Going to a horse show is kind of nerve-racking, right? You have to find out what ring your class goes in, get used to the different jumps and turns, find out where the food stand is, etc. You envy the people who board their horses at the barn of the show. Of course they were going to win every class because, hey – they live there!
Well, I have been on this “upper hand” side, and let me tell you, by no means is this the case. If anything, having a show come to you makes it that much scarier for both horse and rider.
My horse’s thoughts: “Why are there all these crazy people here, 200+ more horses, trailers, an announcer, and that kid over there who is sitting with a lime green, super-scary blanket?”
Eden, my eight-year-old Oldenburg mare boards at Kingsway Farm, located at Fieldstone Show Park. If I have learned anything from the past two horse shows since boarding at Kingsway, it is much harder to have your horse cooperate at home than at away shows.
On Wednesday in the Low Hunters, I was quite happy with Eden’s performance compared to the April show, which was just short of disastrous. We had improved tremendously! My horse and I were working as a team instead of me holding on for dear life and praying that we just make it over the eight fences in one piece. My trainer and I decided that we could compete in the Adult Hunters on Saturday in hopes of repeating our performance from the Low Hunters from the May show.
On Saturday morning, my horse had a completely different agenda. I walked into the barn after watching a few other classes and Eden was relaxing in her stall munching on some hay. After snapping a few cute photos, I got her up and started getting her ready for the ring.
In the warm-up, she felt calm and collected, like she normally does before she completely tricks me and throws me for a loop. We walked into the show ring and everything went fairly smoothly for the first 3 jumps. Then our pace started to snowball. With the wind whistling in my ears, I saw a distance into the six-stride outside line and Eden grabbed the bit and completely blew through the distance. Our last line turned into a five stride instead of a six.
My trainer and I had a pep talk, and then I headed back into the ring for our second trip. No difference. No change. No improvement. I walked out of the ring in a sulk and put Eden back in her stall before the flat. Little did I know, this was the worst thing I could have done.
Eden had a thirty-minute break in her stall before I took her out and started tacking her up again. She was so offended that she had to go back out into the ring and was expected to stand nicely and quietly that she had an absolute fit outside the ring. She started pinning her ears at every horse that walked by, pawing at the ground (I didn’t even know my horse knew how to do that), backing up, walking in circles, and even threatened to kick the other horses that invaded her personal space. I had this feeling that the Under Saddle was not going to go well.
As the last horse finished their final course, we were called into the ring for the Under Saddle. I heard the announcer say, “Riders, you are now being judged at the walk.” I tried to exhale all the bad energy that Eden was festering but it didn’t really do much. When we were asked to pick up the trot, Eden burst into a canter and started running away, cutting the corner on the end of the ring. I pulled her up and walked out of the ring. This was no longer my idea of fun, and it was especially embarrassing at a home show.
After the home show, I thought it was in Eden’s and my best interest to take her to an away show to see how she would react in a different environment. My trainer agreed but was skeptical to how she would react in an unfamiliar place. I couldn’t say I disagreed, but I hoped for the best.
She left for HITS Saugerties on Monday, May 27th, and showed in the Training Hunters with my trainer on Tuesday. Out of 24 competitors, she was 6th! The following day in the Low Hunters, she was 8th out of 40 horses! I was so excited to hear the news and knew the pressure was on when I got there on Friday to show her in the Adult Hunters. My trainer could do well on her, but the true question was: could I do well on her?
Eden could not have been a better horse at the show. We didn’t even have to lunge her the last 3 days! The mistakes we made in the division where my fault. In fact, she even saved my butt a few times! Her braveness to the fences is actually quite comforting, knowing she is never going to bail out on me at the last second.
I think I am most proud of us for the last day. The first course of the day, I went into the ring and literally didn’t see any distances. I kept dropping her to every fence and after four HUGE gifts of getting us over them, Eden stopped in the two stride. We walked, I regrouped, and we went back and finished the course beautifully. When we walked into the ring for the second time, we finished our weekend off beautifully. We even ended up being 7th out of 21 in the Adult Hunters!
My new horse and I are still figuring each other out, but I know there is so much potential on both of our parts. Showing at Saugerties was a wonderful and encouraging experience where Eden was really successful. I’m so excited to continue to grow and learn with my horse. Someday, we will figure out the home shows. Until then, I’ll just have to remember how awesome and perfect she is at the away shows.