Seems like most of the nerves were on my side of things. James is an OTTB, and can be a little forward, and likes a soft ride. He's very tolerant of my kids and their mistakes, but the kids do have to be mindful to give him the subtle, soft ride he needs. I was having all manner of Mom Moments, worrying that James would be overly worried about the show surroundings and a bit too keen for Noah to handle. Rationally, I knew we had plans in place to handle things - we could longe James, our trainer could ride him, we could always scrap showing and just school - but well, I'm a Mom, and I worry. End of story.
Noah is much better about these things. When I asked how he felt, he admitted to feeling a few butterflies, but mostly because it had been so long since he'd shown. He was more concerned with making sure James felt as comfortable and relaxed as possible; he was worried that being in the trailer alone would cause James to think he was being sent off to a new home or to race again. Noah's goal, he said, was to make sure James felt secure and that he gave James the kind of ride that would make the show a good experience for James. He added that getting a ribbon would be really nice, but that he really wasn't expecting much.
Seriously, where does this child come from???? If I wasn't driving when he said this I would have reached over and hugged the heck out him. Very.Proud.Mom.Moment.
She and Noah discussed their strategy for the flat classes. As James had been a racehorse, Jenny felt it would be best for Noah to keep him out of traffic as much as possible in order to keep from arousing his competitive instincts. Noah followed her instructions to the letter, circling or cutting across the ring to keep James away from the other horses. This worked well in their first class, where they placed second. In the second flat class James became a little strong on the second canter trip, but luckily the judge did not ask them to canter for long and James came back immediately when Noah asked. They placed fourth in that class.
Noah and Jenny chatted about their plan. The lines had ridden in 6 strides during schooling, but since James had gotten a little "up" in the last class Jenny told Noah that they would probably ride in 5 during the class. Noah headed in to ride his course, and Jenny turned to me and said, "He's really serious today!" True, the kid looked as though he was riding an Olympic course. He went down the lines and we could hear him counting out loud, "Land-1-2-3-4-5." Jenny laughed again, saying she loved how well he listens.
The first round went well, and the second went even better. James got a little exuberant on the ending circle, as he was justifiably proud of his efforts, but again he came back immediately when Noah asked. They left the ring and we fussed over James as though he'd just brought home a gold medal, showering him with pats and mints. Off they went back to the trailer, where James made it clear that, while horse shows were fine and good, he was ready to get back home to his field.
Turns out that James and his Boy had impressed the judge enough to place first in both classes, which combined with their earlier second place earned them the Reserve Champion ribbon. Noah was extremely proud of his ribbons, but what struck me the most is how, for the rest of the day and to anyone he spoke to, he talked more about how good James had been.
I'm so proud of both my boys.