In the past, I’ve always gone into horse shows with riding goals in mind — sometimes they are simple and easy, sometimes they are more complex and challenging. Regardless of what they are, I always have something I specifically want to achieve with my riding. This year has completely turned the tables on this process. The first show, I had 0 expectations. In fact, my expectations were so low, I didn’t know if I’d even ride my own horse. Of course, we all know how that turned out (I did show and I rode really well). This horse show was another test of my process… as I again went in without expectations.
I’ve attended the same two horse show series since I started showing in Central Ohio, and they’ve always been held at the same two places. I enjoy the consistency, because I know what to expect out of the facility, and I know my horse is familiar with the atmosphere. This year, my favorite horse show moved venues in June to a brand new place. And by brand new, I mean my horse’s stall was built 12 hours prior to his arrival. To say my anxiety was high would be an understatement. In fact, we talked about not going at all because we were so worried about the facilities being ready. But it’s 20 minutes away. And the renderings are amazing. So I said, let’s go. If it sucks and is awful, we can turn right around and go home. I had 0 expectations… and this time I wasn’t even sure if my horse would get to come off the trailer.
We hauled up Friday afternoon, and while the facility is far from done, and very much still under construction, they had stalls, rings, water, and electric so we unloaded. And honestly, what is complete is… awesome. Full tour to come later, but man, the barns (which are the most finished aspect of the facility so far) are to die for. We spent some time walking around to get oriented. The facility is much more spread out than I’m used to, and the walkways (to and from things) were the most unfinished part, which meant we had to be careful about where our horses walked. After that, horses went on a walk and then I put Miles on the lunge line. He was a bit up at first, but settled pretty quickly and I only had to lunge for about 15-20 minutes.
I opted to have the working student school Miles for me first, since he’d never seen the rings before and the footing (omg amazing) was new to us too. He was a champ, walked in, jumped the jumps and was a total pro, so I hopped aboard and schooled some smaller fences. He was good for me too, and we called it a day! After riding, much of my nerves dissipated. I was pretty worked up about the new facility and very unsure of how Miles would take it. But seeing him be so good was a huge relief!
Saturday Show Day 1
Saturday was a very long day, and I didn’t show until early evening (about 5pm or so). I had opted to not lunge Miles on Saturday to save his legs a bit, but looking back, I wish I had, even if it was just 10 minutes. Oh well, live and learn! I again had the working student school Miles, and she showed him in the 2’6″ warmup class. He was sassy, and played a tiny bit after the first fence, so show kept Miles on the slower, add stride pace throughout the round. I thought about not getting on at all after seeing him be sassy, but my husband gave me the push I needed, so I got in the irons and decided to play it safe and stick to the add stride. Miles was great, and our second round was really lovely. Trainer said it was one of the best add stride rounds she’s ever seen, which made me beam with pride.
Overall, I was really glad I rode and it was a victory for me to get on after seeing him be a little bit naughty. I was also really happy with how I rode — it was an accurate representation of where I’m at as a rider. I stayed present during my rounds, made decisions, and helped my horse be his best. Later in the evening, when I was thinking about things, I got pretty disappointed and down about “going backwards” and doing the add stride, instead of sticking to the correct pace. But, it was the right decision to make, and right now I need to have confident rides and if sometimes that means backing down the pace, that what I’ll do.
Sunday Show Day 2
The day started out tough, with the working student down from a mild case of heat exhaustion. She stayed home to recuperate, and she’s doing much better, but we all missed her a lot. Again, it was a long day, but not quite as bad and I showed late afternoon, around 3pm. They cancelled our warmup round on Saturday… which at first I was annoyed with… but it was so hot, that in the end, I’m glad they did. Staying out in the heat in my coat for the least amount of time possible was best for everyone.
Trainer kept all of us in Ring II on the slower, add pace on Sunday. The way the ring was setup, there wasn’t much room on the ends and some of the turns were a bit tricky. So instead of running to make the numbers, and struggling to make the turns, we all opted to slow down. After talking with Trainer about this plan, I felt better about the choice. Our goal at this show was to get around the jumps at the new facility, and to get the first one under our belts. For me, my challenge was warming up my own horse and going straight to the show ring. It wasn’t “going backwards,” it was choosing the most important aspect, which was having good rides, for both myself and my horse.
Overall, I didn’t ride quite as well on Sunday. My first round was…. rough. But, I was absolutely THRILLED with Miles. He saved my butt a few times and never once even thought about being sassy, grumpy or naughty. I came out of our first round so happy with my horse, because that was truly the horse I bought. The second round I rode much better, stretching up and looking forward. We still had mistakes, but I was more decisive and communicated what I wanted much more effectively.
I left the show grounds on Sunday feeling great. Despite the odds, I again was able to come to the show, ride my horse, and accomplish something. It might have just been a baby step, like getting over jumps in a new place, and maybe a better rider would have asked for more out of themselves. But I am who I am, and I’m proud of the progress I’ve made. I’m 10x the rider I was last year, and most importantly, I’m having fun.