I’m nicknaming this “the show that almost didn’t happen”, since my car hit snow/ice/slush/gross while I was merging into my exit lane on the way to the barn and I skidded to a stop about five feet away from crashing into a barrier. The bad start to my morning didn’t make me super psyched for a day of showing in 33° weather, despite having thermal leggings under my breeches.
I got to the barn extra early so that I’d have a chance to lunge Rags and have a light ride on him before we headed for the show. I groomed him/took out his bands while he ate, then we got down to business. Our ride went super well, he was very calm and focused—a great confidence booster right before the show!
Rags loaded up like a champion and we started the short but snow-ridden journey to Eagle Mountain. We pulled in just before 7:00am, with just enough time for us to make it to the arena right as it opened for warmup. We were the first ones in the arena and I used the time to handwalk him around it.
He didn’t look twice at anything, so we quickly moved onto the lunge.
I was just wrapping up the lunging when TrainerM arrived. We adjusted the irons and she climbed aboard Rags to take him for a couple of walk laps.
She only got about half a lap in before dismounting and declaring him “not ready”. She hopped back off and sent us to do more handwalking, but the moment he was back to power walking beside me he seemed bored.
“I think it’s you,” TrainerM said. “You’re his security blanket. I’ve only been on him twice; he doesn’t know me. You’re going to have to just get on him.”
I was wary, but TrainerM talked me into getting on even though I didn’t feel super prepared. I went to ask him to walk forward and he immediately balked (“too many ponies out there, mom”), so TrainerM turned our warmup into a personalized pony ride instead. TrainerM had me tighten up on the reins and had me find a “firm handshake” that connected me to the bit. Every time his head moved she had me lift or lower my hands to keep the straight line from my elbow down to the bit.
Also, “more leg”, which I’m pretty sure is TrainerM’s favorite phrase.
Another rider from my lesson program came into the arena, so TrainerM detached herself from us and we continued on alone. The snow had scared a lot of people away but there was still more horses in the arena than Raglan had ever seen before. There were only a couple of moments where I felt him get nervous (one of which was when someone with a very lazy horse kiss kiss kiss kissed her horse into the canter right next to us). We even did a little bit of trotting jigging before the warmup hour was over!
Once classes were started, we quickly discovered Raglan’s greatest weakness: waiting. He couldn’t handle it. He started squirming in place, threatening to back into other horses, and smashing his big head into anyone close to him (sorry TrainerM 😳). We ended up having to go walk around the grounds in the snow while we waited for our classes to come up.
Luckily it wasn’t long before I was back on Rags and coaxing him out into the arena. There was only one other rider in my class (and I couldn’t remember if it was an eq or a pleasure class, soooooooo) and we giraffe-walked/trotted our way into a second place ribbon because apparently I missed my diagonal while the judge was looking. The judge and the ring steward really liked Rags, though—they could tell he was young and enthusiastic, plus they said he “looks like a warmblood” (AKA he faaaaancy).
We came out of our class and went right back to handwalking. I must have looked funny walking my giant horse around out in the snow. We ducked into the round pen every once in a while to dry off, but Rags seemed to legitimately enjoy exploring the ranch, so we spent most of our time outside.
We were the only entry in our second class, so the woman running the in gate sent us in alone. Raglan marched out along the arena wall and happily strutted his way through the class. I felt a lot more confident, so I put more leg on and tried to get him to stretch himself out a little bit more (no luck, but he did jig a bit quicker in response 😂). We came away with a blue ribbon (duh) and a small sample pack of treats that he immediately jammed in his mouth once his bridle was off.
And just like that Raglan’s first show was a wrap! I’m super happy with how it went. He was very distracted, but he was sensible and whenever he felt unsure he paused to check in with me instead of reacting off of instinct. We didn’t have any incidents and, most importantly, I met my #1 goal: I stayed on the horse! When it comes down to it I’m actually kind of thankful for the snow, since it gave the show a small turnout that I’m sure was integral to our success.
Now we just need to go to 1,000,000 more of these so that he thinks they’re old hat.