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Field Trip No. 003 | HTS II: Working The Steps

On March 30, the local Sport Horse Club that I am the president of, hosted our second Hunter Training Series Show, "HTS II".  Many of you probably recall the first show ("HTS I"), which was pretty fucking terrible.  I was very torn on going to the second show as my rides since the first show were very sub par and quite disappointing to say the least, but I had determined that if I could clear my head and go into it open minded, I would go for another schooling opportunity.. and I literally left it to the last possible minute to decide.

I was feeling overwhelmed when my truck was broken down and the parts arrived late, so until roughly 2:30 PM on Friday afternoon, I had no idea if I was even going to be able to haul Sierra to the arena for the show. I concluded if I couldn't haul her in on Friday and stall overnight I wouldn't take her, as I am far too busy running the show to haul her in the day of.. but alas the parts arrived, my hubby came thru and got it fixed for me, and I pulled myself off the bathroom floor at work, and subsequently out of an anxiety attack.  My hubby swapped me trucks at work so that I could take the truck and trailer straight out to where Sierra is boarded, but I decided to ride her at 'home' first rather than riding at the indoor before making a decision about the show.  I was feeling a little pressed for time, but forced myself to believe it was just a regular schooling day, and I wasn't on a time crunch.

I got to the barn and Sierra immediately looked quite fractious in her paddock.  I think it was a combination of the trailer pulling in, and who knows what else, but she was standing in one spot swishing her tail and flinging her head with pinned ears.  I tried not to read too much into it, and caught her like normal.  I took my time grooming, then took her to the indoor to school; continuing my goal of focusing on relaxation in the walk and trot.  I had a semi-frustrating 45 minute ride, and therefore I decided to strip my tack off and turn Sierra loose to do some ground work and free lunging.  She did fairly well, despite some annoying moments, and I popped on her bareback in a halter to cool her out as she had worked herself into a full body sweat.  I tend to do a lot of reflection during our cool outs, so as we meandered through the arena, I tried to reach a decision about the show.  I was feeling significantly less anxious, but still a little nervous and frustrated with how things had gone.  Ultimately, I wanted to go but I also wanted to make the right decision for my horse.  

Upon giving Sierra a thorough grooming, my indecisive brain waffled and I decided I would just take it one step at a time; besides, hauling into the facility didn't necessarily mean I needed to compete, right?  It was settled, Step #1: Haul to the arena and stable over night.  If she was still standing in the morning and seemed relatively okay, we would progress to Step #2.

We arrived at the arena, and unlike last time, Sierra was an absolute LUNATIC in the stall.  She was in the same barn (although different stall) than last time, and she spent the first three hours circling, whinnying, and biting the walls.  I was mortified, upset, and developed some very adventurous ideas on all the ways I would like to murder her.  I literally had to take a break and leave the barn, because I couldn't handle looking at her.  Another anxiety attack would surely put me over the edge, so I busied myself with show preparations as other riders were getting their horses tucked away for the night.  I had full intentions of bathing Sierra that evening but I had to walk away from her for a while.  At one point, I strongly considered loading her right back up and throwing in the towel, but I forced myself to see Step #1 through.  By the time I left the arena on Friday Evening around 9 PM, she had settled a little but was still not her usual, relaxed self.  I hung up her mash, gave her an extra flake, said goodnight and went home fully expecting to come back to a coliced, injured, or mentally fried horse in the morning.

Much to my surprise, when I walked into the barn at 6:45 AM, Sierra was laying down.  Startled, she jumped up, but looked well rested, happy to see me and eager for her breakfast.  Unfortunately for her, I decided to take advantage of her empty belly and give her a dose of Omeprazole - an ulcer medication that my Vet gave me after HTS I, however I haven't started her on it as she's currently free fed on a round bale and it's not nearly as effective if they have food in their stomach, though I did sneak her a small treat afterwards.  I picked her stall, and headed to the indoor across the parking lot to begin the show prep as my committee members were beginning to roll in, hoping Sierra would go back to sleep.

I went back to the barn just before 8 to give Sierra her breakfast, and I decided that we were going to proceed to Step #2: Ride in the Warm Up.  Once the courses were set and all our 'morning tasks' were complete, I hauled my tack in and brought Sierra over to the main arena.  I had already brushed her free of shavings and snarls, and I took advantage of being the president and went into the arena a little earlier than the scheduled warm up.  She was quite relaxed as we hand walked around, and within minutes I had hopped on and began walking around.  She eyed up some of the boxes as if to ask curiously, "are we jompin mahm?!" but settled into my requests and although she felt a little flat, I allowed her to stay there if she was happy and compliant.  Shortly after mounting, the ring was open for Warm Up and 6 others entered the arena.  Sierra became slightly more tense, but remained ridable, and with only one small spook when a large draft cross blew his nose, she did not care at all about the crowds or other horses near her.  I was very surprised, but chose to dismount before the remaining 5 riders mounted up for the Warm Up, and decided to proceed to Step #3: Ride the Walk/Trot Under Saddle Classes.

I removed Sierras bridle and tied her up to the rails to help my crew get organized for the first class; Hunter In Hand.  The Hunter In Hand class is tied to the Walk/Trot Division, but I did not enter it in HTS I or II, as doing so would make me eligible for the Walk/Trot Division High Point - something I didn't feel was fair given mine and Sierras past experience.. In hind sight, my greedy side wishes I had, as I would currently be in the lead for the Year End Award, but there were more important tasks at hand.  White the In Hand was under way, I bridled back up and made my way to the in-gate.  Unfortunately at this show there were only two other people in the W/T Under Saddles, and they happened to be my friends two little girls on their incredibly adorable ponies.  While I felt bad competing against them, I took solace in the fact that Sierra LOVES ponies and the small class size was very welcoming given her explosiveness last time, though I did worry if she kicked out the kids heads would be right in her line of fire.  Although feeling like a robber if things went well, I told myself not to feel too guilty because if Sierra was anything like HTS I, those kiddo's would kick my ass.

While the girls threw their saddles back on after the In Hand, I mounted up and began walking around the ring while they got prepared to get on, and shortly after the first class had begun.  The flat classes went fairly fast as our Volunteer Judge moved things along quite quickly, and while Sierra is far from an English Pleasure horse at shows right now, she pinned 1st.  Looking back, the score card says "high frame, but nice rhythm" and I suppose against two little ponies it is a bit of a shoe-in win.  Sierra was quite flat and lack-lustre, but I chose to allow that as a means of keeping her happy.  I frequently pet and reassured her, and while she did feel a little tight on some of the short sides, I did my best to remain fluid and positive - which she responded to well this time.  Our second class was Basic Seat in the W/T Division, and we also pinned first. Sierra felt a little less tolerable in this class and gave one sassy, small head toss but she was still MUCH more ridable than HTS I, so I chose to call it a day, cherish the progress and scratch the Hack Division.  She felt like she was actually trying to keep her poop in a group, and ending on a positive note was far more important to me than risking it all.  As we dismounted, I congratulated the girls on a job well done.  I offered my ribbons to their mom if she wanted to give them to the kids, but she said "Absolutely not! They need to learn how to lose; they can't win just because they're cute!  And besides, this gives them something to aspire towards."  Secretly, I was thrilled with my double-reds, even though the competition was lacking, they symbolize much bigger accomplishments to me.

I have never met a mare who wanted a baby more than Sierra does, I swear to god.  She looooves the littles.
After dismounting, I pulled my tack and took Sierra back to her stall.  I gave it another quick pick, topped up her water, gave her more hay, and a big hug.  I know this journey is worth being on even though sometimes it may not feel that way, and every day I am so grateful for the opportunities I have and the horses that are in my life.  I look forward to the days where Sierra becomes the horse who is brilliant at shows and really 'turns it on', but I know we need to wade cautiously and confidently through the tidal waters before we reach the smooth seas. Many of our hardships are just a bump in the road but those bumps make the victories that much sweeter, and while it's easy to lose sight of that in a moment of dissatisfaction, it's crucial to reflect on later, no matter how big or small the victory may seem.

My Saddle Fitter had a booth at the show and she took my saddle home to press and adjust it, so we are currently just doing some light rides until I have it back. In addition, I noticed some things I don't love about Sierras hind feet, so I reached out to my farrier and he asked me to bring her over later this week so we can correct them.  We will be putting shoes on sooner than planned, so at least this means I will be able to road ride again! Our Club has another show on the first weekend in May and I am hoping to ride in it, but it's currently not confirmed.  If I do, my plan is to haul Sierra in on Friday again and stall overnight in preparation of doing the Intro A & B tests on Saturday morning. Truthfully, I hate riding the W/T tests but at this point that appears to be our best bet. I know Sierra is capable of more at home, but things seem to fall apart at the show so I would like to keep things as simple as possible.  There are also lessons with the judge the day before the show starts, and I am loosely considering taking one just for funsies - but we will see where my finances are!


  1. You guys did great!! Proud of you for going, and double proud of Sierra for holding her eggs in her brain-basket :) Onwards and upwards - excited for what is next!!

  2. Good job! So much to be proud of and I loved your approach on just literally taking it one step at a time.

    1. Thank you! It goes against every bone in my body to 'fly by the seat of my pants', but it really paid off!


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