In only a few short months, show season will be in full swing. If this will be your horse’s first year away at a show, you might want to do some preparation by going to some of the fun shows held indoors during the winter. They usually have names like “Winter Woolies” or “Go Winter” and are very relaxed. Still, they will give you an idea how your horse will react to the many and unusual stimuli that are common at shows. Here are some things to keep in mind to make it less stressful for both of you.
Why A Good First Experience Is Important
This show will be the first in what you hope to be a long career of horse shows. You want to do your very best to ensure that this first experience is a positive one for your horse. Pushing your horse too fast or overwhelming him at his first show will only result in negativity, and your horse will then associate that negativity with future horse shows. Even if you feel that your horse can handle a lot during the first show, play it safe and keep things positive.
Get There Early
Your horse will pick up on your nerves during the show, so leave yourself plenty of time to arrive at the grounds so that you can avoid any added stress. Remember to spend time brushing up on your horse’s trailer loading skills before you actually have to load him for the show.
Once you get to the grounds, take your horse out and walk him around by hand so that he can get accustomed to the different sights, sounds, and smells. Being there early will give both of you time to settle in before you have to head into the ring.
Plan to Keep It Simple
It may be a good idea to plan on just doing a few in-hand classes with your horse during his first show outing. There will always be time to enter mounted classes later on. Regardless of what types of classes you enter, carefully monitor your horse for signs that he is getting tired, either mentally or physically, and be ready to bring his first show to an early end if needed.
In some cases, you might get your horse to the show only to discover that he is so nervous that a trip into the ring would certainly go badly. Other horses might adjust quickly to their new situation and could be ready to proceed into the ring. It will be up to you to read the signs that your horse is giving you about just how comfortable he is at the show. As much as you might want to get your horse into the ring for a few classes on his first time out, remember that your only goal should be to make the show a positive experience. Scratching a few classes and coming home without a ribbon now will pay off for you and your horse in the long run.
Remember - showing is supposed to be fun!