Guess who’s officially a show horse?
Technically all he did in the show ring was trot over some poles. He’s only 3 after all, and for his first show I figured we’d keep it super easy. I had considered entering a dressage test and doing Intro A, but given how distractible he can be (it’s not spooky or malicious, he just genuinely likes to SEE ALL THE THINGS) I opted for the jumper classes instead – that way if he needed to pause in a corner to check something out or drunkenly weave his way down the side of the ring, it would be no problem. This show offers jumper classes from poles up to 3’6″, which is really nice. All we had to do was get from one pole to the next, didn’t matter how. I thought that was a better idea than having to follow a specific pattern with a dressage test, or at least a bit less pressure. Plus I thought the poles might help distract him and keep his brain occupied if he started getting a little overwhelmed with all the things to look at. I entered HC (not for ribbons/placings/points) and tada, there he was, in his very first Table II, 2(b) and Table II, 2(c) classes!
Really though, the point of entering the show was two-fold. 1) see what he thought of all the sights/sounds/spectacles of horse showing while also having to be ridden. He’s been to plenty of shows in his life, but always at the end of a lead rope. He’s never really been asked to go to work or have to focus a lot, and that ups the ante a bit for sure. 2) I wanted him to start getting the experience of the warmup (y’all know what I mean by that!), standing beside the ring waiting his turn, and going into the ring by himself to go to work. The main building blocks of horse show life have nothing to do with the actual showing part, really. In order to get the best from him when we’re in the show ring, first he has to learn how to handle everything outside of it.
Before I get into the details I have to pause for a second and give major props to the facility, Scissortail Hill, for putting on a very covid-safe horse show. They had mask requirements (on at all times when not mounted), guidelines regarding how many could be in an area at a time, spaced all the parking out, only allowed one groundperson/spectator per rider, had designated pathways to the office, plexiglass, staggered groups to keep people from having to congregate, etc. It’s a small local show, they certainly are not required by anyone to do any of that, but they did it and they pulled it off really well. It felt very safe and socially distanced without impacting the actual show at all. Props to Scissortail. This is the first horse show I’ve been to since all this started and I felt super safe about the experience.
Hillary was kind enough to come be my +1, which thank goodness, because it’s always a heck of a lot easier to have a helper, especially when you have a young/green one. Plus she got video and pictures, which is the only reason why I have any content for this post. She da real MVP. I left her at the trailer with Presto while I went and got my packet, and I came back to a clean horse with a trimmed bridle path and freshly banged tail. I literally pulled him out of his pasture, knocked the worst of the dirt off, and tossed him in the trailer, and it had looked like it. She made him look significantly more presentable.
I lunged him for a couple minutes before I got on, but he seemed relatively chill, so I opted to just go ahead and swing aboard. He was definitely very interested in seeing everything at first, and there was plenty to look at. Trailers, horses, cars, the busy road that borders the front of the property, cross country jumps, the trail course, the horses in the warmup and the various arenas… lots to see, that was for sure. He was pretty calm about taking it all in though. He only neighed a couple times, and was happy to just stand and observe when I asked him to.
We started out trotting around the warmup area for a few minutes. He definitely had his head straight up the air like a giraffe, but he was being fine other than that, so no big deal. At one point a horse outside of the ring started to spin and leap around, and I could feel Presto kinda look at him like “WOW, IS THAT AN OPTION, I DIDN’T KNOW THAT WAS AN OPTION” and I had to tell him “No sorry, that’s definitely not an option, let’s go over here and make some circles instead”. I’m a buzzkill, I know.
Since poles was the first jumper division they had the ring open for schooling for a little while before the division started. I figured it was a great opportunity to let him see everything, so once a couple people came out I headed in. Props to Presto, he was super brave about it, marching around the ring with just a few sideways glances at the jumps stacked outside of the rail or the big flapping medic’s tent.
We trotted around for little while, I popped him over all the jumps that were set as poles, and that was that. We only had about 10 minutes before our division started so I walked him out of the ring and let him stand around on a loose rein checking things out. To his credit, he was really good at that part. Well, unless other horses come close to him, then he wants to climb on top of them and be their BEST FRIEND. Schoolhorses tend to not be the biggest fans of the big dumb warmblood baby trying to forcibly be besties. They ain’t got time for that. Otherwise though, he stood around and observed everything quietly.
By the time we actually got to his classes, he was basically pro at this. He walked in the ring, we waited for the whistle, picked up the trot, and off we went. He understood that the point of the game was to go from pole to pole, and he had started to look for which one was next. The classes were really short, just 5 poles (can we make all showjumping rounds just 5 jumps? I’d be into that.) so it was perfect for his 3yo attention span. He trotted his poles, we went back to walk, exited out the other end of the ring, then walked back up to the ingate and did it again. He was really good.
It was exactly the kind of outing I was after – relaxed, low key, and productive. He settled really quickly and was a good boy about pretty much everything. His only spook of the day was when he was trotting down the rail in warmup and a horse outside of the ring just dropped to the ground out of nowhere to roll. Pretty sure Presto thought he keeled over and died, so we had to stop and investigate. Considering all the commotion, I was pretty proud of him for how he handled everything. I think the poles were definitely the right choice, it was easy enough to not be asking much of him, but enough of a distraction to keep his brain busy. He had no qualms about warmup or about leaving the other horses to go in the ring by himself. Maybe next time we can try an Intro dressage test. We’ll see.
Many thanks again to Hillary for all her assistance, and to Scissortail for putting on a perfect, baby-friendly, covid-safe show! Presto has demanded a cookie raise now that he’s officially a show horse.