First Show with a New horse? Try this

This wasn’t my first rodeo: I’ve shown some at dressage shows for the last three years. But Starlight, my new Andalusian mare is not quite six and is new to it all: the Judge’s booth, the announcer, the crowds of fans (well, make that five fans), the applause, heck even the whistle that starts the test was new to her. IMG_1973.jpg

The whole purpose of our first show together – and indeed, our first few shows – had to be

“This is FUN, Starlight! You will receive praise, cookies, and admiration. You will not work very hard, and everyone will tell you how beautiful you are. Soon, shows will be your favorite place to go!”

With this in mind, and knowing that Starlight has a good mind but she is horse that needs a little time to look at new things and get used them – and she has a lot of energy and is young – I planned my show accordingly. Some of these tips might be useful to you if you have a new, young, or inexperienced horse.

  1. Go the day before and school in the facility. It cost me extra time, effort, and money, but WOW was it worth it. Starlight would not approach the judges booth at first, but stopped DEAD as we practiced trotting down the center line. If that had been our first time in the ring, it would have been disaster. Fortunately, I could work that pattern multiple times until she realized there wasn’t really a monster there. The next day, we had only a mild spook at the booth (instead, we spooked at the side gate at K where some people lurked just around the corner. Oh well, couldn’t anticipate that)Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 5.14.40 PM
  2. Plan your warm up carefully. You know your horse and know how much time they need. Give a little extra warmup for the show environment, but don’t wear them out. In this case, my first test was at 8:13 a.m. and it was chilly, so yes, I did need to wear her out a bit. We did more cantering in the warm up (and a bit of leaping) than I would usually plan on, but it was necessary in order to have controlled cantering in the test. It worked. Make sure you have plenty of time before your class so that you and the horse do not feel rushed.IMG_1957.jpg
  3. Have a friend or friends to help you. Someone to call your test (if dressage), give you water, help lead your horse through the spooky tunnel into the ring (in our case), and just generally tell you how great you and your horse are, even when you aren’t. We all need encouragement!  Even if you have to pay someone to do this, do it. Let them know what you need, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. It takes a village to show an inexperienced horse. My former horse was “point and shoot” easy to show. It’s not like that with a green horse and I need more help right now. It will get easier but now is not the time to do it alone.
  4. Celebrate every victory. Your horse stood still so you could get on? Yahoo! The horse behaved in the warm up ring? Well done. You managed to ride the test without major errors and did not jump out of the ring? WOW, that’s fantastic! Remember the point of a young horse’s first few shows is to give the horse a positive and happy experience. You may get a good score – or not – but most importantly, make sure your horse has a good time (and you stay safe).

Starlight and I rode Training Level tests 2 and 3 at our first show, and I laughed at the Judge’s comment:

“Capable pair but too conservatively ridden so that horse doesn’t think forward…”

You bet I rode her conservatively! It was her first show and I wanted to keep everything very calm and relaxed. Point taken, though, and next time I will let the fire breathing dragon out a bit and ask for more. Looking at the video, he’s absolutely right. I’m learning, too, what will Starlight do at a show? How will she behave? How can I help her succeed and be happy?

This “capable pair” are falling in love with each other and learning to become a team who understand and trust each other. The years ahead hold so much of fun and interest for us, I hope and pray.


8 thoughts on “First Show with a New horse? Try this

  1. Awwww! This is a wonderful post, I’m loving your goals with her for her first show, and it’s so sweet to read this!
    What a great start!

    I’m completely with you on number 3: having someone to help. First show with Valiosa we had to tough it out alone, and it adds stress.

    Our second time out, there was three of us, and while I did most on my own, it just helped so much more to have someone giving me the coat and stuff. This time, third time out, I could have handled most on my own, and pretty much had to, but it SURE is nice to have a friend assist with just handing over the sunglasses or something. And hollering that you rock! Or something 🙂

    Great job at the first show with Star!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I could not have done it alone this first time. We’ll see how future shows pan out and how quickly she mellows out. For now, it takes a village to take Star to a show (or at least one helper, anyway). Thankfully, I have a friend who likes to come along most of the time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha, yes, I get it. Sometimes is just plain simple NICE to have someone there, calming the dragon while they spin in a little half circle tied to the trailer while the rider is flailing around in the tack room putting on boots.
        Things always get so hectic then, been there.
        Glad you’ve got a friend that wants to tag along – it’s gold worth!
        If it wasn’t for my friend Nancy, I wouldn’t even be able to LEAVE the property, as I have no trailer 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, and she seems to really like it! She’s such a sensitive princess I thought it might be a good idea to remove every bit of discomfort I could find. She’s very busy with her mouth and I thought bridle irritation (noseband? poll?) might be part of the equation. Not sure it is (still busy with the mouth), but I do find she’s much easier to bridle now and I think she likes the bridle. It’s so easy to put on and it doesn’t pinch or constrict or rub anywhere. I’m a fan. The brow band is an add on from Delfina Saddlery’s website (pretty abalone!).

      Liked by 1 person

      • I really like the Micklems too! Thought I would absolutely have to get one, since Valiosa seemed “busy”. Had some luck, and by changing bits several times, we seem to have found a winner. (We all know that can change in a jiffy though.)
        Love the Delfina stuff! The Green browband I sort of spiffed up, is a Delfina.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes. All of this, yes. It kills me when I see people working and showing their young horses to death right off the bat, and then they wonder why they are ring sour by age six…taking it slow, making it fun and minimizing stress as much as possible in that first year of real work/at the first several shows is SO key! Clay had only ever been to one horse show when I bought him, at 8 years old, so we had some ground to make up. But two years into it now he is very relaxed and easy away from home/under pressure and I have no problem traveling with him by myself. I really attribute that to the fact that we took it easy and had fun with it for the first year. Star is a smart gal, you’ll get there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds like you did a super job with Clay! I look forward to when I can handle Star at a show by myself. Feels far away right now, but I’m sure we’ll get there. She has a good mind and she learns fast, I just need to give her plenty of relaxed time to absorb it all. Thanks for affirming this – it is easy to get swept up in the feeling that you are falling behind, but really, there is no time table except that which the horse tells you is right.


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