My OTTB's First Show Was Yesterday!
Sousa was in his first show yesterday. It has been exactly six months since I picked him up off the backstretch of the racetrack. It was a local schooling show and we wanted to see how he would do. (and how I would do for that matter :wink:) I am pleased to report that we pinned 5th in low hunter and 6th in pleasure hunter flat class. But it wasnt an easy day, as he was pretty tense in the ring at certain times. I would appreciate some training tips/advice on the following issues:
- So he would trot along nicely then suddenly rear up and whinny with excitement. Not sure if this is a "track flashback" but it rattled me. I would immediately ask him to circle and bring his attention back. He would be fine for a while and then do it again. I never fell or anything, but it was very unsettling;
- of course him getting tense didnt help me either. I am sure that my nervousness over his occasional spazz attacks made it worse. Whats the best way to convey "fearless leader" when you are panicked?
- We cantered in front of the judge beautifully, and as soon as he passed the viewing stand he heard a pony galloping up behind him and took off! I think he was back to the races. His back end kicked up a bit and it took some work to settle him. I was just panicked about cantering again after that. He felt like a timebomb ready to explore.
In all, we completed 6 classes and pinned in 2. He even jumped crossrails in one! My trainer thinks that we need to begin taking him to more shows, even if he isnt entered, to get him used to the environment. We also think we should lunge him before each show to "get the kicks out".
He was a handsome and flashy boy in the ring and came off very well, even if a bit unruly.
At home this guy is so calm you can't believe it. So his behavior threw me off a bit. I am worried that now I am scared to show, but I know I'll get over it. Any tips on getting the jitters out before an event? Is this something that practice will help resolve over time?
The only suggestion I would have as far as being a strong, confident leader is to pretend. I often have to drift off and pretend...like a child...that I am confident. Take a deep breath and imagine yourself as someone you admire. Preferably someone calm and confident who wouldn't be rattled by a rearing horse. For me, its my barn buddy Andy. Hes 60+ but a true hand with horses. He wouldn't let any of them rattle him. Not aggressive, just strong and steady. When I have a horse acting a fool, I pretend I am andy...sounds stupid but it works for me!
Yeah, it does sound like something that only time and exposure can fix. Do whatever you need to to stay calm and confident. He'll need a leader up there who he knows will take care of him. Don't baby him. Just do what you did at the show. Manage the situation just enough to get him through it and keep yourself safe, but then act like it never happened. Definitely take him to more shows even if you do not enter a class. There's plenty of confidence building to be done in the warm up ring. Good luck.
You were at Equilibrium!! I was there yesterday, too! Not riding, just helping out a friend :)
Ditto the other 2 posters, good job keeping your cool and keeping him focused though. It'll only get better with time :)
I have not taken my OTTB to a show yet, but I have ridden him around other horses once, and he was exactly the same. I call him 'my donkey' as he is so quiet and laid back at home. But there was one time when I was having a lesson and other people rode through the indoor to ride in the outdoor and my donkey freaked, was spinning and wanting to race again.
My advise would be to have him spend a lot of time around other horses who are being ridden. Sadly I can't do that at my current barn as it is a lesson barn for beginner riders. But expose him as much as you can to other horses, and I think your trainer is right to suggest taking him to shows without showing, but put him in a bridle rather than a halter so you have more control.
My Beau: YES, we were at Equilibrium! Did you see him in the ring? Did you see my look of terror when he bucked?!:-P
Now that I have been thinking about it for a few days, Sousa has NEVER unseated me. What I need to convince myself if this: He has consistently shown me what the "worst case scenario" is, and its always the same: a mild buck and whinny or a slight rear up and whinny, then he calms down. So why dont I just get used to it as the worst case scenario, knowing full well that I have, and CAN, handle it if it happens again.
I am assuming that if he REALLY wanted to send me flying he would, right? So, he's being playful, right? Not unusual for a former racer who is only 7. He's telling me "I feel good, mom"!
My Beau: will you be at the next hunter show in October at the same place?
No, I don't think I saw you guys. I was there in the morning while leadline was running, then I left to run a few errands and came back for the 2'ish stuff.
Not sure if I'll be at the one in October, but possibly... it's only 10 minutes from my house. Maybe I'll drag my QH down there and put him a few classes ;)
Are you going back??
Aidan was very unlike his usual relaxed mellow self at his first show, was more relaxed with a bit of lunging and a full hay bag at his second and by his third he was hardly looking at other horses.
The more you expose him the more he will chill out and get his head in the game faster. Keep going!!
Aw, you two look great together! Congrats!
I think it's a great idea if you just take him to a few more shows and let him get used to the environment before competing him more. Obviously, like most OTTBs, his mind is going back to the exciting days at the track with all the people and horses. Using a practice ring, whether it's getting off when he's too excited and leading him around on foot, or just taking it easy walk/trot in there is a great idea.
I wouldn't suggest lunging, just because it's great for strength training but most people think that it gets horses calmer--it might work like that the first couple times but after that your horse gets consistently stronger and stronger from all the lunging and it usually has the opposite effect, making your horse more energetic and ready to go.
I personally lunge my horse before every show. I don't do it to get the kicks out or anything, I do it so that he settles a bit and gets used to the surroundings. Along with lunging, he gets hand walked around the location, and gets to sniff all the "scary things". Treat it like another day at home, just relax and have fun, he'll feel it too.
In the warm up ring, take things slowly. Don't be afraid to make a circle, and work him in the circle. He'll get better with time, don't worry. Try walking for several laps, and then really trot him for awhile. Only let him canter once he has started listening to you. I would suggest entering several shows in only walk-trot classes, or walk-trot-canter as you please.
Basically just take your time and don't rush things. Maybe this show season your goal could be to successfully show with your horse being calm in all of your classes- even if it means you only show in 2 classes per show. Don't worry about the ribbons this year, they will come with time! :p
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