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Corazon Lock 08-07-2012 12:35 PM

Who's Right? Feeling a Bit Frustrated...
 
I recently went to my first rated show with my trainer and some other people experienced in horse shows. The horse show was okay and Rusty did very well, but there's some things that really bothered me about the show.

At the schooling show held a few weeks before, my horse, Rusty, got into a cement wash rack just fine. However, it was slippery, and it really freaked him out as well as me. He was slipping all over, and I know he was really panicked. I dried him off outside the rack because I thought it was a bit hazardous. When we went back this next week, Rusty would not go into the wash rack. While I knew he had to go in, I found this fear reasonable because if I were him, I'd be scared to go back in when I thought I was going to fall, too. One of the horse show moms with us totally dismissed my thinking and said, "He needs to go in. He's not going to die and has no reason to act like this."

I kind of saw the point, but at the same time, she just totally dismissed his fears as if he had no right to them. Yeah, I knew he needed to get into that wash rack, but I was pointing out that he had a reason not to. And she just acted like it was stupid. Is that right?

The other problem I had was with my normally patient trainer. She's usually really great and encouraging at home, but at the horse show, she was sort of different. Maybe it was the heat *shrug.* She wouldn't let us warm up without her, which kind of makes sense to me, except we were always late to our classes. She would tell us not to get our horses ready, and then she wanted them ready NOW. And the show officials would be calling her because her riders were up next and not at the arena gate waiting. And when we weren't going fast enough, she'd tell us to hurry up in a really annoyed voice. Would it just be easier to get our horses ready earlier?

Most of us really didn't know what to expect at our first show either or exactly what to do. Our trainer was really mad when she found a few pieces of sawdust in the our horses' tails. I knew horses had to be clean but spotless was a whole new thing to me! So the next day, I inspected Rusty's tail in his stall but had trouble due to the fact that there's sawdust everywhere. So I brought him out and was looking through his tail and his feet for sawdust. My trainer came over and was like, "He's fine, let's go!" in a really annoyed voice. I was left thinking, So it's not that important? Huh?, especially since she told us if she found sawdust on our horses we wouldn't show in the next class.

Rusty was also a little lazy at the show, and I am not the most fit person in the world. He jumped over everything, but apparently he cantered too slow. My trainer got very frustrated with me, and I felt unable to do anything. She kept getting upset because I needed more leg, and unfortunately I was out of breath halfway through my courses trying to get Rusty going. My legs were like jelly, and I just couldn't kick/nudge anymore. I tried carrying a crop to inspire Rusty, but he was still "too slow". We did like six classes a day at least in 95 degrees and upwards. I didn't decide how many classes; my trainer did. Anyway, I was to the point of tears and wasn't having fun anymore because she kept getting after me and I just felt like I couldn't give any more leg than I possibly could. I tried, but the more I tried, the more my position got worse (ie, my legs started jiggling all over, I started unconsciously driving with my seat instead of my legs). And then she got mad about that. And then at the gate she'd tell me, "Just have fun with it.", but then she'd be frustrated because we weren't riding well because my body was giving out on me. I KNOW I need to get in better shape now, but in lessons she's always telling me how much my stamina has improved and how I'm in good shape now. Guess not... I guess my point is that I wasn't out there to win, just to have fun. But it stopped being fun when my trainer got frustrated. And then before the derby, I was just exhausted trying to get Rusty to go, and my trainer was mad because I didn't hear her tell me to trot to the fence so I cantered it, and then she told me to trot it, and I had to stop for a brief second to regroup and catch my breath, and she got mad and yelled at me to hurry up. Somehow I survived the derby, by the way, after creating some big story in my head and forcing myself to believe it about someone chasing me.

On Sunday, I scratched three classes because Rusty was just really tired, and I was going to ride like 9 classes otherwise. I figured it wasn't fair to him after he'd had a great rest of the show. Two of my trainer's show horses wouldn't go over fences all weekend. Another horse that was owned by someone was refusing, too. A jumper mare had a few bad days where she wouldn't go over any jumps. And the other two jumpers either tripped or brought the whole fence down and their riders fell off. Rusty and I might not have won anything, but I felt it to be a big accomplishment that we were the only ones from our stable that got through the derby without being eliminated, and that Rusty jumped every fence at the show, even when he was tired. And this is his first big show and his first year of doing serious jumping. So I was really proud. And at the end of the show, my trainer was saying how all of us did really well. But then why was she so frustrated? She told me I was too serious when I was showing and that I needed to smile, but I couldn't smile because I wasn't having any fun. And when I told her that my legs were simply going to give out on me, she told me I needed to regroup then. But how can I regroup halfway through the course when I'm completely out of breath? She told me that I needed to stop being a passenger because Rusty would eventually stop going for me. And I don't try to be a passenger, but on the last two fences of the course, I just couldn't. Is this even normal, or am I just being wimpy?

All of this is really bothering me because I didn't really have fun showing. I was very proud of Rusty and in no way do I blame him for anything because I do believe he was giving me his all. He could have stopped at every fence like all the other horses, but he went over them because I asked. And I should tell you that he was a chronic run-outer less than six months ago. But I'm really down on myself and my riding. I just kept wondering at the show if someone more experienced could ride him better and could have trained him better. He's got a lot of stuff going for him, and while I know that horses don't feel potential or need achievement, I just started to feel like I was too bad of a rider for such a great horse. And the more my trainer got after me, the more I started to doubt myself and my riding. Rusty and I have always been the underdogs. And while I was proud he was the best behaved, I started to wonder if he was really behaved because I trained him that way or because he's just a good, honest horse. I didn't train him myself, but I got him into jumping. But I just wonder if anyone could have gotten him to jump because I'm maybe an advanced beginner, although I pretty much question that.

I guess I'm just really questioning myself as a rider. Am I really cut out to be a show rider? Is it really worth it to dress in hot attire on a super hot day to jump over some fences? Am I lazy for thinking that showing is an awful lot of work, or that bathing a horse every single day for the show is not a good thing and excessive? Is it okay to work a horse and rider to breaking point? Or am I just wimpy? Should I expect my horse to obey to perfection like everyone does?

Oh, just tell me what you think. This show changed a lot of my thoughts towards things and not in a good way necessarily. I don't even know what to think anymore. I just know this show really made me think twice about my abilities as a rider and about my trainer, too.

waresbear 08-07-2012 12:41 PM

I think the heat got to your trainer, you & the horse. Give it one more try, if you don't enjoy it the 2nd time out, then it's time to rethink the show scene.
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Corazon Lock 08-07-2012 01:02 PM

Thanks :) I really appreciate your view on things. It's hard for me to put everything into perspective still.

HorseMom1025 08-07-2012 01:03 PM

I'm a show mom. My 9 year old shows our mare AQHA and at open shows. Her trainer/coach also attends shows with us.

Shows (even fun shows) can be stressful. I try to be 150% supportive if Kitten at shows, but admit I get stressed an occasionally am short with her. Her trainer is also a little tougher at shows than she is at lessons. Afterall, shows are where she showcases her students and can be an advertisement for her training skills.

With that said, don't give up on showing just yet. What has helped us is to be very organized before the show. We know our classes and have a checklist for each class (to do'd and to haves). We have a schedule that helps, but we try hard to be flexible.

For grooming, we wash the night before the show, then use a blanket to keep Acey clean. We touch up groom each morning, but too many baths can dry out their coat.

We're in Texas, so we show in 100+ temps. Yes, heat gets to everyone. We make sure the horses and the kids stay hydrated and keep them cool with fans and misters. Kitten does not put on her show shirt and jacket until 5 minutes before her class. She wears a camisole that can go under her clothes and we just throw the rest on top...pulling it off as soon as she is done. Water on your pulse points helps too.

Good luck and don't give up. Once you get the hang of it, shows ARE fun. We love showing and look forward to shows. Even Acey seems to enjoy shows. :). Organization is key.
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Corazon Lock 08-07-2012 01:10 PM

Thank you! I felt that my trainer wasn't very organized at all, which didn't help me much lol. I almost felt it would have been easier doing it myself, but I'm at that point where I still need someone there. I tend to take a lot of things personally and overthink things. But I'm really glad you shared that. :) It makes me feel a little more hopeful!

And unfortunately, our trainer wanted us to warm up and sit in our coats and shirts. Because, trust me, I would have been putting mine on when I was in the hole!

Cacowgirl 08-07-2012 01:22 PM

Some people will never adjust to the stress of showing. It's expensive, a lot of work, & not always rewarding. I've done it in the past, but all that's long behind me now. I enjoy my horses out on the trail.

Valentina 08-07-2012 01:25 PM

Sounds like your trainer got horse show nerves, which a LOT of people do. Listing the issues you stated (some related to her) they are:
  • Trainer related Issues:
    • we were always late to our classes
    • She wouldn't let us warm-up without her
    • She would tell us not to get our horses ready, and then she wanted them ready NOW
  • Rusty was also a little lazy at the show
    • due to heat, # classes, etc
  • I am not the most fit person in the world
    • wasn't having fun anymore
    • I'm really down on myself
So to fix this I suggest the following:
#1 Talk to trainer. Tell her that as this was your first show you found you didn't like it because:
  • You felt rushed.
    • Ask her how many minutes before class starts should you start preparing your horse?
      • For myself I groom the horse (brush, eliminate sawdust in mane and tail, clean hooves, braid, etc.) while horse is eating breakfast, so all I need to do before I ride is a light brush over body, fly spray, then tack up.
      • Best to verify horse hasn't rolled about an hour before your first class. If so you'll now have a chance to fix it without being rushed.
      • Time yourself to see how long it takes you to brush/ prepare your horse to be "perfect" for the show AND separately how long it takes you to tack up the horse AND how long it takes you to get yourself ready (hair tucked neatly away, dirt cleaned off hands, face, clothes, show clothes on, etc.
      • Write times down and put with show clothes so you're ready for next show, then give yourself another 5-10 minutes on show day in case something goes wrong.
    • Ask her - how soon before the class starts does she want you in the warm-up ring? Then make certain you are there on time or about 5 minutes early so you don't feel rushed.
  • You and horse ran out of steam, explain that you feel that part of it was the heat. .
    • Tell her in the future that for shows you do not want to show in more than 6 classes (possibly less if the heat is extremely bad) and would like to help her select which classes you would do best and feel most comfortable riding in. Then remind her of that before the next show and make certain she sits down with you and you both decide and DOCUMENT which classes you plan to ride in.
    • Ask her how you can increase your riding fitness level for yourself and Rusty. Then start on a fitness plan for both of you.
  • Lastly - tell her you did NOT have fun.
    • Part of that was the "rushing" which should be resolved if she and you follow the advice above, part of that was being tired - which should be resolved if you increase your & Rusty's fitness,
    • and part was your performance.
      • To fix the performance issue (where she said you were too slow) ask her EVERY lesson - is this too fast/slow/just right? Thus you are reminding her of what she expects during a show and by asking both of you will set your expectations (and the horses) for the next show and that should eliminate her non-positive comments.
    • Ask her what she would suggest you do to help be more prepared for future shows to help make it more fun.
Having done all that both you and she know you have things to work on - and her getting herself prepared will help reduce her stress as well as your own.

HorseMom1025 08-07-2012 01:29 PM

Now that you have your first show under your belt, you have a better idea of what happens. There is nothing to stop you from getting yourself organized (our trainer is awesome, but not organized ;)...so, to reduce our stress, we organize ourselves.

Some lists you should consider
Bathing - Supplies
- hose
- sprayer
- bucket
- Sponges
- Body wash
- Towels
- blanket/cooler
Grooming - Supplies
- hoof pick
- rubber curry
- body brush
- clippers (charged!)
- braid bands
- show shine
- hoof polish
Grooming Checklist
- clip
- pick feet
- curry body
- brush body
- brush mane / tail
- braid
- etc
English Tack Horse
- saddle
- saddle blanket
- bridle
English Clothes Rider
...

You get the idea. I have our lists on the computer. Before each show, I make a show binder with all my lists, the show program, a list of Kitten's classes, Acey's paperwork (coggins, registration), show patterns. That Binder is my bible during the show and really helps us keep up with everything. :)
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Corazon Lock 08-07-2012 01:45 PM

Thanks for all the advice you guys, I so appreciate it! I guess I have always dreamed of going to horse shows and doing them - and the first time out at a big show wasn't what I expected. I felt a lot of sense of accomplishment between me and Rusty, and it was fun in the beginning, but the more frustrated my trainer became, the less fun I was having. I knew the 3 girls I was with weren't having much fun, but that was because their horses were not behaving: Hamilton, seasoned show horse, was running out of a lot of jumps, Gracie, usually halfway calm horse that's been to a few shows, was bucking and wouldn't jump for beans and crashed into jumps, and Sunny, owned by a pretty good rider, kept having refusal problems. But they were all having horse problems, and I really wasn't. Sure, Rusty was slow, but he was jumping - he's never seen a jump so decorated, he's never been to a rated horse show, he's never jumped a course outside, he's never done a hunter derby, he's never jumped the arena fence - he was so good. And I wanted to focus more on that than on how slow he was going or how he doesn't always get the correct lead - I guess that's stuff that we need to work on at home, but I went knowing that Rusty has problems with his right lead, and he picked it up more consistently than he ever has. There were a lot of small accomplishments at that show which I was very proud of, and I guess my trainer kind of brought all those proud feelings of my horse down because I felt she was expecting perfection. And Rusty isn't near perfect - for Pete's sake, I'd call him a green jumper! - but he did SO WELL. I just wanted everyone to be proud of Rusty and where he came from. I know my riding isn't anything special or even good, but I guess I just think the world of my horse. :)

HorseMom1025 08-07-2012 02:00 PM

You should feel proud! Y'all did great!

We show because it allows Kitten and Acey to test themselves as a team against other riders her age/skill. If Kitten and Acey both do their best, we're happy. Kitten has placed dead last and we were thrilled because she stayed in control at a canter. Sure, they were on the wrong lead, but cantering around the arena with strange horses and remaining in control was a major accomplishment!

You have a great attitude and you and Rusty will go far if you keep that wonderful partnership going. Trust yourself, trust Rusty, no matter what anyone says, you know you did well in your heart. Keep reminding yourself of all that you did accomplish and be proud. :)
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