It finally happened – my first event with Presto!

I mean, ya know… how many years have we been waiting for this? How many different things have happened along the way that made us (at least me) think the day might never come? It has been a whole entire journey just to get the beginning of this journey. Breed another horse, they said. It’ll be fun they said. Ok “they” was me. And I was right. Mostly. But boy, if we go back to when I actually chose the stallion and planned the breeding, I have 7 years invested in this horse. I love him and he’s everything I wanted (um… most days…), thank goodness, but whew.

Anyway. Our debut show together was in the Novice at Majestic Oaks. We’ve schooled there a few times, it’s close (still blows my mind that multiple whole-ass horse shows are a mere 15mins away)… it made sense. For the sake of my no-longer-working-in-corporate-America budget, I want to stick to schooling shows for a while. Here they’re at the same venues as recognized, over the same questions, so… why not save some money while we’re getting to know each other and establishing a partnership.

The benefit of close horse shows: no stabling required. The downside: mom makes you wear dumb pajamas so you don’t get filthy overnight.

A little backstory: Presto was not particularly good last week. For as good as he was in our showjump lesson the Friday before, on Monday (our last lesson before the show) he was awful. Like… awful. So full of demons and tantrums that at one point he spooked at a pole, leaped up in the air like a Lippazaner, and whacked me directly in the nose with his poll. I bled all over the place. Profusely. Poor Steph had to make two trips to retrieve enough paper towels to stem the flow.

The rest of the week wasn’t as bad, but he wasn’t great either. By the time Friday rolled around I was like “welp, hope I don’t die tomorrow, haha. ha. haaaaa. halp.”.

But ya know, such is the way with young horses sometimes, and you just gotta get on with it. So I trimmed up his mane a bit, banged his tail, gave him a bath (he still hates baths, if anyone is wondering, that hasn’t changed in his entire 5 years), cleaned all my shit, and packed my trailer.

On Saturday morning we pulled into the showgrounds around 10 minutes after 7, and I tied Presto to the side of the trailer with a bucket and a haynet. He just isn’t the type that you can leave standing in the trailer all day by himself, he feels like he’s missing something and then tries to climb out. Hard nope for me, dawg. He’s better off, and considerably more relaxed, if he’s out where he can see things and move around a little. He was wired when I first unloaded him, so I got on him a little earlier than planned so that he could walk around and check stuff out. I think once he got to warmup he realized what was happening, and immediately took a breath. He hasn’t been to that many events (he did 4 last year I think?) but I guess that was enough for him to get it. He’s never done a one-day though, so this format was new for him.

It’s funny… the footing in warmup felt great. A little dew on the grass but it’s so sandy underneath that I have never (literally ever) had an issue with horses slipping here. My trainer went a few horses ahead of me and when she came out she warned me that our grass arena felt slick. Duly noted, I’ll keep it in mind. So ya know, woe was me when we trotted up centerline, turned left, and Presto immediately almost fell on his ass. Like… he barely saved himself. I think we both went “oh… fuck…”.

Bless hims little heart though, he kept on trying for me. He didn’t spook at the tent, he didn’t get distracted by the other rings, he just put his little (ok big) head down and did what I asked. Granted, after that he was really protecting himself and hesitant to move out the way he normally would. I was also scared to ask for as much as I normally would. It was not our best effort. He slipped pretty badly one more time, and after that his canter more resembled a pogo stick because he was just trying his best to keep himself on his feet.

It was not our best work. I mean, all credit to Presto, he really gave it his best. But a big baby horse in small very very slippery grass ring just was not working in our favor. Lesson learned, I will absolutely stud him from now on anytime we have dressage on grass. Better safe than sorry.

Unfortunately every time he slipped we got a 5 for the movement, and his canter circles were quite stilted and not entirely circular. He still managed a 34 though, so ya know… if we could do a dressage test instead of Icecapades I think there’s potential there for a good score.

there was also some slope to this ring that wasn’t helping our situation

I was quite pleased with him really, considering. He did what I asked with no shenanigans, so I couldn’t be unhappy with that. Truth be told he was more rideable in the ring than he usually is at home.

After that we had a few hours until SJ. At this show they did SJ and then 15 minutes later you did XC. My plan was to showjump, come out, put his XC boots and my vest on, and then go to XC warmup. This facility is nicely laid out to where everything is quite close together, so I pretty much passed right by my trailer on the way to XC anyway.

While we were waiting we walked the stadium course… I didn’t take a pic of the course map but did my absolute best artwork for y’all below. That’s a lie, this is terrible and definitely not totally correct in it’s scale or placement but whatever you get the idea.

Sadly I have no stadium video. There weren’t many of us there in our group and my priority was on not dying rather than recruiting someone, so ya know. Hopefully the photographer got something… I didn’t notice if she was standing over there or not. We’ll see. Sorry.

Anyway, Presto was decent in warmup. Got a little spun up a couple times when horses were buzzing past him, but nothing bad. We jumped a couple, walked for a bit, jumped a couple more, then went to the ring. He was so freaking spooky and naughty the last time we were in that ring, I was more concerned about the corners than I was about the jumps. Really though, he was pretty good. I felt his eyeballs wander a little bit a couple times, but he kept going forward and jumped everything fine. The only issue we had is that I got him a bit deep into the in and out and didn’t support him well enough to that distance, and he ticked the rail there. I’ll take the responsibility for that one.

After that it was back to the trailer to put on his boots and my vest, and then over to XC warmup.

Again I am a media failure because I didn’t take pics of the jumps. To be honest, I only walked like half the course. Everything there is mostly in one big field, and only a few things had moved, so… we just walked enough to make sure we knew where everything was, and walk the related distances. And I was too busy listening/focusing to stop and take pictures along the way. Clearly I need a horse show assistant.

It was your pretty basic Novice though. Friendly ramped first fence, stacked log thingy, table, ramp, ditch to hanging log half coffin, another table, house, water, bank up out of water, 5 bending strides to a sharks tooth thingy, then a corner, some tires, a house, a down bank 4 strides to a house, a skinny log, a trakehner, and a rolltop brush.

When I first picked up the canter in warmup he was like YEAAAAAH ZOOOOMIIEEESSS. Which, like, ok dude thanks for the forward-thinking enthusiasm, and I’m glad you remember and like your job, but… brakes are cool too. We went forward and back a few times, threw some 20m circles in there, jumped a couple jumps, and then he was golden. I still had a few horses in front of me so we just walked and let him settle more. Then over the startbox and before you know it I was hearing something I haven’t heard in a very long time… “3, 2, 1, have a great ride!”. My favorite words in all of sports.

out of the startbox we go!

I honestly had no idea what to expect of him out there. Sometimes when we’re schooling he wants to pretend to be nappy, or pretend to be spooky, and in those cases he’s kinda hard to ride because you’re never sure if he’s gonna take off or stop dead. I figured I’d know his frame of mind by the time we got to jump 3, since that one turned directly away from all the other horses and went off into the Nether.

He popped easily over 1 and 2, we turned to 3, and he was just game on. Big ol dopey boy ears were happily looking for the next jump, listening to me and keeping his good steady canter rhythm. Everything just… came right on up. 3 and 4 were easy, we turned back to half coffin and hopped through there (I did get him to the ditch on a not so great distance, I just sat up and put my leg on and went “please don’t fall in that hole” and he figured it out), down the hill into the water, then up out of the water (ok he jumped up that bank in the most awkward way, like… literally all 4 feet at once. I dunno what that was.) and the bending line over the sharks tooth. They had a big bunch of flowers right in the middle of the corner which he flicked an ear at, and then I did give him a little tap on the way to the tires just to make sure he stayed in front of my leg there.

The rest was just basically coasting on autopilot. I pointed him at it, and he jumped it. It was easy. I didn’t have to do a whole lot besides keep him balanced and straight. I did kind of forget that Novice speed is slow and you don’t have to ride routes that save ground, so we were almost too fast (errybody be out there circling LOL) but just squeaked in there for a double clear. I had not worn a watch because I didn’t want a distraction.

At the beginning of the day Presto had wanted to roll in the sand pit in the trailer parking area and I told him that if he was good I would let him do it at the end. I keep my word, which led to the best photo series.

Yup, this is my swamp donkey
there was sand EVERYWHERE
That’s alright though, it made him happy

We did manage to snag an 8th place ribbon, which is nice, but mostly I’m just really happy with him. We left plenty of points on the table for sure – there is a lot of room for improvement – but for our very first run together I couldn’t have asked for more from him. He showed up, kept the Fuckery to a minimum, and did his job. Gold star for the kiddo. He hasn’t been out since last August, and I haven’t done an actual honest to god 3 phases in THREE YEARS. Can you even believe that?

It feels good to be back, and to take my baby kiddo around our first Novice. I got a glimpse of what he can be – what we will be – and it was really fun. Moments like that are why we do all of this stuff day in and day out, after all.

18 thoughts on “It finally happened – my first event with Presto!

  1. Is it the time of year? My normally very good 5 year old gelding has been so tense and spooky this week. I started him on ulcer meds but I swear it’s the transition into fall. Congrats on your first event! It’s a huge achievement to get one that you bred to not die, let alone an actual show!


    1. It likely IS the time of year, I recently read an article followed by a couple of blog posts in which the authors were talking about how the hormone levels of horses fluctuate this time of year and that manifests itself in some ‘unusual’ (for that particular horse) behavior.


  2. Impressive! Great Job!!! I love your story telling, and really enjoyed hearing all about the show. So what is the next plan??? You are in Florida, where it doesn’t slow down for the winter – it instead speeds up…..


  3. Yay!!!!
    My spookiest horse (Coco) is weirdly better at horse shows than at home or at lessons. Maybe that’s how Presto will be???
    It was a weekend for first shows! Gene went to his first show and was also a Very Good Boy. Baby horses ARE fun!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love it!!

    Weird question. Why do eventers leave their horses standing on the trailer at shows? I’ve never noticed this with any other discipline (though, aside, ranchers do this all the time: their horses and sometimes also cattle hang out on trailers at the most random places. Like the hardware store.). I know my horse will stand for 3 days tied calmly to a trailer as long as she has food and water, and she’s so much happier being able to look and move around. The only time I did stick her on the trailer was the show where it was pouring rain (which is HIGHLY unusual in my part of the country, which could be why people usually tie their horses out). Then I went to a Pony Club rally once and as soon as competition was done, literally everyone (but me) put their horses on the trailer before heading back to the the arena area for awards, so the horses all ended up standing on a trailer for a couple of hours. People asked me why I didn’t and the answer was simple, that particular horse HATES confined spaces, so why on earth would I make her stand on a trailer if I wasn’t actually transporting her? But nobody could give me a solid answer as to why they DID put their horses on the trailer.

    Did I miss some horse management here somewhere? I know not all eventers are Pony Clubbers (and vice versa, the rally was for Mounted Games), but it seems to be such a common practice that’s kind of unique to those two worlds. I’m curious.


    1. My horses go back on the trailer because I do not trust them to stand politely outside the trailer without supervision. My one horse has a nasty habit of pulling back and getting loose, so I feel she is much safer ON the trailer. I have also seen plenty of accidents at events with horses tied too loose that get over their lead ropes, or horses that panic and break free and start running around the trailer parking, spooking all the other tied horses. For my horses, I feel it is safer for them to be on the trailer whenever I am not right there to keep an eye on them.


  5. This was totally worth waiting 7 years for. 🙂 I as a reader, I have thoroughly enjoyed Presto’s journey thus far and am still enjoying it. The video of you two leaving the start box is priceless. You can see the sheer joy coming off you as you both head off on XC.


  6. I am sure during your drive home you were grinning from ear to ear. One, you did it! Two, you survived it! You should be so proud of your kiddo. I think you need to keep the show between you and Presto however… Henry does not need to be clued in that Presto is making any headway in your heart. Congrats on your first event with Presto!


  7. Congrats on a successful first show! Sounds like all the time, money, and effort put into getting him a great start really paid off. It’s definitely making me rethink if my young horse needs to go spend some time with a trainer to get some good experience under her belt before we try another event.


  8. Oh memories of living where there is a lot of dew in the early morning! We used to not schedule anything non-horse-trials on the grass to start until after the dew would have burned off in the sun. But with horse trials, gotta get the dressage done so can’t wait on that …

    Loved the start box video, he looks like he is all about it. 🙂

    Congrats on a successful first event!


    1. I ride every morning on heavy dew grass and never have issues. The sand under it is so loose and squishy that there isn’t any slippage. Caught me totally off guard how it changes completely in the ring! The ground up in that area was harder, closer to Texas turf. Wasn’t expecting that. 😂


  9. I’m so excited for you! This is a huge, big deal! I’m glad Presto got all of his demons out earlier in the week, though I hope in the future he doesn’t wound you in the process. The first one is always the hardest mentally. Or so I’m assuming since I haven’t gotten Al and myself to any sort of show yet…


  10. I legit teared up watching that video of you two coming out of the start box. What a loooooooong-ass road you have been on with this horse, and how wonderful to FINALLY being doing the thing with him! So so happy for you. ❤ Now, no more whacking you in the nose – that must have really hurt, I would be extremely unhappy!


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