I'd like to say that I just love showing, but the fact is that I NEED to show. In the sandbox in front of a judge is where I'm happiest, where I'm the most confident, and where I seem to learn the most. I don't know why, maybe it's because I've shown in one form or another since I could sit on a horse by myself. Maybe I just like to try and show off. For whatever reason, a show is my happy place.
When my trainer told me that a schooling show was coming up at our barn I decided that we should sign up even though I didn't feel that Indy and I were quite ready for it (my idea of being ready is being confident that we can score a 65% or higher). However, it was the best possible experience I could give her for a first show. I'd rather bring the "scary stuff" to her than take her to it in a completely new environment for her first outing. To feel like I wasn't completely taking advantage of the situation and making it too easy on us, I did only ride her twice in the arena we would be showing in beforehand. It can take dozens of rides for Indy to get over things she doesn't like, so I thought that was reasonable.
The beginning of the week before the show had been rough. I had a left for Kentucky and came back with the flu, so Indy had about ten days off after having a lesson where she was a raging cow. Not good. To top it off, I only had six more days to get ready for the show.
From awhile ago, laughing at her shenanigans.
Fortunately, I have an awesome trainer that is very good at giving me confidence when I need it (I'm not scared of my horse, just of sucking). We had two pretty decent lessons on Tuesday and Thursday which left me feeling like I could at least make it through the tests. I prepared myself to get scores in the 40s because Indy is Indy and decided that was okay as long as she wasn't a complete psycho.
Then I came out the day before the show and Indy's leg looked like this:
Of course it did, because Indy.
She didn't react when I pushed on it and seemed to be walking sound. I didn't have anyone there to jog her for me and didn't want her tearing around on the lunge if it was something serious, so I hopped on to see what she felt like. She wasn't sore. I decided to ice her and just wait to see what it looked like in the morning figuring I should probably scratch just to be safe.
It was almost back to normal the next day. I decided that I might as well at least warmup and if my trainer said that she didn't look right then I would scratch. I lunged her more than I wanted to, but she was just a little too fresh. This show was all about keeping her calm and relaxed. She worked on the lunge until the kink in her tail was mostly gone and she was listening well enough to do lots of transitions, about twenty minutes, and headed for the warmup. *Note: she was sound lungeing.
More than anything, I was worried about the warmup. Indy can get a pretty amped with just one or two horses working in the arena with her, I didn't know how she would react to the increase in traffic.
She was so good! Which is a good thing since the warmup at a schooling show, especially this one, can be quite unsettling. In the words of the ring steward, the warmup was "about like trying to herd cats". Poor lady.
Indy stood quietly when I wanted her to. She looked at some things, but never did anything bad. When the psycho rider on a really short Appaloosa (Indy finds little horses quite intimidating) come barreling towards us head on, we didn't have the room or time to get out of the way. Indy jumped sideways and spun to avoid having a head on. Honestly, I froze and she saved our asses then settled down like nothing had happened. After that, she was just a bit hesitant to get too close to horses. No big deal, I didn't blame her.
She's a little distracted, but I was just happy that she managed to control herself and her head didn't end up in my face at any point coming down the centerline or in the halt.
Our first class was Intro C. Indy was looking at some things and ducked just a bit a couple of times, all green horse stuff that was expected. I was mostly just wanting her to stay calm and she did that. She was a bit of a witch for the canter work, tossing her head to evade the contact some. That was also expected. Other than that, the bad parts of the test were my fault. I was only aiming to get around there with no serious mishaps and didn't ride for the quality that I should have. We scored a 59.7, which was probably on the generous side. I figured it was a lot better than the 40 I was expecting and was happy with the experience gained.
Our second test was Training 1. This one started off a lot better. Indy was more focused and I was riding better. Until I was coming out of our canter circle and some other guy was standing his horse right at F talking and making hand gestures. It distracted me, it distracted Indy, and she broke into a trot. I looked straight at him and loudly said "Damn it!" which the judge didn't hear, or at least pretended not to, fortunately. She gave me an error and I got to do the movement over again. The rest of the test went well, the canter work was a bit better, and the trot work was pretty good. We scored a 60.8 and I was happy with that.
On my way out of the arena, a lady decided to stand literally right next to A, waiting to go in, so that we had to walk within a foot of her to get out. I told her that Indy might overreact to her being that close, but she didn't try and move until I was right next to her. Indy jumped sideways and hit the flowers boxes at the entrance then jumped forward. I just ignored the lady, accepting that the world has apparently gone stupid.
My trainer was warming up on another horse and said "You would have thought she could have at least let you out of the arena!". I readily agreed and then proceeded to ask her what kind of fucking idiot (meaning the guy) stands their horse right next to the arena while they are talking during someone's test? She said that stuff wouldn't happen at a recognized show and I agreed again.
The fact is schooling shows are meant for green horses and inexperienced riders. Some of the other riders were excessively stupid that day (I learned that men are the absolute worst in the warmup), but all of the craziness was really good for Indy. I couldn't be happier or more proud of how well she handled everything. This is a horse that will still spook at her own shadow (she literally did that the day before the show), the dressage letters, the mounting block, short horses, etc. etc., if she isn't in the right mindset on any given day. Her behavior was extremely good for where we are at right now.
Most importantly, she seemed to enjoy the experience, approaching all of the activity with the curiosity that I love so much in young horses. It was possibly her inner diva enjoying all of the attention she was getting in her bling bonnet too, which is fine with me. Good horses like to go out there and perform. I think that Indy will be like that. For now, we'll just keep chugging along and working more on submission.
My trainer said that maybe Indy likes to be a show horse. Please, let that be true because finding things that Indy likes isn't the easiest thing to do. So, our first show wasn't exactly a record setting performance. That's okay. It's a good baseline to work from.