I’m nicknaming this “the show that almost didn’t happen”. I was on my way to the barn at 4:00 in the morning on Sunday when my tiny Chevy Spark hit snow/ice/slush/gross while I was merging into my exit lane. I lost all control of my wheels and skidded right over the bumpy patch at the side of the road. You’re not supposed to hit the brakes super hard in situations like that, but there was also a guard rail coming up so I weighed my options and ended up screeching to a halt about five feet away from a crash.
My part of the world barely sees any snow over the winter, let alone in early November. When I got out of the car and had to kick the snow off of the gates before I could get into my pony’s stall I wasn’t super psyched for a day of showing in 33° weather, despite having made the spectacular decision to wear thermal leggings under my breeches and a thermal long sleeve under my show shirt.
I am thankful that daylight savings gave me a much needed extra hour of sleep, though. (BarnOwnerK, on the other hand, came out to feed the horses an hour earlier than normal and was very confused 😄).
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 the perimeter (it’s got mirrors, benches where spectators can sit, and an aisle of stalls behind one of the arena walls—plenty of things for a horse to be wary of). 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, but 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 (I’m a PANSY, okay?), 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 a lot more than I have been when I ride at KW. She chastised me for wiggling my hands too much (guilty) 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 (AKA “finding my handshake”). She reminded me that my outside rein should be a still barrier and that I could squeeze my inside rein, but that I shouldn’t be using my hands to create a false contact.
Also, “more leg”, which I’m pretty sure is TrainerM’s favorite phrase.
Another rider from my lesson program came into the arena with her horse right as I was starting to get comfortable, 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. They walked, trotted, and cantered past us and 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), but Rags was a good boy and kept one ear cocked back on me whenever he was unsure. We even did a little bit of trotting jigging before the warmup hour was over! It’s all about those small victories, LOL.
Once warmup was over and classes were started (with the end of the arena sectioned off so that everyone not currently in the class could huddle undercover), 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 waved us down to make sure that we’d be okay going in by ourselves (my response: “that’s actually preferable”) and then 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.