Presto’s First Show

Well this is definitely going to be a much different show recap than you usually get around here. There was no dressage (unless you count the lap we walked around the outside of the ring while the judge was on break) and there were no jumps (unless you count all the poles he had to walk/trip over during trail). But it was a very solid first experience for Presto, who spent all day vastly exceeding my expectations.

“Dis my really embarrassing hooman. Derr is many like her but dis one is mine.”

His in-hand trail class didn’t start until 11, but it was open for schooling beforehand and I wanted to allow him plenty of time to settle in and look at all the obstacles. I was pretty sure that between the commotion of the show and all the scary stuff on the trail course, it might take me a couple hours to get him settled. So I got to the barn around 7:30, fed him, groomed him, and intended to wait until the barn workers got there so I could get someone to help me load him. He’s ridden in my trailer once before – when I brought him home – and he’s practiced loading another time, but I’ve never loaded him alone before, not completely anyway. Ie, walking him in and leaving him while I go around the back to close to ramp. He can still get a bit insecure when I leave him in general, so I wasn’t sure that this would go well. But after looking back and forth from the trailer to Presto for a few minutes I figured what the heck, lets just try it and see.

I’ll be damned if he didn’t walk right in and stand stock still when I told him whoa, climbed out of the escape door, and walked around to close the ramp. I crammed an alfalfa pellet in his mouth (the only “treats” he finds acceptable so far), tied him, and away we went.

He neighed and craned his head around a lot for the first few minutes before settling down and aggressively eating his hay. It was only about a 40 minute ride to the show, where I asked the people at the trailer next to us to keep an eye on him while I ran to the office to check in. Once I got back I untied him, dropped the ramp, and he very politely backed out, looking both ways before letting out a trumpeting “HELLLOOOOOOO EVERYONE, I’M HERE!!!” neigh. I led him around a bit, past the warmup (with it’s flapping flags), near the dressage arena, past some XC jumps, and then settled by the jump arena for a few minutes to watch some rounds.

mmmm foooood

He neighed a bit, but he wasn’t particularly worried about anything. Once he took a deep breath and cared more about eating grass than he did about looking around, I started doing some ground work – practicing walk/trot/halt/backing, sending him around me both ways, changing directions on the end of the lead rope, etc. The familiar work seemed to help relax him even more. Since XC hadn’t started yet, I walked him up and down the little bank complex a few times. May as well start getting that idea now!

By this point he was being pretty darn chill. He was looking around, but he wasn’t particularly bug-eyed about anything, was content to stand and graze, and really only neighed if another horse neighed first. So we meandered over and started looking at all the trail obstacles. We started with the easy things that he’s seen before, like all the poles, then I walked him over both bridges. He seemed more interested in pausing to eat the decorations.

Calm down, baby horse

Then we tackled the stuff that he’d DEFINITELY never seen before, like the curtain of garden hoses, the pool noodles hanging around a tree, a pool noodle thing that they had to walk through, and the blue tarp that they had to walk over. The first couple of times through the curtain of hoses he wanted to spurt quickly out the other side (by “spurt quickly” I mean take like 3 trot steps when one of the hoses brushed his butt, and the first time over the tarp he leaped completely over it (not gonna punish the jumper baby for THAT instinct!) but he wasn’t particularly concerned about any of it.

eating more decorations (sorry Paulina)

We were only about half an hour into the show by this point, and I was like “well, ok… now what do we do in the next two hours while we wait for trail to start?”. So we hung out and watched jumper rounds, dressage tests, and cross country. We listened to the loud speaker and the clapping. We hung out in the shade and just STOOD, practicing being patient. Every once in a while I would go run through a little ground work again, just to check in with him. We also practiced a much smaller trot than I normally ask him for in-hand… more of a jog than a real sporthorse trot. Well, as much of a jog as a horse with legs that long can manage, anyway. Finally I decided I should probably actually learn the trail course for real, and went to retrieve my map so we could put the whole thing together and do a full run-through.

I also have to say, thank goodness for the other people out there schooling the course, because for a few of the obstacles I had no idea exactly what we were supposed to do. I’ve definitely never done anything like this before, so I had to ask questions about how some of it was supposed to be done. I mean, I know we were just there for funsies, but I wanted to at least make an effort to do the right thing. Obstacle #8 especially had me stumped – it was a plastic barrel with a spinning PVC pipe attached across the top of it that apparently the horse is supposed to push around with his nose or chest. Who knew that was a thing? The first time I led Presto up to it he thought the answer was to jump over it (again… not an undesirable reaction considering his future career) but eventually he did figure out how to push it with his chest. I think I’ve spent so long instilling the NO PUSHING ANYTHING, EVER concept into him that he didn’t think that could possibly be right. Otherwise, he understood everything else pretty much immediately, to the point where he was almost blasé.


After a full practice run of the course (During which I discovered that I’ve got to go home and work on trotting circles to the right in hand – we’ve been practicing the triangle like they have at FEH, with it’s two big turns. The circle, being one long continuous turn, was not so good.) we went back and hung out in the shade by the jumper ring. Once the course opened for judging I was the first one at the gate. It was getting hot, baby horse was being really good – it was time to be done and go home. So as soon as the judge was ready, in we went.


He got a little excited in the trot figure 8 when there was a bunch of clapping and cheering nearby, but as far as “explosions” go, it was quite tame. I just lost his focus a bit and had to walk for a second to get him back on track. When we got to the pushing-spinning thing at 8, a horse came flying through the water jump behind him and spooked him a bit, but again, as far as “explosions” go… meh. It lasted all of 2 seconds and he settled right back down. Mostly he spent the whole course tripping over the poles and tiny logs. Babies. Their legs aren’t connected to their brains yet. He neighed a couple times too, when other horses neighed first, which is fine. Really I thought he was stellar. First time at a show, first time seeing or doing anything remotely like this… no complaints.

if you take really blurry screen shots from far away video, he looks pretty cute right now

After we were done we went and chatted with the judge, who was quite complimentary of his first attempt at trail. Obviously he is not a trail horse, this is not his future career at all, but a) he listened b) he tried c) he intelligently thought his way through all the questions instead of getting worried or upset. These are all great life skills that he’ll need as he gets older, so I feel like the outing was 110% worth it.

Pats for the best baby

Once he was finished we walked around and said our goodbyes, then I chucked him in the trailer (he repeated his morning performance of walking in, then standing and waiting when I said whoa and walked around to close the ramp – it wasn’t a fluke!), and we went home. I was so proud of how well-behaved he was, mostly because I think he just really showed me how intelligent he is. All day he looked to me for guidance, and all day he stayed polite and attentive and did what I asked him to do. There was no belligerence, he wasn’t worried, and he thought his way through everything. You can’t ask for more than that from any horse, much less a yearling taking his first trip to a show.

Oh, and he ended up placing 3rd (ok, there were only 4, but still). Kiddo has officially started his own satin collection. Well… hypothetically anyway, since I didn’t stay until the class was over and pinned. Details.

27 thoughts on “Presto’s First Show

  1. Whoa! very impressive. He is relax, but attentive. Lovely yearling. I have a technical question for you. I am helping with my friend yearlings. I have LOTS of experience with groundwork with young horses (2 yrs upward) and horses. But I have never halter broken or taught how to lead a yearling. Is there anywhere you could point me out? Video? Books? Any advices? I really enjoy Presto’s updates, because it relates to the lil’ yearling I have access to. Obviously, I am without your knowledge and horsemanship. But you are an influencer, and it give me goals to work towards. Thanks.


    1. Honestly, I would defer to the “natural horsemanship” methods for stuff like that. I don’t buy into all of their stuff, but I do buy into the majority of their groundwork. If you could find something from Buck Brannaman about it, I’d go with his methods. That’s what most of my ground work is based on.


      1. Thanks Amanda. My ground work comes from natural horsemanship. I do not need the ££££ magical headcollar, and lead rope and magic stick. But I follow their principles. Thanks.


  2. Yay, what a good baby Presto! I have a feeling that the in hand trail class that we’re going to this weekend will look a lot more like the APHA classes where most of the “obstacles” are made of poles on the ground, but I really like this version will more natural looking obstacles to navigate. Plus, the added difficulty of all the commotion going on around you at the same time is such good practice for him. I would love for my baby’s first show to be this good of an experience, but I will honestly be happy to just not have a run away yearling LOL.


    1. He really is, I have to give him a lot of credit. He’s much more sensitive than his mother, but in every good possible way. It takes very little to direct him, and he’s always looking for the right answer.


  3. He was fantastic on the video! I have to get my 7 yo ottb as well trained as Presto, someday. 🙂

    He looks grand, too. He’s very balanced and carrying good weight. His demeanor is a baby horse that understands things and has no worries. An old soul.

    Looking back at the decision, aren’t you glad you didn’t send him away to turnout pasture? 🙂


    1. Yeah, I don’t think sending him out would have been the best thing for him in particular. He’s got a busy brain, so being able to give him something to do has helped him mature tenfold in such a short time. He likes the mental challenges and he learns so fast!


  4. Go Presto!
    I have to say though, I expected him to do well. He is clever and maybe all the experiences he had up til now turned him a little “wise beyond his years”.
    I thought he was really restrained with his neighing, given that he was born whinnying. :o)


    1. I thought he was pretty quiet (for him) too. He definitely neighed on and off all morning, but after the first half hour or so he only neighed in response to another horse neighing. And by the end of the day he didn’t respond to EVERY neigh, just most of them. LOL. But what was great is that when he neighed it wasn’t that frantic oh-my-god-help-me type of neigh, it was just a HEY I HEAR YOU type of retort. I don’t mind those. It’s the ones where they have a meltdown in addition to the screaming that I can’t stand.


  5. this is awesome. i love how in the gif he walks through the obstacle and then immediately leans for grass.

    he’s gonna be able to tack himself up by the time you take him to his first event.


  6. Wow. I would be very proud of any baby horse that handled that so well. Hopefully this is a sign of how cool he is going to be in a few years!


  7. *claps* Well done, both of you. You for laying such a solid foundation for him to find success and him for picking it all up so well! And the trailering! HELL YES. That is freaking AWESOME.


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