So we have all seen how Kat and I did at the show last weekend... Or maybe not yet, but the pictures and the video are in the last post for anyone who hasn't seen them yet. He was a bit excited about being at a show, around other horses and back in the ring.
For the most part- he did good. He walked, he jogged readily when asked, he stood, he was alert & interested in everything, he looked the part and behaved pretty damn well overall. He did bump into me repeatedly when jogging and he did creep on me when standing up for the judge, but this gives us a baseline of things we need to work on for next time. There is always room for improvements and since even the riders on the Olympic level have coaches- yeah, I don't feel so bad. It is always good to have another pair of eyes and insight from others as to what needs to be fixed and what to leave alone.
"If you want to continue with showing him as a sport horse, you need to get him to elevate the front end and drive from behind more. When he has the impulsion from behind he will be able to lift his shoulders. His stride will improve and it will show."
Any guesses as to where I heard that from? One hint- it wasn't the judge. Nope, the judge offered no tips, hints, recommendations or even facial expressions as to what he liked, didn't like or wanted to see. For a schooling show- that's what I do WANT to hear. That's kind of what we are all paying for, isn't it? An objective opinion and tips for improvement... HellooOOoo! Duh!
It was also mentioned in the comments about showing one level below what you are training for. In jumpers if you are schooling 4' at home, showing 3'9" or even 3'6" is perfectly reasonable. That 3" is a big deal and can mean a lot if you have jumped. Dressage riders may be schooling 1st or 2nd level, yet showing in training level or 1st level. When you have mastered the movements and scored well enough to move up- you do. Same with cutters moving up from Green Horse classes to the $500 limit class, and so on.
Shows can also be selected based on the type of show, if they are rated or not, the type of competition there, etc. For anyone who has shown, we all know there are Horse Shows, then there are horse shows. Some being priority and others considered 'bottom of the barrel'.
What I find interesting though is the competitors at the shows. You have some that treat the 'A' rated shows as if they were nothing speyshul and people who treat the schooling shows as if they were the Olympics. Another interesting thing I have noticed, those who frequent the rated shows, may treat the schooling shows as a chance to compete, yet they don't really take them seriously. You are paying to be in the ring, practice your skills and asking for the judges opinion. If it isn't of any importance, why did you come?
There is one competition I have been told I shouldn't take a horse to as our 'first time out' because it is a Big Show... Has anyone told the horses that? If they are ready and behave well enough at home and away- the size of the show is of no matter to them. The horses don't know or care what we spent on entries. If they did, why is their hoof in the checkbook anyways?
I also find that I enjoy having competition. I am not thrilled about a blue ribbon when I am the only horse in the class. I like having other people and horses in the ring, pushing me in a way, to do my best and not accept anything less (from me or my horse), even if it is a schooling show. When there are several horses in the ring, I may be excited about placing second or third even. If it is one of the horses first few times in the ring, you bet.
No matter the level of show you attend though, there will always be classes where you felt the horse did really well and the judge doesn't pin you at all. No ribbons for any classes and your horse was a total gem. What the...? There will also be classes where your horse is a complete twit, acts like an idiot and somehow you manage to be in the judges eye for the few strides it all comes together and nothing else. You will win or place well and wonder why on earth? because you blew your lead, missed your diagonals, your circles were egg shaped, transitions were terrible or whatever else you find wrong with what you did.
That's the nature of the beast though. It's all part of being an exhibitor and competitor. Some days you do well and others, well, we won't talk about them if you don't want to. It happens. Just chalk it all up as a horse show experience and work towards improving before the next one.