I have very little media documenting the momentous occasion, but Coco went to her first horse show last weekend and she was SO good! We Horsepooled with my horsey bestie so got to the show grounds (Texas Rose Horse Park near Tyler, Texas) around noon on Friday. We weren’t showing until Saturday, so it was nice to have plenty of time to see what kind of horse I had on my hands.
The impetus for this occasion was Sterling’s quarter crack lameness after I had already committed to my barn that I was going to the horse show. I texted Trainer and asked what she thought about taking Coco. Coco is by no means ready to jump a course, but it would be great to get her out and about and see how she is amidst the chaos of a horse show. Trainer loved the idea and was excited to finally lay eyes on Coco.
The horses settled in easily and Coco’s eyes were huge taking in all the sights and sounds.
Getting to know the neighbor horses. There was little to no squealing.
After settling in her stall for a couple hours I walked her around the show grounds and in the ring where we would show. She was a bit bug eyed, but not crazy and not spooky. We tacked up and headed to our show ring for a hack and she was super star! The only thing she kind of spooked at was a rail on the ground and some of the fill from the jumps that were taken apart. Trainer was very pleased with her temperament and optimistic about her future. I was, of course, elated.
I lunged and hacked her early Saturday morning to again see what kind of horse I had for the day. She was much the same, looking around but not crazy. We got her rinsed off and primped, ready to be a princess in the horse show. Our classes went around 10a. I made the mistake of riding her in the big hunter warmup ring before our class and she got a little jazzed by the traffic, so we went down and just walked around in the grass by our ring. Our first class had 5 entries (including us) which was a nice size. Enough horses to see how she would do in traffic, but not so many that she should get crowded or have to maneuver too much traffic. We got cut off once and she broke gait in the first class, but she got all her transitions, all her leads and couldn’t care less about the traffic. Yay! We got fifth out of five, but I still consider it a win because she did so well.
We stayed in the ring for our next hack class which only had four entries and it was much the same. We broke gait in front of the judge so I knew we weren’t going to place, but she was really really good. Happy to be there, not spooky, didn’t care about the other horses.
Pretty princess didn’t want to stand still for her photo op, so this is the proof she went to a horse show!
We were entered in a couple other hacks in the afternoon, but one had 9 entries which seemed like it would be pressing our luck and when we went to the ring to show in our final hack of the day she seemed like she was on the verge of brain fry, so we untacked and went for a lunge instead. We didn’t have any classes on Sunday so I lunged her early in the morning and took her for another hack in the Indoor. We were fortunate and no one was in there with us for about 20 minutes. After a few more horses showed up to lunge we went for a walk around the show grounds. It was stormy, thundering and had rained quite a bit, which often causes horses to act a little crazy. Coco took it all in stride easily. She marched right through the mud puddles, was unfazed by the sloppy ring and seemed to thoroughly enjoy being out and about.
The prettiest Coco Chanel.
I’m thrilled with how our weekend went and can’t wait for more horse shows with Coco! I was planning to take Sterling to show in Waco in June, but he has yet another major injury (more on this later) and will likely be out for most of the first half of the summer. With this turn of events Coco may get to go to another show to hang out and do a couple hack classes. Miles are good!
It has been established on this blog that I grew up in Eastern Montana. I was an extremely fortunate child to have been born into an already horsey family so my love of the equines was developed at a very early age. Both my parents grew up with horses, both for work and for pleasure. When I was born my Mom was into barrel racing and my Dad was into team roping. Not surprisingly, I was on a horse as soon as I could hold my head up and sit up by myself. I definitely had inherited the horse gene and couldn’t get enough of them.
My first foray into organized horse events was as a barrel racer. My parents got me a saintly old Quarter Horse named Casey. I’m confident Casey carried many little girls and boys around the cloverleaf pattern before he came to our house. He wasn’t at all fast, but that was just fine. I didn’t have, and still really don’t have, much of a need for speed. He was safe and kind and put up with the shenanigans that a little girl does to her horse. I put glitter on him. I braided his hair. I brushed and brushed and brushed him. All of the signs were there that I would ultimately not end up being a barrel racer.
When I was old enough my parents signed me (and my brother) up for 4-H. 4-H is a program that teaches kids leadership, humanity, responsibility and a myriad of other life skills. Most importantly, it has a horse program. You couldn’t start the horse program until you were 10 years old and I was counting down the days! In preparation for entering the horse program, my Mom and some of the 4-H moms from our club signed up for a riding clinic conducted by the trainer at Diamond N Ranch outside of Billings, Montana. I have no idea how they found it or why they attended, but the rest is pretty much history. This was our introduction to the Quarter Horse show world and it didn’t take long for me to be hooked.
My second AQHA show horse: Hesa Black Associate
I showed Quarter Horses all through junior high and high school and even a little bit during college. I did all kinds of different show events from Showmanship to Western Pleasure to Hunter Hack and finally Reining. I loved every second of it, and now that I’m an adult and I can appreciate what my parents did (paid for!) to allow me to show.
My first real English horse (the taller one on the right) and my cousin on a horse that my parents had for a few years.
As a kid I would voraciously read any and every horse book and magazine I could get my hands on. This is where my obsession with English riding was born. My Mom got me lessons when I was about 10 with a lady in my hometown who had supposedly ridden English at some point and later I did all the English flat classes and some jumping at the Quarter Horse shows. It just wasn’t the same as what I read about in Practical Horseman or Dressage Today. There wasn’t a dedicated jumping trainer anywhere near my hometown, so even though I did do some jumping I know now that I pretty much did so horribly wrong!
So, here I am as a (mostly) self-sufficient adult with the means to combine my love of horse showing with learning how to properly ride a horse over jumps. I posted about going to my first USEF “A” rated show back in February. This spring I was able to make it to four more shows in Tyler, Texas. Originally called the Tyler Four. I felt like I was home again. Granted, when I was showing I felt like a 12 year old kid learning how to do things correctly, but it was so satisfying to be back in the show pen (that was to see if Caitlin reads this, I’m supposed to call it a show ring). Sterling is turning out to be an absolutely delightful partner in the hunter ring. We didn’t clean house with blue ribbons, but we (I) steadily improved and (mostly) didn’t make the same mistakes repeatedly.
You know it’s an addiction when you don’t mind horse boogers ruining your perfectly nice shirt and still going in public with said horse boogers on your shirt.
We have a few weeks off from showing now that it is about to be blazing hot in Texas, but I can hardly wait to start again. In the meantime we are doing lots of work on the flat (no more unsupervised jumping) to make him and me stronger. I even joined a horseback rider focused boot camp for 60 days to make my core and my stringy legs stronger for when we are back in the show ring. This is in addition to torturing poor Jaguar with posting without irons. No pain no gain!
Being a horse show horse is a LOT of work and VERY tiring.
Sterling and I got to go to another horse show this past weekend. Most places that host USEF “A” rated horse shows seem to have them for multiple weeks in a row. I’ve only been doing this for a few months so I’m no expert, but from what I’ve read on social media they do this to attract trainers. It is a lot easier to have multiple weeks in a row where the trainer can just camp out for a month or two than to go to place A one week, then drive to place B the next week and then to place C. You get my point. Right now there are about five weeks in a row of horse shows at the Texas Rose Horse Park near Tyler. I’m planning to go to three weekends of shows. Time and budget restraints prevent going to all four weekends of shows.
For non-Texans, April is a very special time of year in North Texas. It is severe-thunderstorm-warning-and-tornado season. When I drove to the horse show I listened to the radio and watched my rear-view mirror and basically outran a severe thunderstorm to get to the stables and get Sterling settled before it hit. Jaguar has done a fantastic job of being the herd boss and making all the horses stand outside during major storms; snow, rain, tornado, it doesn’t matter. This has resulted in horses that aren’t too affected by bad weather. I was able to unload my trailer, get Sterling settled in his stall, and head to the hotel before the wind, thunder and lightning got crazy. I had talked to Boot City earlier and the storm hit our house pretty hard. He was without power for a couple hours, which is pretty unusual for us. The braiders braid the horses’ manes and tails overnight so our braider texted my trainer and said our horses and ponies were all fine during the storm. Sterling was interested, but not crazy. She even got his forelock braided without me there to distract him while she braided it!
When we got to the barn the next morning this is what our wheelbarrow looked like:
That is just rainwater people. No one filled that thing with a hose!
That was just from rain from the sky, it was also runoff from the roof of the tent where the horses were stabled, but still. That is a LOT of water!
Considering this was only our second “A” show and at a newish place (we had been here a couple times before, but the ambience at an “A” show is completely different than a schooling show), I didn’t exactly know what to expect from Sterling. We did make some progress in figuring out how to best prep and settle him at horse shows.
Here is Sterling’s horse show list:
- Don’t ride him right when you get to the show grounds. He’s too busy and crazy looking around to accomplish anything functional.
- Generally he doesn’t eat much of his feed, but he will eat every morsel of hay he’s given. This isn’t terrible, at least he eats.
- Warmup rings make him crazy. There is way too much to look at and too many horses buzzing around him. Five minutes in it feels like someone hooked him up to an electrical outlet. It is much better to get to the show grounds super early in the morning, before the hunter princesses have woken from their beauty sleep, and get time in the warmup ring all alone.
- Use the warmup round for just that, to warm up over fences. I read a Chronicle of the Horse forum post recently asking about people not jumping their horse in the warmup before showing. That seems to be Sterling now. He’s the sweetest boy in the whole wide world and generally (knock on wood) is not at all spooky. He just needs one round to go see all the jumps and he’s good.
- Last, but not least, he just might like peppermints as treats. this needs further exploration, but I’m excited that there may be a treat he actually likes!
All in all it was a good show. We had very respectable placings on Saturday; a 2nd and a 6th over fences and 2nd in the flat class. Sunday’s placings weren’t as good, but I felt like I was riding much better. We got a fourth, a fifth and an eighth, all over fences. I’m super excited to do it all again soon. Sterling’s list may be a bit different, but at least we are getting his likes and dislikes figured out which surely makes the whole experience better for him!
Saturday’s ribbons and a very sleepy pony.
I remember when I was 9 or 10 years old, I had a lovely horse ready to start showing and my friends and I would tell our other 4-H friends that we were going to start going to the “big time” shows, not just the little local and 4-H horse shows. We really thought we were a big deal! Mind you, the “big time” was AQHA shows. In comparison they really were a bigger deal than the local shows, but Montana horse shows are by no means the “big time”.
I find myself having a similar experience as a 30+ year old, though. As you may recall I went to a couple horse shows last summer and fall. These shows were non-rated, regional club shows. Also, not the “big time”. My goal all along with Sterling has been for us to at some point be good enough to compete at USEF A rated shows. In my mind, these are the “big time”. After our fantastic Derby experience at the November show my trainer felt like it would be worthwhile to go to some A shows! EXCLAMATION POINT! There are many reasons why this is exciting. The first being that my minimal initial investment in an unwanted yearling Thoroughbred was actually a great investment. The second being that it means I have made it to a point as a rider that I’m not entirely embarrassing, at least not all the time. The others being that I could finally go to the big, fun shows I’ve only heard and read about for years and show with my horsey bestie.
We settled on where would be our first show back in December based on schedule and proximity. I don’t have a lot of flexibility getting away from work so it was necessary my classes be on the weekend. I also am not ready to show in classes with fences bigger than 2’6″. This gives Sterling room to save my hiney when I make bad decisions without having to get himself over a ginormous jump. The Winter Series in Katy would be our maiden A show voyage. It turned out to be the PERFECT first A show. Never mind the drama that occurred a couple days before the show when Boot City had to stay up until 2:38a fixing Sterling’s chauffeur’s major coolant leak.
The weather was perfect, 60’s-70’s and mostly sunny. There were about 600 horses at the show so it was big, but not terrifyingly huge. We had pre-entered in the Modified Adult division and our trainer added the Limit Rider to get more courses under our belt. This turned out to be a fantastic idea. Our first couple of Modified courses on Saturday morning left a lot to be desired. Counting strides is often an insurmountable task for me, as is remembering that I have legs and how to use them when riding. I also seem to really like to lean forward, real forward. Poor Sterling has to pick himself and me up before he can jump over the fences. Our Modified placings were 5th and 7th out of twelve, so respectable but nothing to write home about.
The Limit courses were MUCH better! I actually remembered to count, YAY! I also used my leg a few times. I still leaned forward too much, but I think there is some muscle memory that needs to be retrained and that is going to take some time at home. We achieved two 2nd place finishes out of 5 in the Limit. We also got 3rd of 5 in the flat. I was pretty excited to end our FIRST day at the “BIG TIME” show so well!
Sunday was a bit of a reversion back to our old and not-so-pretty ways resulting in some rather ugly courses. Sterling was a bit tired so wasn’t as into saving me from my bad decisions so he tattled on my poor choices of not using my leg and forgetting how to count. We did get it together enough to get 4th of 6 in the under saddle flat class even after one horrendous canter takeoff smack dab in front of the judge with some extremely fancy horses. We didn’t stay long enough on Sunday to show in the Limit classes, but when I checked the results of the show later in the week I found that we had gotten Reserve Champion in the Limit Division! I am so proud of us!
Overall I was very pleased with the results of our first “big time” show. We have some homework to do and poor Jaguar is going to have to participate in my getting miles trying to NOT get in front of my horse when he jumps. I’ll leave it for another post to talk about the BEST part of the weekend. 😉
Photo by Jerry Mohme Photography. Sterling looks lovely and like he wishes his rider would get off his front end!