Saturday, June 19, 2010

Panama's first horse show

Me and my gelding at our first horse show

This morning Panama and I went to our first horse show. We didn't actually participate in the show, but we were there! We spent more than two hours riding in the warm up ring while the show was going on. It was great experience for him and I have high hopes that we'll be able to ride in the next show.

There was a little while when I doubted we would get there at all. On Thursday we were supposed to trailer over to the barn where the schooling show was being held, to do a lesson on the premises and give him and Daisy (who was going with us) a chance to get used to the new surroundings. Unfortunately, he wouldn't load and we ended up not going.

My trainer and I practiced loading yesterday and he did fine, but he still wouldn't get in this morning until she arrived to load him. (He listens to her so much better than he listens to me.) I was just glad to make it to the show.

At first Panama was handling the new environment pretty well, but that ended when Daisy was taken away from him. He started whinnying for her periodically, and kept it up long after he had calmed down.

My horse showing his Arab at a schooling show

I saddled him up and took him into the warm up ring. There were only a few horses and their riders in there when I mounted, but within moments the half-arena was full. I didn't count how many horses there were, but there had to be close to 20. Panama had been a bit anxious as it was, but with all those horses being there, he pretty much fell apart. He kept trying to trot and I was having a really hard time controlling him, so I kept having to turn him into the rail to stop him — he was so amped up that he was trying to run right through the bit. He may be a very forward horse but that blatant disregard for the bit is very rare for him.

Here he is staring at the loud speaker equipment, which was on the ground on the other side of the fence. He was fascinated and somewhat intimidated by it, as you can see by his body language:

My horse at a schooling show

I knew right away that we wouldn't be riding in the show. After a spook to the side which nearly put us into a passing horse, followed by a brief tantrum that I think may have been an attempt at a buck, a woman came over and asked if I wanted to ride in the empty show arena until it was time for the first class. It was the woman I had spoken to about checking in, and since I'd told her that I needed to see how he was going to respond first, she knew the situation. We both agreed riding in the classes was not going to work, but that it would be good for him to get used to the sights and sounds of the show.

Sure enough, he calmed down right away in the empty arena. She still asked that I leave the arenas entirely for the first couple of classes, though. Those were the easier classes, and therefore the smallest and least experienced kids (and the classes I would have ridden in, but I didn't tell her that). She was concerned that if Panama freaked out in the practice arena, right next to the show ring, the littler ones wouldn't be able to handle it if their horses freaked out too in response.

So I walked him around for about 20 minutes and let him munch on some grass. He was very jittery at first — he spooked sideways and tried to jump in my lap when he saw the stacks of hay bales covered with giant tarps, and staring at the tractor that was driving around — but he did settle down. By the time we were able to go back to the practice ring, he was much calmer, though he was still whinnying for Daisy periodically!

My horse at a schooling show

Perhaps because he was hollering every few minutes and drawing everyone's attention to him (and he has a very cute, high-pitched whinny — eeeEEEEEEEeeee), we got a lot of compliments when we got back to the practice ring. I heard a lot of "Oh he's soooo cute!" and "What a beautiful horse!" The woman who let me into the other arena also knew without being told that he was an Arab cross, which is always gratifying because we know so little for sure about his breeding.

We rode in the practice ring for probably close to two more hours. We did A LOT of walking, since Panama was still a bit excitable, but we did get some trotting in too, particularly toward the end. We also walked and trotted over some poles until the girls in the jumping classes had to start warming up. Unfortunately we were in full sun and both of us started getting very hot. I had a headache, probably from dehydration (even though I was sucking down water every chance I got) and the sun on my black helmet.

I wish this picture wasn't so overexposed, as it was my favorite from the day. I like my expression and the way he is looking right at the camera. I have a similar expression on my face in most of the pictures, which is amazing, considering how focused I was having to be on keeping him under control.

Riding my horse at a schooling show

Panama was a bit stubborn at first about getting back into the trailer to go home, but my trainer had him in within a few minutes, anyway. She is amazingly good at working through his stubbornness. I wonder if she knows she is going to have to be with us for the rest of his life...

I am very proud at how well Panama did today; even though he was pretty upset at first, it was understandable since it was his first show, and he did calm down faster than I thought he would. Although I didn't get any ribbons, I got tons of compliments on Panama, and I like those better anyway!



At June 19, 2010 at 6:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a great way to expose a horse to new sights and sounds, and since you weren't trying to show, there wasn't any pressure. The pictures are great - he's very cute and you look good too!

At June 19, 2010 at 6:59 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Thanks Kate! I'm really pleased for that reason -- good exposure. I knew there was a good possibility he wouldn't be able to ride in the show, so I had no preconceptions -- I just wanted him to get the experience.

I totally forgot to mention in my blog post -- he may have been staring at the loudspeaker equipment when it was off, but you know what? During the show the voices over the loudspeaker never even fazed him. He did so much better than I expected with stimuli like that!

At June 19, 2010 at 11:45 PM, Blogger Sydney_bitless said...

Thats a good first experience at a show. I could tell you horror stories about bringing horses to shows for the first time and them almost upsetting me in the carriage as the judge called for lineup.

At June 20, 2010 at 12:51 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Yikes, Sydney! That sounds scary. Yes, I was very pleased with how he did. I expected that he might be pretty worked up, but I was surprised by how quickly he was able to calm down. He was still worried about where Daisy was, but wasn't as much worried anymore about where he was. I'm really proud of how he did!

At June 20, 2010 at 3:32 PM, Blogger susana said...

Panama looks amazing....well muscled and so shiny, well done to you both, pleased it went well for your first show :)

At June 20, 2010 at 5:05 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Thanks, Susana! I love his super sleek summer coat, and yes, he is developing some nice muscle! He is finally starting to fill out and look less like a baby, partly because he is maturing and partly because I've been working him more since we moved to the new barn in October.

At June 20, 2010 at 5:47 PM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

How exciting for both of you. I think horse shows, even the small ones, can be very stressful for both horses and rider. It's good that you were willing to take the stress off both of you and just work on the exposure element. Now you both have a better idea what to expect in the future. Congratulations.

At June 20, 2010 at 11:48 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Thanks, NM! I didn't want it to be stressful for either one of us, for Panama's sake as well as mine. Both my trainer and I agreed from the beginning that if we got there and he wasn't handling it well enough to be ridden in the show, we'd just let him get used to the environment. It was a lot of fun, though, and we are planning on doing a few lessons at that barn over the course of the summer. I think we should be able to do the show in the fall!


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