So back in June, I had thought that Sparky would make his eventing debut in the Beginner Novice division at the Oct Chattahoochee Hills Horse Trial. Had I more time and resources, this may have worked, but the simple fact is that he's just not ready.
We went cross country schooling for the first time in July (Happy Birthday to me!), and he was an absolute rockstar! However, since it was his very first outing, we took it pretty easy, and only jumped one "big" fence - a triangular stack of "Lincoln Logs"... and to be honest, I was pretty sure it wasn't happening. It didn't happen the first time, but on the second attempt, Sparky said, "Okay, I got this!" and leapt over the logs like it was nothing. THAT, in and of itself, made the whole day worthwhile.
In August, we had the opportunity to school the course at Chatt Hills, so naturally, I jumped at the chance. I went with Jen (and Tiki), Becca (and Captain), and Marissa (and The $700 Pony... who is awesome, by the way). The three (six) of them took part in the hunter pace held in the morning, and in the afternoon, Jen, Marissa, one of Jen's students, and I went schooling.
There was nothing. small. on. that. course. Nothing. Almost everything was max height (~2'6"), and Sparky had never jumped that high "cold" before. Poor Sparky was overwhelmed, and did the best he could... but it was kind of rough. We had a stop (or two) at almost every fence before he went over, and eventually (after a string of a couple GREAT fences with no stops!) he just said, "No, I'm done." And he was done. There is NO ONE in this world who could have made him go over that fence.
I overfaced him, plain and simple.
We did do a few more fences (bank and ditch on XC, a few in the arena) to restore confidence and end on a (somewhat) positive note, but I realized that with the little time I had and the other commitments I had, I was not going to be able to have him ready for the horse trial in October (unless we were to school XC many more times before then, which just wasn't going to happen). So we nixed it.
So Sparky is backing up a couple steps, and we're going to work very hard on square oxers, things that look solid (thanks to a brown tarp), and removing the word "no" from his vocabulary. I can't really think of a way to re-inforce the idea of "forward," because this is a one-off event... Sparky is naturally a forward horse, so me asking him to go forward has never been so much me asking or telling him - it's really always been me allowing him. So I think if I build up his confidence to the point that "no" never crosses his mind, we'll be good to go, and I will have one hella awesome Morgan Sport Pony eventer.
So what all of this really means is that Jen gets to use my dressage saddle when she and Tiki do go to the horse trial at the end of the month!