Santo's first big show
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Thursday, August 23, 2012 07:18 AM
As show date started to loom on a horizon I realized I felt pressured to do well. I started to pick on Santo and get after him for little imperfections thinking I need to fix everything. Luckily, I caught myself very quickly and paused and thought: "This is not a good way to prepare for the show. No show how big it will be should come between me and my horse's training. We have been working on many things and working hard. The show will reveal how good we are." This was very helpful to go back to being normal and enjoy the work we do together. I did stop jumping him couple weeks before show to give myself more days for preparation. However, I was still hacking once a week.
Thursday We arrived at Amberlea Meadows around 3 pm, the show was to begin Friday morning. Horses, Santo and Hablador, 3-year-old Andalusian stallion, who belongs to Christa Peterson, were given stalls near the side entrance and we were the only ones at the beginning of the far isle. I liked that a lot. This gave us extra space for hay and shavings, not much traffic to disturb horses and easy access to outside. After horses settled in I took Santo to indoor arena for a ride. He was super - keen to to go and not really spooky or excited about mirrors or strange horses. I didn't even have to lunge him. We worked for 30 minutes enjoying big ring and mirrors (me, of course :)) and finished on a good supple and round canter. I felt very good about tomorrow.
Christa and our mutual friend Stacey who trailered horses decided to camp out at the showgrounds. They became my invaluable grooms and helpers. Only by the end of the show I would realize how much they contributed to our successful showing.
Friday My first ride was 9:30 am. I calculated that I need to start braiding just before 8 am. My plan was to braid him and take him for a quick lunge then get ready and have about 30 minutes for a warm-up. I knew he would be restless after a night in a new place and standing still for braiding is hard for him. However, to my amusement, I didn't execute the plan. For some reason I thought I am out of time and need to get ready. Well, as soon as I was in the saddle I knew it was a mistake not to lunge :) I felt like I am sitting on a bomb. I sent my husband for a lunge line, dismounted and let him rip around me in a fast canter for 5 minutes. After that he could work.
The test was inside. I liked that a lot. Santo is a bizarre horse. He grew in a big pasture in South Dakota, I do not have indoor arena and still he feels so comfortable in any indoor arena I take him to. Of course, even though he didn't spook from anything, as any young horse he wanted to see things and would get very distracted near entrance. Overall I was pleased and the judge liked him. We got 66% The second test was much later because the show was moved inside due to footing issues. It was a disaster. First of all my warm-up was too long, he got tired and bored. Second, he wanted to pee and I didn't know about it. During out test he didn't halt nor at the beginning, neither at the end, the judge called out to us after we finished: "Teach your horse to halt!" I was rolling my eyes, I never had issues with halts, Santo is not that type of horse, he is not fidgety. During the ride, I had to work so hard to keep him focused on me I forgot where to go :) We got 61%. After the test I was furious. I took him to the warm-up ring and asked him to halt he wouldn't, we battled for couple minutes until I got quiet halt for 2 seconds and I got off. In his stall he peed for a minute and moaned. Poor beast! I felt his pain and realized this is why he didn't halt! I had a new plan for Saturday...
Saturday Again my first test was around 9:20. This time after braiding I took him for a walk and run with him in the warm-up ring, it was still empty. Santo was curious but calm and running together was great. I enjoyed it and felt much better and calmer myself. When I got to warm-up I only had 20 minutes left before the test. It was plenty. Santo felt good and drilling him would not do us any good. I showed inside and Santo did very well, he was more focused, stayed forward and on the aids, we got 67%. Click here to watch it on Youtube. At the Gold level show a steward has to check your tack after each ride. I kept forgetting about it :). Good thing she was right at the entrance and literally, she stopped us for the check every time. Otherwise, I would leave and get eliminated.
Second test was outside and Santo started looking at the horses in nearby paddock, calling to them. He was so distracted I had to tap him with the whip for canter transition, he just wasn't listening at all. I was sure we would get a low score. To my surprise it was 65.8%. I guess it looked better than it felt.
Sunday Sunday morning I took him for a walk and he didn't need any trotting, he didn't need much time for a warm-up neither, he was tired and quiet. For my first warm-up I thought 15 minutes would work. However, I could go earlier due to scratches and I did. My warm-up was just 5 minutes and we cantered one circle and walked to the outside show ring. He made only one mistake, picked up the wrong lead to the left. But unfortunately, it screwed up the transition mark, the circle mark and lowered collective marks at the end. We ended up with 61.4%. May be I should have cantered more in my warm-up...
For the second test I came to the warm-up 5 minutes before my test. It was outside again. I could feel he was tired and I had to really work on keeping him focused and with me. But the judge liked his work, and she said we have improved through the tests. I thanked her for everything and told her I learned so much from the whole experience. We got 65.8% for the last test. And we got overall championship which means we received the highest combined score out of three days in three tests that were marked as championship tests for Training Level. It was like a cherry on top. I knew we didn't have a lot of competition, only 7 riders in our category. However, I was very proud of Santo. This was his first 3-day show with rides twice a day and 24 hour stall boarding in between. He really rose to the occasion.

One of the hardest things to do at the show is to manage your horse's form, focus, attitude and energy level. It changes so much from day to day and it can affect his performance a lot. Knowing your horse and gaining the experience through attending the shows will be the way to learn how to deal with it. Another important thing is not to forget to take everything with a sense of humor. Horses are horses! Dressage is subjective sport. If you start taking it all too seriously ( I have a tendency to do that :)) you may stop having fun and become too stressed. That will not help your horse by all means :)
The last but not least. I want to thank from the bottom of my heart Stacey, Crista and Andrey, my husband. For taking such good care of me and horses, making my life sooo much easier at the show and thus helping us achieve good results. Couple of my students came out to cheer and help. It was very nice to have friends rooting for us and reminding me to pause and breathe. It is amazing how a calm friendly encouragement can help ease the tension that slowly builds up inside. I feel very fortunate that I had this wonderful support team at the show. I couldn't have done it without them!
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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