Baby's First Show

I've been taking things slow with Runkle. I'm not in a hurry, he's so young yet, and I want him to be restarted really correctly and not be burned out or scared. Some people might be frustrated by this, but the last horse I leased I spent 3 months just walking and trotting so I'm no stranger to patience. I find that the more patient you are the more the horse will pay you back.

I'm lucky enough to ride somewhere that has four in-house shows a year so I have the opportunity to ride in a dressage ring in front of a registered judge and practice. The last show of the season is usually the first full weekend in November so I tentatively 'aimed' Runkle at it. There's not a ton of atmosphere at these shows, but there is a warm up area and a mix of green horses and riders learning the ropes.

Runkle was very quiet and well behaved from the time I brought him in from the field until he was fully tacked. I had given myself a lot of time to warm up, figuring worst case scenario I'd just walk him around.

I'm glad I left myself that much time, because boy did I need it.

Warm up was 'busy', for a Bit O Woods show. There were four horses quietly warming up in the grassy area next to the indoor arena, at various stages of warmup. He saw the other horses, heard them cantering around, and his poor baby mind exploded. When I got on I could feel his heart pounding against my calves.

I'm not sure why, but I wasn't afraid in a situation that would've had me high tailing it back to the trailer for sure. I didn't feel the burn of shame as people ran to get out of his way when I lost steering control and veered all over the warm-up like a drunk driver trying to make it to Taco Bell before it closes.

I just kept asking him to go forward over and over and when he finally did he got lots of pats. I did have to dismount a few times; at one point he hurtled backwards towards the arena drag and my feet hit the ground before I think he even registered what was happening. And again when I heard my trainer shout at me to jump off while he casually moonwalked dangerously close to a Cadillac.

A Cadillac can't stop me because I'm a smooth criminal

I hand walked him awhile and I didn't feel frustrated so much as a little sad at the prospective loss of my entry fee. But luckily the home shows are really cheap, so really the experience was worth it even if we never made it into the ring. After fifteen minutes of handwalking and doing a little ground work he seemed to remember he was a riding horse and I was his rider, so I got back on. He was good at the walk at ten minutes until my test. I asked for a little trot probably forty five seconds before I went in the ring and he did that too.

I decided to wing it. Worst case scenario: he'd get tangled up in the chain and drag me out of the arena screaming by my feet.

The familiarity of the indoor and quietness of being alone settled him. The bell to mark the start of my test didn't bother him, nor did the chains and potted plants. I warned the judge that he was young and might not have all his mental faculties together so she wouldn't tut disapprovingly if I had to leap off.

It wasn't his best flatwork, not by a long shot, but he did each movement I asked in the order that I asked it. What impressed me the most was his ability to calm down and listen to me after becoming unglued. And even his unglued is more tame than most horses. He never tried to leave the zipcode or do improvise any airs above the ground. He just did his best Michael Jackson impression into unfortunately placed solid objects and innocent passers-by.

Excuse me I don't do dressage. I must leave.

After the test I continued riding him around the warm up area. I sat on him and watched some of the other students jump in the outdoor arena. Runkle stood calmly if not a little impatiently, watching other people jump big boy jumps and warm up in crunchy, loud fallen leaves. The show photographer got such sweet pictures of him anyway, because his face is so cute he can't take a bad picture.

In the end we got second place (out of two, but I won't tell him that). And the ribbon could've been any color but I'm glad we got one. I am so proud that both of us went in there and got it done. I'm happy he's learning to trust me and I'm proud that I can keep myself together even when my horse isn't. I have tons of ribbons from competing all over the east coast, but I feel like this little red last place ribbon is my favorite, and the first one that's really mine.


  1. lol i giggled at the 'you're a math major - that's neither a circle nor 20m' caption. oooh, and the collectives: 'socks not super white.' hahaha.

    way to stick with it and be the steady calming force despite his best efforts to melt down. like you say, horses have an uncanny ability to repay patience :)

    1. omg that circle... halfway through i looked over and realized i was a good 6 feet and i nearly gave my circle a weird spike just so it 'looked' 20 meters but i decided it didnt matter in the long run anyway ;P


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