There’s nothing like the excitement that builds when you’re gearing up to compete in a horse show. Especially your first one back in the game after a couple of years away, and with a young horse that’s only been off property a handful of times. By exciting I may mean gut-wrenchingly terrifying.
As a part of the agreement I made with Reggie’s breeder, his training regime here includes showing regularly on the local and rated circuits. Reggie has never competed in a show before and so far we’ve had some minor, uhhh, disagreements about loading in and out of trailers. So once we decided on a quiet local hunter/jumper show circuit just a half hour away, it was crunch time to prepare for it.
At the time, Reggie was not cantering full courses yet, and still struggled with maintaining consistent contact. Automatic lead changes weren’t even a blip on my radar at this point. So we decided to stick with the walk-trot divisions and perhaps if we were well behaved in that ring, we’d try a 2’3” baby jumpers division just to have a look around in both arenas. I felt confident about our plans and that hopefully with the right amount of focus leading up the show, we wouldn’t make completely dorks of ourselves. I may act foolish sometimes but I am no fool, so my hopes for this showing experience were ranked below sea level.
Reggie’s workouts were going great in the days leading up to the show. He was better about steadying himself to the smaller fences and we were maintaining a controlled, almost pleasant canter pace in the arena. I was slowly introducing him to the clippers, which he found to be just as scary as the boogie monster that lives in the dark woods behind the arena. The night before the show I attempted to try the clippers on Reggie’s face one more time, but he was not having it. He snorted at me and stepped away, threatening to rip the crossties from the wall and even rear. Despite my OCD need to have a perfect turnout during every performance, it looked like Reggie was coming with me, fuzzy ears and all.
The next morning we wrapped the ponies’ legs and headed off to the trailer. Luckily Cheyenne, a very cute black and white paint mare, and Reggie’s girlfriend, was coming along with us for moral support. Reggie has been glued to this little mare’s side from the moment he moved here, and I was hopeful that Cheyenne’s laid back nature would get Reggie in the trailer and keep him calm in his new surroundings. Nope! Cheyenne decided it was too early to do anything but eat, and she wasn’t going in the trailer, not today.
Reggie on the other hand, was curious about the dark depths of the aluminum box on wheels, and with some gentle coaxing (and lots of apples and carrots, of course,) slowly stumbled into the trailer. Since we now had extra room in the trailer, we decided to sub out Cheyenne for Wilson, a wiry OTTB in a similar training program as Reggie, last minute just to give the experience too.
Reggie and Wilson arrived safely at the show grounds with about an hour to school before the show started. Both were wide-eyed and snorting as they stepped off the trailer, Reggie’s features frozen in fear as he glared at the other ponies nearby, unfamiliar buildings and fancy, colorful jumps. Wilson and Reggie fed off of each other’s energy and they pranced around the trailer like little boys jacked up on Halloween candy. Their exuberant nature kept one person with them on each side of the trailer at all times.
After a quick lunge, I took a deep breath and got in the saddle. Our time to school was running out, and I knew there was no hope for a civilized round over fences Reggie has not seen before. My baby gelding surprised me with his focus and willingness to listen. He was stiff and observant, but did everything I asked of him. We managed to swing around all the fences in both arenas before the beginning of the show without any problems, leaving me surprisingly confident for what was to come.
I had hoped to take Reggie in his walk-trot hunter courses before the slightly bigger obstacles in the jumper ring, but unfortunately the timing of the two rings didn’t work out so well. Ribbons and placings were the last thing on my mind, so I opted to trot in, canter out most of the jumper course, and somehow managed to have two clean rounds. Reggie even earned pretty blue and red ribbons for both rounds.
Then it was time for a quick wardrobe change and off to the hunter arena we went. Unfortunately the low hunter classes were limited at this show, and I spent most of my afternoon competing against young children on fancy ponies. Next time we’ll shoot for a circuit that has more adult divisions.
Needless to say, Reggie was calm, cool and collected the entire time. We won a mini walk-trot medal course over crossrails, and managed to nab reserve champion for the hunter division. At the end of the day, we entered a flat class division and won grand champion in that too, despite my nervousness about Reggie having the energy to canter around the arena several times.
Reggie and I in the hunter classes:
Reggie and I in the jumpers:
All in all, I couldn’t have been happier with my little brown horse. He was a willing participant in every division, even if he did get a little grumpy by the end of the day, and stubbornly resisted entering the arena when his trip turn came up. I beamed with pride from every compliment the judge or bystanders threw my way. And I spoiled my pony rotten with carrots and apples before we carted him off home. We’re gearing up for the first show of the new season now. I can’t wait!
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