Baby Po’s First Horse Show
With how crazy and sad this year has been, I’ve been actively searching for things to look forward to so I don’t totally slump into a massive depression (you know, more than I already am).
Since I brought Po home to Texas last summer, he hasn’t stepped foot off the property. I’ve been meaning to find a show to take him to to hang out with no expectations, but his feet were either not doing well or I felt poor at the time. But a few weeks ago I broke down and put shoes back on all 4 of his hooves, which really made him feel more comfortable and got us back going. Combine that with an opportunity to work at a weekend horse show meant that it was finally time to brave taking baby out.
Truthfully, I was super anxious about this. I thought he’d either be a perfect angel baby or a raging dragon. My brain immediately pictured lots of rearing and leaping while I tried to walk my baby kite around the show grounds. So I told myself that he needed to get out and start this show process. It would be good for him no matter what, and my goal was to get on by Sunday and ride him around some to school.
Well, as you can see by the picture at the top of the post we blew past that goal!
On the trailer coming in Friday, he was horrible. He pawed nonstop and never settled, to the point where trainer had to give him something through the trailer window before they left the property to keep things safe. He’s never traveled like that before, so maybe he thought we were sticking him on another 20 hour ride to California? Who knows.
Once I got him off at the show, he immediately settled. I’m sure I’m personifying things, but he seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when his mommy was there to greet him on the other side. We got him settled in his stall, and an hour or so later I lunged. Lunging, he was super quiet (picture me having to chase him to get him to canter). So I decided to get on and school.
We kept things super simple. My focus was good behavior, and listening to me versus getting inundated with the show facility/vibe. He was honestly foot perfect. If you watch the video below, skip forward to the very end where he leaps/stomps over a trash bag that blew into our path. It made me laugh, and was the extent of any “naughty” behavior.
After riding outside, we cooled out in the big covered ring and he was completely non-plussed. I was so thrilled with his behavior, and decided to enter a flat class outside for the next day.
On Saturday, I found him a lot more up and ready to get out of his stall. So I gave him a tube of calming paste to make myself feel better, and we headed to lunge outside in the field. I put the sidereins on, which is my safety measure when I know he’s going to try to leap and play. It wouldn’t do anyone good if he exploded and got away from me, but when I place the sidereins (not tight) high up on the surcingle he knows that he can’t duck his head and act like a fool. Lunging, he played a little bit but nothing unreasonable.
When it was time for our class, he was as chill as can be. I took a lot of deep breaths, because even in perfect circumstances I am nervous in the show ring. But I did my best to be a cool, confident and calm leader for him.
To critique myself, I think I was a little stiff/tight in my body, which meant his trot started off fast and short (especially tracking right after the canter). I also didn’t push him to have his “nice” trot, and let him get short and lazy for an overall inconsistent look. But that’s because I have flat PTSD from Simon, who I was always afraid of breaking into the canter. It’ll all get better with more practice!
However, that’s being super critical. Baby Po picked up both his correct leads (even our sticky right lead!), didn’t spook at the judge or other horses, and nailed his down transitions (his favorite).
We ended up 6th out of 8 horses, and although my competitive side hoped for a bit higher I also can’t deny that it was a pretty perfect first flat for a baby guy.
The next day Po was even more chill. We lunged, but it was more of an opportunity to get him out of his stall and eat some grass. I could barely get him to canter, and decided to try and do a flat class in the big indoor later in the day since there was nothing left I could do outside.
Unfortunatley, the show day dragged as shows often do. It was almost 5pm before my flat class would do. They turned on the giant, industrial fans in the indoor which made a lot of noise from time to time, like dirt getting stuck in them or something. I took Poet down to the ring in-hand to listen and get used to the fans.
At first, he was totally fine, but the noise picked up and he spooked pretty dramatically standing by the in-gate. Dramatically as in he almost took out about 3 people sitting in chairs behind him. Even so, he settled back down again and I thought we might be good to go for the flat.
I walked him back to the barn to tack-up, and the minute we had to go by the scary bleachers (an area he wasn’t bothered with previously) he started to shake his head and jig like he wanted to rear. This is a horse that very explicitly shows his emotions, so I immediately decided it wasn’t in my best interest to ride that day. He had been so perfect, but the patience was up. So I put him up on a good note, and kept everything a positive experience.
Though I had a minor fit of disappointment about not riding on Sunday, I went back to look at our original goals. He was so mature throughout the weekend, and exceeded all my expectations. When I looked at things in that lens, I was (and am still) over the moon.
I hope more shows are on our horizon this summer, but covid is raging through Austin and I think we’re in danger of getting shut down again. Will take opportunities as they came, and try to make the best out of this crazy time!