I woke about 5am to a thunderstorm. Checked the radar, and saw a small line of showers in the area, with a large storm front approaching back home. For nearly an hour I refreshed the radar motion, watched it, and thought, "Yeah, I'll be ok. That'll miss us, probably swing north. We might get a few showers, but things should clear up good."
As the morning moved along, I started to realize that storm was headed right for the show. I convinced myself, "Well, maybe it won't be so bad. Maybe the nervous horses and riders will all scratch, and we'll have a bit of quiet in the arena."
Showed up at the showgrounds, got changed, Harley saddled, and off we went. Jen ran off to get my new day show # from the truck. It started raining steadily, but Harley was minding me on a nice small longe circle at trot. I asked him to canter, he kicked out a little bit, and I had to apologize for his antics to a junior rider on a Fresian. I sent Harley back out on the line, trot left, and the rain increased dramatically. I heard a small thunder rumble, and put it out of my mind.
Then thunder and lightening hit us all at once. Lightening bolt and thunder simultaneous. Harley darted away, again cutting off that Jr/Fresian pair. She hopped off, glaring at me. "Uh, sorry. Thunder, lightening. Maybe your horse didn't see it, mine did. Besides, he's a kid, can't expect that to not startle every horse in here." Immediately after darting from me, I tugged on the line, and started talking soothing words to Harley. He came right up to me, and buried his face in my shirt, a look of sheer terror in his eyes. That girl's horse might not find her comforting, but Harley sure wanted me to make the bad go away.. I wished I could have.
Everyone in the small warm up arena hopped off their horses, and stood completely stock still. I took the neck stretcher off of Harley, and gave him slack in the longe line. He still didn't budge, stood there in the middle of the arena, eyes wide. Thunder and more lightening attacked the show grounds, flooding everything but the covered arenas. I looked across the way to the show ring, and saw some poor young lady trying to finish her test. As she left the arena, her horse reared up, and somehow she stayed on. An utter mess. With her feet firmly on the ground, I focused back on Harley and the weather.
It rained sideways. Winds whipped the newly formed puddles all around. Harley and I hand walked a while, and when he put his face into the wind, we both got sprayed with rain. Observers chuckled at him, startled by a tarp blowing in the wind, but not the least bit moved by the storm. I took the courage to walk up to an older couple to ask, "Please stop opening and closing your umbrella to clean it off. You're startling a lot of the horses, and somebody could get seriously hurt." The man replied, "OOh. Sorry. Thanks for letting us know. We weren't aware." As I walked off, I heard the woman ask, "What did she say?" The man answered angrily, "Stop playing with the umbrella to get the rain off. It scares the horses."
Other riders got back on their horses. There were two horse/rider pairs completely terrified, walking and trotting around the arena, their trainer assuring them, "You'll be fine, just get on." Shocked, Harley and I stood there a while longer.
After some arena rearranging, the show ring was announced "open for warmup", to see the newly placed pickup truck at "C", and the newly moved arena fencing. Harley and I very quietly waited in the rain for the tractor to leave the arena. Lightening flashed just outside the arena again, bring my nerves right back. We walked around the new "show fence", on both sides of the truck. Harley was unphased by the changes, and walked very calmly in hand around the arena. A bunch of other riders joined us, and soon, even the large covered arena was congested.
I saw the smaller warmup arena was empty. Now's my chance... I walked Harley back over to it, and began free longing again. The rain let up, and I thought there just might be a chance we'd ride at least a little. Then the crowd emerged again in the smaller arena, the rain increased, thunder rumbled all around us.
And I gave up. Completely decided it just wasn't worth trying to ride around everyone, especially the two pairs of scared. Jen, R, and I gathered up Harley, all of his things, all of my things, and through more downpours of rain, thunder, and lightening, we headed home. Past the show grounds and before the main highway home, I put leg wraps on in the trailer. The weather was absolutely atrocious getting home for about the first half of the trip.
Yesterday, I was entirely frustrated at myself for quitting without trying. With the exception of a little justified fear at the storm, Harley was quiet, calm, and about as peaceful as I could've expected. He was doing great. But something in my mind said, "He's done great so far, Why screw that up by getting him startled by one of the other scared-pairs? Is there anything to be gained here? Would I even get a score worth qualification out of this mess?"
Then late last night, I realized the sixth sense in my mind that gave me pause. Saturday, in our warmup, Harley and I met that Fresian pair left side to left side, her heading in the opposite direction from me. As we passed, Harley bent his neck and took a scared hard look at them. I remember seeing that Fresian's terrified eyes, and the rider's timid expression. I also remember giving Harley a little nudge of inside leg/outside rein, and a little pat with my hands, followed by a vocal, "Shh.. You're okay Harley, keep going." My memory didn't flash to it, but my subconscious must have realized, "She's scared, the horse is terrified, and if we're in these small quarters with them, something bad could very well happen."
That sixth sense was further confirmed this morning. I looked at the show results from yesterday. All but one Adult Amateur scratched Intro level classes yesterday afternoon. One brave adult rode Intro C, but every single other AA scratched. It wasn't just me, it wasn't just Harley. Experienced adults on older horses gave up before they even arrived. Harley and I were the brave ones - we showed up, we dressed, we longed, we hand walked through the storm. That gives me a little more confidnece that we're making some progress.