Horse Show time: is this supposed to be fun?

What a good boy, Finn!

What a good boy, Finn! Eye kisses soothe his savage beast. Or is it MY savage beast that needs soothing? Either way, it feels good to both of us.

Horse Shows. Why do we torture ourselves like this?

After a night of anxious tossing and turning, I arose this morning at 5 a.m. to quickly mainline some coffee, then off to the barn to braid my horse, trailer over to the local show facility, don some archaic riding attire involving a lot of silly equipment including a stock tie (why are we still wearing stock ties?) and white gloves and breeches (around horses? who are you kidding?) and then trot around in patterns for a judge as the sun began to rise. O.k., slight exaggeration. The sun rose while I was braiding. I think.

Oy vey. Why do I do this to myself? Or my horse? My pony, God bless him, was a trooper as usual, although he did turn a rather jaundiced eye on me this morning when I showed up – before breakfast! – to braid him. This was the second day of the show, mind you. His look said, rather plainly, “again? Oh no, really, I don’t think so. Come back in a week and we’ll talk.”

Here we are getting Finn dressed to show. Note the expression. “Here we go again…There had better be treats involved.


Far Above Par, (“Finn”) ready to get dressed for the show.


Special shaped saddle pad which helps him look a little bigger. Here’s where you get it:


Almost ready to go now. Awkward photo angle for his neck. It’s much nicer than this, really it is!

This show marked our debut at Prix St Georges, a big leap up for us and a stretch. A bit much of a stretch, as it turned out. I made a bunch of mistakes including miscounting the tempi changes. Why IS that so hard? You’d be amazed at how hard it is to count strides and give the aid at the right moment while doing 1600 other things simultaneously. Easy peasy, right? Ha. While our score on Saturday was  not terrible for a first try, it was a bit lower than I had hoped. Phooey.

We also debuted our Fourth Level Freestyle the same day, which was fun, but definitely tiring mentally and physically to do two NEW high level tests on the same day – especially when the rider has a migraine and then has to take migraine meds. Tough to ride a Freestyle and stay on pattern while drugged. Sort of doable, but…well. We got through it and it was great practice! I think we have the makings of a good Freestyle with a little more practice.

As my friend and groom noted: I rode the PSG in the morning with a migraine, and the Freestyle in the afternoon while drugged. Fun times at the Horse Show! So I guess I can cut myself a little slack on the low scores. Maybe.

Sunday we revisited Prix St. Georges but both of us were tired and sore and I had the post-migraine hangover and could not focus. I was half asleep (well, it was 7:51 a.m., a difficult ride time requiring waking up at 4:45 a.m. to get ready).


Warming up in the early morning. One benefit: a brief moment when I had the warmup ring to myself before the chaos!

Finn uncharacteristically spooked repeatedly (minor, but enough to throw us a little off stride) at someone sitting close to the ring in the shadows near one corner, which threw me off balance mentally.  I obsessed over it and didn’t concentrate on the test, merely fuming over “why are they sitting there when they can see it’s ruining my test?”

I need to be able to ride through distractions and shake it off.It’s all good experience for both of us.

The tempis went well today, I think I counted them right. And the pirouettes continue to improve significantly. But the half-passes completely fell apart while I was obsessing over the person in the shadows. A few key mistakes and you end up with a truly abysmal score at PSG, especially if you make those mistakes on double co-efficients.. Alas, seriously abysmal. This is one to try not to think about but just move on and resolve to do better.


Relaxed and stretching in our warmup in the early dawn light. Unfortunately, we never really “woke up.” Neither of us. Finn figured if I wasn’t awake, he didn’t need to be either!

Finn and I are capable at this level but I must develop better concentration and he needs a bit more strength for consistency and better expression. Here’s a nice picture, one of the decent half-passes from the first day.

Finn's (and my) first attempt at Prix St. Georges. At least we look pretty.

Finn’s (and my) first attempt at Prix St. Georges. At least we look pretty; although I should be looking in the direction of the movement.

14 thoughts on “Horse Show time: is this supposed to be fun?

  1. I feel your pain! I’m struggling with concentration and having the physical endurance to make it through a show without feeling exhausted. I definitely have more fun during lessons and in my practice rides — but like how having a show on my calendar makes me focus. Ack

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes. Sometimes I think it’s time to stop showing entirely, it’s just not worth it. But having the goal DOES help me focus and deal with weak spots (otherwise far too easy to ignore those, isn’t it?). And sometimes the show can be kind of fun. It’s nice to know that there are many of us who find them a struggle, though. Misery loves company? Wish there was a way to make it easier.


  2. Great post. If it were easy, everyone would do it, right? I think anything in life is only as valuable as the time put into it, so just rest assured that reaching your goal (you will!) is going to be THAT MUCH SWEETER because you fought for it through good rides and bad rides and migraine pain. 😉 And at the end of the day, no matter what, Finn is sure to be the most handsome one out there anyway.

    How many shows do you typically do in a year? Are you usually traveling and competing alone or with a barn?

    I only do a few shows and I go all alone, which brings with it a lot of challenges and exhaustion…sometimes I really envy the people who arrive with their whole barn and are grilling out dinner together at night and laughing and supporting each other and reading tests for each other and wiping off their friend’s boots before they enter the show ring and giving their horses one last spritz of fly spray….it can be hard being all alone. But it’s rewarding, too. It’s satisfying that I am self-sufficient and can take care of my horse and myself. And I don’t have any distractions. And I make my own name and reputation out there, instead of carrying whatever rivalry, stigma or drama my barn has along with me. This is great because I can network and socialize with whomever I want, which makes meeting people a lot easier and more fun because I’m not seen as a threat.

    Anyway, that was a ramble!! I just love your blog, keep up the great (and real-talk) writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good for you, Tonia! I always bring one person with me to help with my horse (just to keep him company while I check in, for example, or run to the porta potty), but other than that, I am usually on my own. Do not have a trainer warm me up or any of that stuff. However, sometimes I do have friends who happen to be there, or my trainer and/or people from my training barn are there and everyone is very supportive, which is wonderful! But much of the time I’m kind of on my own. It has its plusses and minuses, as you note. We are self-sufficient, and we don’t have the barn drama or rivalry to deal with. And a little lonely sometimes and that celebratory champagne sure would be nice (but then I’d have to wait for it to wear off before driving the trailer home!). What I really wish I had sometimes is a groom to braid my horse…oh well. He has to make do with my rubber band braids. I don’t think he actually cares.
      I usually go to about 5 shows a year, all within an hour or so drive of my barn, so fairly convenient. I’m lucky that I live in a metropolitan area with lots of shows. 5 is my mental limit, though, and it sure does get expensive, too!
      Still trying to decide whether to bother with the Regionals. We’re qualified but not likely to place very well. Would it be fun just to do the big show for the experience? Or not worth the effort/expense? Have to think about that…


  3. Oh good for you!!
    Hot summer, crazy early morning, and on your own. With TWO super difficult and new tests!
    Way to do it!
    Many only dream of approaching this level… Forget about the scores. Now you’ve done it, and can go home and practice more, come up with more strategies, and come back in several months with HUGE confidence.
    Doing it with no migraine will add at least 10 points no 🙂
    Proud of you and Finn!
    I always pretty much just freak out, and sometimes wonder if I will completely crack once showing anything past third 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence 🙂 I agree I had the deck stacked against me, but I was pushing things a bit too fast. On a perfect day, I could have gotten a decent score, but when are things perfect? I need to shore up some weak areas, clearly. Yesterday we worked on loosening up Finn’s back (which can get tight, that short little back), and then really getting uphill in the canter collection strides. Success! We’ll see if he remembers it today 🙂 Actually, I KNOW he will, the question is, will I remember how I got there? I love my pony, he’s such a trooper and so patient with my efforts.


      • Love, and horses, and getting to move forwards to a goal – all happiness!

        Bet you did much better than you thought. Sometimes we put SO much value on just ONE little show. A few mistakes, scores went down, and suddenly we question or entire training system and riding capability. (Or at least I do).
        Next time!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I saw it! And there’s a picture of my friend Karen Erickson’s Brando in there. He is the replacement New Forest Stallion she bought when she sold me Finn. Do a google search (New forest stallion Brando) and you’ll see he’s gorgeous and winning everything in California at Training and First Level. She won Training last year at the Regionals – on a Pony! It did make me want to go…I think I probably will 🙂


      • Oh that’s awesome! I’ve got to do a search to see them! What a talented rider. So that’s where Finn has his roots! Love it that she did it on a pony – simply amazing!
        Hmmm, perhaps someone got really inspired now!? 🙂


      • She is very talented and SUPER hard working. Her energy astounds me. Three kids, two dogs, many horses (including three foals on the ground this Spring), and works as a part time nurse. Plus she trains those horses, shows, doesn’t have a groom at the show, just does it all herself. Incredible woman. Puts all my whining to shame.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I took the plunge and entered the Regionals. Nervous about it, but going with the intention that I am competing against myself and my own scores, not aiming for any ribbons or achievements other than trying to better my scores and to ride what to me would be decent tests. Finn’s pirouettes are MUCH better now, so that makes it feel worth the trip and what the heck: we’ll go have some fun and watch the big, fancy horses and learn from some of the best in the state! Are you going to scribe?


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