Eric trailered horses over Thursday, and by the time T and I arrived for my pre-show ride on Friday everything was set up and the arena was already bustling. The show site was the W.H. Lyons Fairgrounds in Sioux Falls. Big indoor arena and warm-up ring, stalling for a couple hundred horses, bleachers, concessions, etc. It's a nice space, and I've been there enough for various things that I already knew where everything was, which was helpful.
The standard uniform for horses was blankets and Sleazys. The standard uniform for the two-footed crowd was blue jeans and sweatshirts. I felt more than a little overdressed in my breeches and half-chaps, but I still have enough trouble keeping my lower leg where it belongs that I wanted the extra stick-um. Oh well.
Eric had schooling sessions scheduled straight through the day with all of his riders. Unlike some of the other trainers who had two or three riders out at once, he was taking his students one at a time, with only a slight overlap during cool down. T and I were a bit early, but by the time I had my tack hauled in and Buddy polo-wrapped, bell-booted and saddled, he was ready for me.
Buddy seemed to recall his previous outings as a halter horse and with Eric under saddle, because the bright lights and busy surroundings didn't phase him much. He did, however, have plenty of energy from standing in his stall most of the day. Eric hopped on first and made a couple of laps on an obviously fresh horse before he dismounted and sent me back for a longe line. On the line, Buddy hit the gallop button and Eric let him set his own rate and blow off some steam - the arena footing was pretty deep, and it didn't take long before Buddy was ready to slow down.
With the bouncy edge worn off, Buddy settled in and worked nicely for Eric through all three gaits. Then it was my turn. He was a little looky at the far end where some bright orange signs and a yapping dog, combined with all of the usual moving-in activities of another barn were going on, but following the advice to just keep asking fo an inside bend, we made it successfully past. On down the long side we passed the announcer's table with plenty of additional "interesting" stuff to eyeball without incident.
Buddy felt good - I felt like I'd forgotten everything I'd learned. But with a couple of laps under our belts without any real silliness, the butterflies flew away and I could focus. The hardest part was not so much managing Buddy, but avoiding collisions. While common sense and ring etiquette would suggest that riders stay on the same direction around the circle, not everyone subscribed. And with three horses being longed in the middle, what should have been ample space for avoiding disaster became somewhat less generous.
We didn't school overly long. Just enough to figure out where the potential trouble spots would be. All three gaits both directions, and the sense that Buddy was listening and paying attention. I was happy with it.
Then it was back to his stall to untack and a trip to the wash rack for a rinse. Which was an adventure all in itself. Clear across on the far side of the building, it's a low-ceilinged, concrete-floored room big enough for six (well-mannered) horses to be washed simultaneously. Think high school locker room showers, except with tie-rails and hoses. And water that stayed warm for the duration. It also had foot-wide drain grates running the length and width.
Buddy was not thrilled about the grates. And his front shoes made an impressively loud noise on impact with the floor. But the warm water obviously felt good, and he stood nicely for his rinse. I basically just sluiced him down and then slicked the drips off with my hand having forgotten to grab a scraper.
Back at his stall again, once Buddy was dry and redressed in his Sleazy and blanket, he tucked into water and hay. I finished getting my stuff arranged in the tack stall. My first class wasn't until Saturday after the supper break. I'd have a chance to watch Eric ride Buddy in the PB Hunter Pleasure Limit Horse class earlier in the day, and I was eager to see him go and get a better sense of how he'd be in an actual class.