I grew up riding western. I had a brief foray into rodeo events. I won my first belt buckle when I was 9 in pole bending at the Bill Pauley Memorial Rodeo. I won All Around for my age division at the same rodeo. I had a few nice, but safe, rodeo event horses before I was 12. Casey ran some barrels (not to be confused with the current Casey!). Chant Town was an OTTB or OTQH and he was a master of pole bending. Both horses were VERY old when I had them and went on to teach other kids the ropes in rodeo events.
My Dad was a cutter most of my life. I know he did some team roping and snaffle bit futurities, but all I remember him doing was cutting and helping friends and family move cattle whenever needed.
Dad cutting in Idaho on Athena Beau. Probably in the late 80’s or early 90’s.
As I got older my interest in rodeo waned and I got into showing Quarter Horses. I did mostly all around events including showmanship at halter, hunter under saddle, hunt seat equitation, western horsemanship, western pleasure and trail with a couple horses my parents had raised. When Jaguar was born he was first my 4-H project, but when we took him to a couple Quarter Horse shows when he was 2 some trainers made comments to my parents that he had the looks of a reiner. Dad was always ambivalent about the “horse show” events and more or less thought they were a waste of time. ESPECIALLY the English events. Therefore he was never particularly supportive of horse showing. Until I got bitten by the reining bug. Reining is an event that is derived from working cattle. You ride in figure eights going slow and fast, do sliding stops, and spins. Basically you are showing off how “broke” your horse is to do the maneuvers necessary to work cattle. The next step is working cow horse then cutting.
Jaguar becomes a reiner!
Jaguar was an awesome reining horse. He is extremely athletic and would stop SO hard. He could be frustrating in that he would stop hardest in bad ground (ground not good for sliding) and then not make much effort in really good ground. He could easily do 20 foot long slides. I showed him in reining from the time I was 15 until I was about 20. He developed a large bump on one of his knees that made spins in that direction uncomfortable. I also was finishing college so didn’t really have time to show. Dad let me go all over the western U.S. to show in reining events. I had a BLAST! The culmination was showing the AQHYA World Championship show. We didn’t do all that well, but it was really fun.
After college and into adulthood living in Texas all I really wanted to do was jump. I got Jaguar back when he was 13 and I was in my late 20’s. In my head he was ready to retire so he hung out in the pasture until I met the fox hunt and he entered his third career (his second was doing all around stuff with my Mom in Montana). All the horses I’ve bought myself have been English horses for jumping and/or fox hunting.
Last fall my Mom let me borrow her horse, Casey (again) to use for fox hunting since Jaguar is no longer sound for riding. He was the perfect fit for a fill in. He was a great sport and did everything I asked of him, but he just is not an English horse. I much prefer riding him western. Mom wants to sell him now so I am legging him up to make some western videos and market him to the western crowd. He is a super easy and fun ride.
My parents got me a custom made reining saddle made by Earl Twist when I was 17 and it is the most beautiful and comfortable saddle on the planet. Riding Casey brings back fantastic memories and then I find myself thinking I should get back into reining….. just what I need is another horse hobby! Especially after all the time, effort, energy and MONEY I’ve invested over the past 10 years to get into the hunter/jumper game. I’m sure Boot City would be ecstatic. Nonetheless, I’m definitely going to enjoy the time I have left with Casey and getting to dip my toes back into the western world for a little while.
Lovely day on Casey the QH.
My plan is to get back into reining later on in life when perhaps jumping isn’t safe or if I get burned out or I have the resources to do both. I didn’t keep a lot of my western tack other than my reining saddle and a handful of bridles. My parents had also gotten me a fancy show saddle made by Broken Horn in California that my Mom now uses to show her mare Foxy. It kind of entertains me because that saddle has a silver horn cap with my initials on it.
He looks so cute in his western duds! He still hasn’t fully shed out and it is HOT here so I keep his mane braided and off his neck.
I’m blessed to have and have had some really lovely horses!
My name is Tara and I love horses. Supposedly that is the first step to recovery, right?! I can’t imagine my life without these divine creatures playing a major role and am so grateful I have the means and the support of Boot City to have them. People often compare the hobby of horseback riding to playing sports or golfing or other “similar” activities, but there is one glaring difference. If you own or lease a horse you are responsible for the care and well being of an 800+ pound animal 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 52 weeks per year. It is kind of like marriage; you take a vow to care for them in sickness and in health.
So far 2017 has had it’s fair share of “sickness”, mostly in the form of injuries. Right, Sterling?
We like to selfie while on stall rest. Again.
Simon tried to pull his hoof off of his leg this spring, but miraculously was never lame. The injury looked really bad and made me kind of nervous so I haven’t been riding him. I want to let the hoof grow out more and he is really just a baby so the time off is fine.
Simon trying on a hunt bridle to prepare for what we hope will be his future career!
Jaguar is kicking it retirement-style. His hurt leg is noticeably off, but he’s happy as a clam out in his pasture with his buddies. He even trots and canters sometimes! I thought he’d be annoyed at being retired, but he’s taken to it pretty well. He still bosses everyone around, including the neighbor horses.
The handsomest 24 year old, grandson of Doc Bar, past AQHYA World Championship qualifying reiner, retired fox hunter, there ever was!
Coco (so far) is one of my “in health” horses currently. She has had PLENTY of “in sickness” over the past few years so she deserves it! We will make our way to a few more horse shows this summer as Sterling convalesces. Miles, miles and more miles are my goals for Coco this year.
Hanging out in her giant stall at the horse show. My favorite thing about Texas Rose Horse Park are the huge permanent stalls. It is so nice for the bigger hunter/jumper horses to not be stuck is some tiny 10×10 or even 12×12.
Last, but certainly not least, Casey has been the VERY best step-in hunt/whipper-in horse I could have asked for! He was a perfect gentleman all hunt season, enjoyed a few trail rides and now is FOR SALE! The plan had been to take him back to Montana, but Mom thinks it would be best for him to stay in Texas and have a busier job with someone who will appreciate him. Casey is one of those horses that you can truly grab out of the pasture, jump on and go and there is no drama. I know because we did just that 2 weekends ago. He hadn’t been ridden since March and I hopped on (with no lunge) and he trotted and cantered around like he was ridden yesterday. And he’s only FIVE! He’s got SO MANY great years ahead of him! So, you should buy him, or at least tell your friends to buy him. For reals.
Poor Casey’s biological clock stayed on Montana seasons so he didn’t start shedding his winter coat until JUNE! When he would get hot and it was wet, well, he would roll in the mud to cool off.
No, horses are not just a “hobby”. I can’t put them in a closet and forget about them until the next time I want to “play”. They are my lifestyle and I love every second!
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!
After Sterling’s abominable behaviour on the recent trail ride attempt, I had to make it up to him and brag on him a bit. Just a few short days after the trail riding debacle we made our way to Waco, Texas for the Blue Ribbon Summer Festival I. I was a bit concerned that I had fried his brain by attempting to go on a trail ride, but Sterling proved pretty quickly that horse show horse he truly wants to be and is where he has the most success.
I’m not going to dissect each trip, mostly because it has been a few weeks since the show and they have all run together in my head, but I did want to mention the highlights. I don’t have a photo of Sterling with his ribbon, but I’m absolutely delighted to share that we won our first ever blue ribbon over fences at a rated USEF show! We won the Modified Child/Adult over fences trip on Thursday with a very respectable 16 entries! We also got third in our Limit over fences class and third in the Limit under saddle class, both with about 16 or 17 entries. I’m finally learning to stay out of Sterling’s face going up to jumps and not getting ahead of his momentum with my body by leaning forward. By riding more correctly we are getting much better spots to the fences so his form is more elegant and true to the hunter type. We (I) still have a lot of progress to make in keeping a consistent canter rhythm, but progress is pretty exciting, especially when rewarded with blue ribbons!
Our photo op from my sister-in-law on our blue ribbon day at the Summer Festival I in Waco
The second day my rounds in the Limit division over fences trips left a bit to be desired. A consistently inconsistent canter stride separated the men from the boys in the placings. I got a seventh in one group and no placing in the other. We made up for it, though, in the 2’6″ Hunter Classic. The course is a tiny bit longer in a Classic than in a regular round over fences and there are potentially two trips. Everyone goes around once and the top 12 scores are invited back for another round and the combined overall high score wins. Our first trip was arguably the absolute best trip we have ever had over fences and was rewarded with a very respectable score of 78 out of a possible 100. We were in the lead until the very last rider went and scored an 81, but we still had the second round to go. Our second round had a few bobbles and I never did hear our score, but we ended up 4th overall out of 20 or so entries! And we won money! I’m SO proud of Sterling and I can’t brag on him enough. The ring at Waco is known to be rather spooky and he went around nearly like he was at home.
Fourth place in the 2’6″ Hunter Classic!
The icing on the cake for this horse show was that we had a pretty significant cheering section, which we have never had before! Many of Boot City’s family live in or near Waco and some even drove up from Austin to watch. It was extra fun to have them at the show and for us to do well with an audience.
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.
If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed a few weeks ago that I posted about my dry cleaner losing my hunt coat. I purposefully didn’t name the business and was willing to give them a chance to make things right. So this is my story about doing business with Twin Kell Cleaners.
I dropped my hunt coat off with the cleaner early on a Tuesday morning and emphasised to the woman I left it with that it HAD to be ready to pick up by 8a on Friday morning. She was a big grumpy and seemed quite put out by my request (really, is it unusual that someone would want their clothing back in 2 1/2 days?!) but committed to have it ready after 5p on Thursday.
I left a touch earlier than usual on Friday morning to give myself plenty of time to stop at the cleaners before work. I rolled up at about 7:30a and had even kept my ticket with the bar code for them to scan and (hopefully) make it quicker and easier for them to find my coat. The nice lady takes my ticket, goes to the back and starts rolling the hangers to get to my number. After a few minutes of this I can tell something isn’t right. She smiles at me and asks the other nice lady at the desk to come back and help her look. They go item by item through at least 500 garments to no avail. They ask the washing girl if it is in with the washed items (egads!). Still no coat. By 7:50a they admit to me that they have lost the coat. I explain, as nicely as I can when starting to panic, that I HAVE to have this coat before I leave for the horse show that afternoon. They are going to continue to look and will call me before 2p.
Now this isn’t just any old hunt coat. This is a hunt coat that my Mom made for me when I was in high school. It is a lovely charcoal tropical wool with a RED pinstripe and RED silk satin lining. And it fit just perfectly.
The red pinstripe coat in action.
Losing my hunt coat was definitely an inconvenience, but it was a huge sentimental loss, too. My Mom is an amazingly talented seamstress. She made all of my horse show clothes when I was growing up as well as all my formal gowns and all my regular clothes until I was in junior high (which is when one becomes way too cool to wear clothes that Mom made). She had always said that NOTHING was as hard to make as hunt coats. The fit has to be just perfect for the fabric to lay correctly.
The nice lady from the cleaners called around 1p and didn’t have any better news. The coat was officially lost. They suspected that they accidentally gave it to someone else, but wouldn’t know that until or unless someone returned it and there was no telling if or when that would happen. She did advise me that Twin Kell would reimburse me for a new coat if I had to buy a new coat. Well, if I was going to show I really had to have a coat. I had already texted my trainer about the debacle and she had rounded up some coats I might be able to borrow so hopefully all wasn’t lost.
I left work, picked up Sterling at home and drove as fast (and safely) as I could to Tyler in hopes of getting there in time to try on some coats at Quail Hollow Tack. If the cleaners were willing to reimburse me for a new coat I might as well get one. If they did find my coat at least I’d have a second in case something like this happened again. I got there in the nick of time to unload Sterling and run over to the trailer to try on coats. The Grand Prix Techlite in Navy fit me PERFECTLY! AND it is WASHABLE! No more worrying about any dry cleaning incidents!
I showed the next two weekends with my new coat and no word from the cleaners. I had my receipt for the new coat tucked safely in my purse, but just hadn’t been able to bring myself to go request the reimbursement. Lo and behold, two days before the last spring show in Tyler the cleaners called. Someone else had in fact picked up my coat and had returned it to Twin Kell. I was absolutely delighted. I did mention that I had to buy a new coat and that they had promised to reimburse me if I did buy one. She asked me to hold on and passed the phone to one of the owners. My heart sunk. I just knew he was going to tell me that he was sorry I had to buy a new coat, but that since they now had mine they weren’t going to cover the cost of the new coat. In fact, all he asked was how much the new coat cost and that they would have a check ready for me when I picked up the missing coat that afternoon. I told him the cost and offered to provide the receipt. He didn’t need to receipt and the check would be ready by early afternoon. I could have hugged him through the phone! What delightful customer service!
I picked up my coat that evening and sure enough there was an envelope attached to the hanger with a check in the exact amount I told him. I’m a forever Twin Kell customer now. I’ll tell anyone who will listen about how well they treated me when they truly didn’t have to treat me well if they hadn’t wanted to.
My beautiful hunt coat is now back in my closet, safe and sound.
I was perusing Facebook recently and came upon a post with a link to an article titled How to Embrace “Incompetence”. Sometimes one just feels compelled to read something and so I did. I didn’t read the article word-for-word, but I did skim the highlights and what I read really hit home. The article is about Noel Burch’s philosophy of learning which contains four stages;
• Unconscious Incompetence
• Conscious Incompetence
• Conscious Competence
• Unconscious Competence
In case you are wondering, I’m at stage 2; Conscious Incompetence. This means, in a nutshell, I know what I’m supposed to do but just can’t seem to get it done. At least not all of the time. Often when I talk to people and they ask how I did at a horse show I have some sort of snarky response about how great Sterling was, but his rider not-so-much. People who have known me a long time, and especially horsey friends will feel the need to reassure me that I’m a great rider. The thing is, I may be a great rider, but I still don’t really know what I’m doing when cantering around a hunter course! There are SO many pieces to put together and all of my riding muscle memory is from riding western or riding English, but in western style.
One of the biggest differences between western in English riding is how the rider uses their legs. In western riding the rider will give an order with the leg and then leave it alone. In English riding there is constant contact and support with the leg with occasional stronger cues. My western trained legs KNOW they shouldn’t just be hanging there, but they still seem to be incompetent to get a move on and do what I want them to do all the time. Hence the competent incompetence.
Moving from Conscious Incompetence to Conscious Competence requires lots and lots of practice doing things correctly. I’m right in the middle of four horse shows in a row over five weekends and this is giving us quite a lot of opportunity for practice, practice, practice. The great news is that my horse is awesome. Almost no matter how things go in the warmup, or lack thereof, he’s always good in the ring. This gives me the good fortune of getting to practice creating new muscle memory and learning from my mistakes generally without having to worry about my horse spooking at something or refusing jumps. He’s also settling in much better at each show. Eating all his meals and drinking his water. Things Jaguar would never in a million years have NOT done! My trainer lives five hours away so I really only see her at horse shows. This means we are learning on the “stage”, but it has the added benefit of being at a horse show. You can never ever duplicate the energy of a horse show at home.
Hopefully by the last weekend I will have, at least in part, moved to some level of competence and be rewarded with that elusive blue ribbon.
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!
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!
Sterling and I have attended a couple regional circuit shows in the past few months with our friends Caitlin and Lexi. Caitlin regularly shows in the “A” shows with her seasoned show horse, Sundance. Lexi is an off the track thoroughbred (OTTB) who needs miles at shows. The regional circuits are great for that sort of thing. You get all the trappings of any horse show, but the overall ambience is more relaxed and the jumps are much smaller. In our case Sterling and I both need the miles!
At the first show we were Reserve Champions in our Division. Woo hoo! We weren’t able to show in our Division on the second day of the show because we wanted to get home at a reasonable hour on a school night. We were facing the same issue at the second show, but came up with a solution that turned out to be one of my best show experiences to date!
Sterling and I currently show in a 2’6″ division. We could probably go higher, but until I get better at my position and finding distances in lines, the smaller jumps are better for us. At the most recent show we attended there was being held a Mini Hunter Derby and the jumps were 2’6″ and it was the first class on Sunday morning. I mentioned the idea of entering the Derby to my trainer so we could show on Sunday, but not have to stay for our regular Division. This show was HUGE, too. There was no way my Division was going to show before 3p which would have had us getting home at around 9p. WAY too late for this old lady! Our trainer agreed that it was a good idea and off I went to enter the Derby.
I kind of knew what a Derby was when I entered. I knew the course would be slightly more complicated and I knew that the rides would be scored. What I didn’t know, or at least had forgotten, was that the top few would come back to do what is called a Handy round. The Handy round is intended to be a bit more complicated and requires more quick thinking and responsiveness from the horse. The course require things that wouldn’t normally be on a hunter course like trotting to jumps and hand galloping.
Because I was one of the last entries I had to ride first. One of my most favourite things about Sterling is that he (knock on wood) never spooks at jumps. It seems to never matter how much stuff they put on the fences he just jumps over them like a champ. This combined with his uncanny ability to save my behind when I ride him to a horrendous distance make him worth his weight in gold. My goal going into the pen was to get all my distances and actually count the strides. I accomplished my first goal and counted strides for about 70% of the time. I was beyond ecstatic! I’m sure I was lit up like a Christmas tree as I rode out of the arena.
For your viewing pleasure here is the video. Caitlin and I video each other’s rides at shows so we can go back and actually see what we did. It’s pretty awesome. So thanks to Caitlin for recording this momentous occasion! Click the link below to view.
It’s been a little while so I don’t remember what my score was exactly, but I think it was around 73. A perfect score is a 90. I was pretty happy with my score and my ride. Then I had to hang out for another 44 rides to find out of I would be coming back for the Handy round. Going into this it truly never occurred to me that I even had a shot to make it to the Handy round. Lo and behold I made it into the top 10! The cutoff score was 72. Whew!
Our Handy round was awesome. There were no lines so I didn’t have to worry to much about counting and Sterling handled really well. The only things that really needed improvement are the kinds of things that get better with miles. Our Handy round score was a 76 and when it was all said and done we got 6th place. 6th place out of 45 entries in our very first Hunter Derby! Look out 2015 because Sterling and I are hitting the horse show trail!