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Sierra In Training | The Horse Show Recap

When I left off in my last post, I decided to end my Week 2 update early as Sierra was heading to a show with CA on Friday and I wanted to devote an entire post to the first outing of the year.

On Friday afternoon CA loaded up her trailer along with two other horses and headed to the show. We had booked a schooling slot on Friday so Sierra could get accustomed with the rings and get settled in her stall for the night.  CA's plan for their ride on Friday was to keep things relaxed and 'easy', and her brief report following her ride indicated that it went very well.  She said Sierra was excellent, relaxed and settled into her stall happily, though she was wary of the water. CA was very optimistic about the following day, and said Sierra seemed to be on her absolute best behavior.

The update was bitter sweet. I was wholeheartedly prepared to be told that there is nothing wrong with my horse at shows and that I am the problem.  On one hand, at least we had an answer - but on the other, it meant I had a lot of work ahead of ME.

Due to lower entries, the show committee decided to push the shows start time by 30 minutes.  My husband and I had a really busy day ahead of us and admittedly, I wasn't by my phone very often.  I tried to check in when I could, but I knew Carol Ann was busy as well, and wouldn't have much time to chat so when the initial report came in I wasn't quick to respond. I was anxiously waiting the promised video, but alas being tied up in the city with my husband didn't leave me much time to wait by the phone for the videos to arrive.  The initial text indicated Sierra was "nutty AF" and washed out half way through the warm up.  "Washing out" is a typical race horse term in which the horses are in a frothy sweat from nerves as opposed to exercise.  She also said she wasn't interested in standing still, which is quite odd considering that is typically her strong point at shows.  CA felt that perhaps because the holding pen was a little small with a lot of traffic around it and the announcer booth behind her, that this attributed her to struggle to stand quietly.

As the day went on I found a little more time to chat with Carol Ann about how the show went.  She had time to review the videos herself and reflect on her ride now that she was home for the day and overall, she was really satisfied with how things went.  Her first class was a flat class, and some confusion arose when the announcer called for Canter, then began yelling over the PA system to NOT canter - by this point, CA had already cued Sierra to Canter then had to immediately bring her back to a trot which frustrated, confused and frazzled Sierra. She was already quite tense, but being told to go then stop wasn't ideal.  In addition, CA felt if she could Canter Sierra it would have really helped her settle, so she was bummed about that.  Regardless, she pinned 3rd in this class (out of 3 - spoiler, there were no exciting ribbons and the competition was literally two tiny children, which is fine) despite some bobbles.

The following 3 classes were Over Fence classes. It was only a trot pole division, and initially CA planned to Canter the courses and incorporate the changes she had been working on, however given that Sierra's ridability was circling the drain all day, she decided to stick to trot and address that as best she could despite being in a show setting.  Unfortunately due to CA being busy getting horses and students ready, she memorized her courses early, and was first to go in the ring.  This meant that when they changed the course for the second trip and didn't notify the riders, CA didn't know and unfortunately went off course and was eliminated.  CA felt incredibly terrible, unprofessional and apologized profusely and offered to refund me the fee for that class ($25).  I told her not to worry about it, it happens.  While it wasn't entirely the shows fault, its really not the end of the world to me and I appreciated her apology.  Perhaps I would care more if we actually went for the ribbons, but the sole purpose was to get Sierra in the rings.  She pinned third in her first trip over the poles.

The last class went relatively well, and was definitely her best round.  Sierra was very tense and sported that lovely (i'm lying, it's awful) dropped back, not tracking up, hoof-flinging trot riddled with tension for the majority of the classes, however there were moments where Sierra had a lovely flow where she showed some relaxation, especially around the in-gate.  She pinned 2nd (out of 3) in the last trip, and the judge had some nice comments about Sierra as well as how CA piloted her around some tough rides.  CA was really happy that despite her nerves, she improved as the show went on.  Even though the show was really expensive (to me, anyway) to attend, part of me wished there was another affordable show while Sierra was down with CA.  She agreed, but unfortunately the only other show that would be happened on the same weekend. Who does that?!

- Pukey trot - 

Overall - we got exactly what we went for.  I can explain to CA about how Sierra acts at shows until i'm blue in the face, but until she experiences it herself its really not beneficial information to her.  CA now has a very good view of the issues I have discussed, and she feels i'm on the right track with just trying to put miles on her at shows, which unfortunately will be tricky this year but such is life.  The show has given CA a better insight as to what I have been working through, and as such she can help me, help her.  I asked her what her thoughts were - we learned last week that Sierra has a bit of a 'streak' in her that presents very similarly to how she behaves at shows, however CA and I are in agreement that her anxiety at shows is just that - anxiety. She's not mad, she's not trying to get out of work, she's just nervous AF but slowly getting a tiny bit better each time.  I joked with CA that maybe by the time Sierra is 15 we can go to a show and maybe have a glimmer of hope at actually winning something, instead of the only goal being to stay on and not cry.

I can't say i'm surprised with how things went, however i'm still relatively satisfied. Had Sierra acted perfectly, we wouldn't know if it was a fluke or if i'm the reason Sierra reacts the way she does.  If she was horrendous, I would also feel terrible especially if CA came off or got hurt.  In other words, it went as expected, which is a good thing.  I feel it was money well spent, and now CA has about 7 weeks ahead of her to work with Sierra on things that will improve her training and ridability, and hopefully some of that will transfer over to show settings.  CA was happy that at the end of the show, Sierra was still very happy and in a good mood.  She wasn't angry or grouchy and didn't pull anything dirty and CA is looking forward to the weeks ahead.  She reported that she stabled well but hated the water and wouldn't drink much, but when she got back 'home' she took a huge drink and was happy to be back out with her friends.  

Sierra gets tomorrow (Sunday) off to relax in the field with her buds before she's back to work on Monday.  CA's plan for this week is to stretch her out after the show, hit some trails, and continue to push the envelope to see if she can induce some of that anxiety and then work through it.

Headed home.  She had a nap in her stall after the show, which makes me happy.


  1. I am sorry that things didn't go better. I find that Carmen gets nervous too. Now when I show I give her ulcer meds before the show and during. It does make a difference for her.

    1. I have tried several concoctions to no avail thus far, but things are slowly getting better, so maybe one day!!

  2. Yeah I agree with you in a situation like the training one you are in, you definitely want your horse to present it's "normal" problems so the professional can help you work through it even if we love our horses and want them to really put their best foot forward! Glad that Sierra was the right mix of trying to do what was asked but also exhibiting the problems that cropped up when you showed her.

  3. I went to one show there years ago and my horse hated the water too :D Im glad it was a productive outing!

    1. Small world!! Glad Sierra isn't the only one who turned her nose up at it!


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