Monday, October 1, 2012

Our first ACTUAL horse show!

Panama and I competed in our first horse show on Saturday.  It was just a little schooling show, and it was a smaller turnout than the ones by the same association that I'd been to (both with and without Panama) earlier in the summer, so it wasn't a huge deal -- but since it was our first, it feels like a big deal to us!

This is my absolute favorite picture from the show, simply because we look so fantastic here.  Because it was such a big ring and my camera is so small, a lot of the other pictures my husband took didn't turn out so well.  But this one looks great!

This is a show that is run every month throughout the show season, and many of my friends from the barn have been going to it for a couple of years (unbeknownst to me until earlier this year).  In July I tagged along, sans horse, just to see what it was like -- I wanted to try taking Panama to a show, but didn't want it to be the first time there for both of us.  I figured if I knew what was going on, I could be a little more confident and hopefully be able to help him that way.

Then in August, I brought him to the show.  He handled it all very well, but since I wasn't sure in the morning (when you have to register) whether he would, I opted not to show that day.  Instead, he got to munch on hay at the trailer, and we took occasional walks around the grounds to let him get used to everything.  Partway through the day, when I realized he really wasn't going to freak out, I even rode him in the practice arena and he did great!

Some of you who have been reading my blog a long time will remember that a couple of years ago, I took him to a schooling show at a nearby barn with the intention of showing -- but that he was far too upset for me to feel comfortable trying to compete.  (I called that post Panama's first horse show, which is why the title of this post is our first actual show, i.e., the first time we really showed.)  We rode in the practice ring for several hours, and he did eventually calm down a bit, but he was still not terribly comfortable with the situation.

During that trip, we went with his girlfriend in his corral, but as soon as we got there she was promptly separated for him.  He spent a lot of time looking and calling for her that day, and that might have been part of why he was so much more upset -- but I think a lot of it has to do with maturity and confidence, too.  He has grown up a lot in the past two years, and he and I have gained a lot of confidence together.  So when I took him to that show in August, he was alert and excited but never upset, and was actually quite confident and relaxed, even when we were separated from the other horses from our barn.

I was so pleased with how he behaved, I wanted to take him to the show at the beginning of September, but it didn't work out: One of my friends couldn't come, so we were down a trailer.  But luckily there was one last show this past Saturday, since an earlier one during the summer had been rained out.  We went, we showed, and we survived -- and both of us enjoyed it so much that I really cannot wait to do it all again!

The first thing I did when we got there that morning was to take Panama into the show arena (since it hadn't started yet) and lunge him past the bleachers.  We'd only gotten into the show arena once during the show in August, and I knew from that time that the bleachers were going to be his sticking point.  The little girl I nanny for had come to the show with me (she rides Panama a lot and wanted to see what the show was like), so she ran back and forth and made lots of noise on the bleachers to help desensitize him to it.  Then during the warm-up break before the English classes started, I rode him back and forth past the bleachers.  He was clearly nervous about going past them, but he did well.  Interestingly, though, there was a soccer game on the other side of the sports complex, and I think the screaming fans ended up being a bigger deal to him than the bleachers, though he did get somewhat used to it.

We only rode in two classes, Walk/Trot English Pleasure, and Walk/Trot English Equitation.  I was worried about cantering him at the show our first time, because he is more likely to blow at the canter (or canter too fast!), so I decided to take it pretty easy for our first show.

During our first class, Walk/Trot English Pleasure, he did spook a little at the bleachers once, when someone stood up just as we were passing.  (Despite our desensitization work in the morning, they were now full of people, which made it different.)  It was just a very little spook to the side -- his rear end sort of fishtailed away from the bleachers as we passed -- and he came back to me within a few steps, which was nice.  He was also very focused on the soccer game every time we rounded that end of the arena, and was nervous the first few times the fans all started screaming as we headed away from the field.  Overall, though, he was great!

Between my classes, V. rode Panama briefly, and in my hurry to get ready for my next class I accidentally put my stirrups up a notch higher than I usually like them.  I think that contributed to my habit of leaning forward too much at the trot, which the judge commented on when the class was over.  (Nice of her to give me a tip -- I really liked her!)  Panama was much calmer that time, and we even were able to pass the bleachers without incident.

As we were trotting by them for the last time (everything is apparently scarier at faster speeds, I've come to realize), I was focusing so much on keeping him straight and even-paced, and he was focusing so much on doing what I asked, that we didn't realize one of the other riders -- a little girl on a pony -- was in trouble.  This pair had been in our first class too, and the pony was quite naughty -- every time I saw her, the pony was going too fast, and her rider was constantly having to circle her to keep her from running away.  She was rarely able to slow down or stop when the announcer asked for it.  Finally, the pony had had too much, and ran off with her.  The announcer asked us all to walk (I didn't realize why yet) and then I heard the girl hit the dirt behind me.  I felt Panama's butt tense up, but he didn't change his pace, and when I looked I saw the girl on the ground and her pony headed for the gate.

When I was going through the pictures Michael took, I saw the runaway pony crossing through the frame on several shots.  He didn't get the actual fall, but he got several pictures of the girl losing her balance.  V. says the pony actually bucked the girl off at the end.

Panama handled the entire thing beautifully, and the little girl got right up and got back on her pony to finish out the class with us.  After my classes were over, V. rode him in the practice arena some more until it was time to leave.  The sand was very deep, though, and he didn't want to trot much, so she rode briefly when we all got back to the barn.  It was funny to see how tired Panama was by the time she finished riding -- I have never seen him so tired that he is reluctant to trot!  And that was only a half day show, too -- we left after the English classes ended this time (usually we stay for Western too, since my friends ride both).

It was a fantastic day, and I cannot wait for show season next year so we can start doing some more challenging classes.  I think Panama genuinely enjoyed himself too, which I am thrilled about, since the whole point for me is doing something that is fun for both of us!



At October 1, 2012 at 5:08 PM, Blogger Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I'm happy for you. I know you've been wanting to ride him in a show for a while.

At October 2, 2012 at 7:25 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Thanks! I have been wanting to show, but not in a super serious kind of way, which is why going to this show with my friends from the barn is perfect for me and Panama. They are all doing it for fun, too, which is the kind of atmosphere I want!

The other reason I've wanted to show is because I feel like it's a good experience for both me and Panama: for him because of the desensitizing aspect, and for me because it will challenge me to be a better rider. Also, I liked the opportunity to work through my nervousness!

At October 9, 2012 at 5:06 PM, Anonymous Christine said...

It is a big deal - very exciting - great for you guys!

And indeed, a lovely photo you were able to share :)

At October 11, 2012 at 8:33 PM, Blogger Katharine Swan said...

Thanks, Christine! ^_^


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