Well, I did it. I went to my first show. Was it everything I had expected it to be? Were we prepared as a horse and rider team? Let me start at the beginning.
The week leading up to our show was a whirlwind of tack cleaning, picking up dry cleaning, arranging the trailer, and of course practicing with Hot Rod. I had my clothes all lined up, as well as Gracie’s for her lead line class. I rode in my chaps and hat, and had a last minute lesson. We feared the show would get cancelled due to rain, but by the end of the week the ground was mostly dry and the weather on Saturday was supposed to be warm and sunny. We were all excited for the big day!
Saturday morning came fast. Gracie and I got dressed and headed out to load up the boys. Our sunny promises were no where in sight. It was a chilly 50 degrees with nothing but grey skies. Our first snag of the day. Disappointed but undeterred, we pulled out and headed to the show. We arrived on time and started to set up. We registered and paid our fees and checked out the arena. It was very deep and very wet. I longed Hot Rod in the arena so he could get used to it and then hand walked him around the perimeter. I had no idea what to expect from him, having never hauled to a show. He was not his usual calm self. He whinnied incessantly to his little brother, Kona. Our second snag of the day. I had assumed it would help him feel more comfortable if his buddy came along. Wrong. Oh, so wrong. It only made his anxiety from being away from home worse.
We got ready for our showmanship class, teeth chattering from the cold. Remarkably, we didn’t do awful. Was it our very best? No, but it wasn’t dreadful and we actually got first. We had done many drills at home during practice, but surprisingly the hardest part for him was waiting in the line up. He simply wouldn’t hold still, whinnying constantly to Kona. I desperately wanted to discipline him, but tried to remain calm.
Immediately after that class we slipped a headstall on over his halter and threw on the saddle for Gracie’s lead line class. I am so so glad he behaved like a gentleman when she rode him. She loved being in front of a crowd, and did a great job staying in the saddle even when they asked us to trot.
She looks cold, doesn’t she?
My next class was a walk/trot pleasure class. I rode him outside the arena since there wasn’t a warm up pen and he halfheartedly paid attention. When there was a break from classes we went into the arena to warm up. He really started acting goofy at this point. He felt like a tense ball of muscle under my saddle and moved very quickly compared to his normal jog and slow lope. I didn’t feel great about the class. My trainer, Catie, jumped on for me to assess the situation as well. She loped a few circles and came back to the gate with the same feeling I had. Moving on in the class would only produce negative result. We wanted the whole experience to be comfortable and positive, so we made the decision to load up and skip the class.
Was I disappointed? A little, yes. There were negatives and positives about the show. For instance, I am so grateful we went to such a small show for our debut. It was super cheap, and I didn’t feel overly embarrassed when my horse acted like a jerk. I’m also glad Gracie had a good experience and that Hot Rod was a good boy for her. Importantly, I learned about the holes in his training that need correction and practice, i.e. waiting patiently in the line up, his buddy-sour behavior, and his need for more experience outside the farm. The main negative for me was the prep work. I did not enjoy all the busyness leading up to the show. I didn’t even wear fancy clothes or pull my horse’s mane, and there was still so much to do. I have a great respect now for full-time horse showers who are constantly on the road.
Will I ever try a show again? Probably so, but this might not be my horsey niche. Any time spent in the saddle and with my horsey family is a good time, though. I knocked out two goals in one weekend: riding with my little girl and attending my first show. It was a good day, all in all.