargain. I’ll write more about them in my haul post.
By then it was lunch time and I called it a day since I wanted to stop by to see a close friend in Taupo before making the drive home. Unfortunately I got a migraine on the way home so I had to pull over to sleep for an hour before continuing on. Thank goodness for my bed in the back of my truck. By the time I got home it was almost 8pm but I went out to feed Birdie and give her some pats before collapsing in bed.
Overall I really enjoyed Equifest, the organisers did an amazing job of putting on a big show within a year and doing while COVID was happening. I cannot wait to go back next year and maybe bring Birdie with me to compete in the Beyond the Barriers competition.