View Full Version : How do you know when your greenie is ready for their first show?

Sep. 10, 2009, 01:45 PM
My OTTB has been in consistent under-saddle work for about 6 weeks now. He is walk-trotting consistently, brakes are good 95% of the time, starting to canter. He is generally a good egg, smart and sane, was on the track for 7 years so he's seen a LOT in his lifetime.

A fellow boarder with a more advanced OTTB is thinking about taking her horse to a schooling show in the next month or two, and has asked if I want to tag along. I found a local h/j schooling show next month that has walk/trot and walk/trot/individual canter classes--perfect. They even have a "show clothing optional" clause--great, since I no longer own a coat or boots. :lol:

So, how do I know if we're ready to go? Are there certain "milestones" we should pass, or certain tasks we can accomplish before we attempt it? I am not the bravest rider and I do not want to overface myself or my horse....but it would be good exposure for both of us.

Advice? Opinions? TIA.

Sep. 10, 2009, 01:49 PM
Do it! I took my greenie (who has not seen much) to a little jumper show to do the trot poles. We didn't have to canter, so it didn't matter that she only sort of did. As long as it's a schooling show, go, have fun, and enjoy.

At this point though, I wouldn't spend tons of money on it. I think the entire show cost me $20.

Sep. 10, 2009, 01:57 PM
I'm not sure I will be of much help..my guy is no where near ready to be competitive but I want to start taking him to shows, just to get expirence. So he gets used to being in the ring with other horses(He hates it) and gets used to being out of the barn. This way when we are ready to be competitive, he is ready to be in the ring! So I say go for it and have fun!

Sep. 10, 2009, 02:01 PM
Honestly, you won't know whether he's ready to go to the show until you're back home again and no one died. ;) There is no telling whether your horse is ready, really, and the show you found sounds perfect. Chances are good that you will be more nervous that he will.

My only word of advice for you is to try and get him in a group lesson situation once or twice so he is used to going along quietly with other horses in front of and passing him.

Sep. 10, 2009, 02:11 PM
Honestly, you won't know whether he's ready to go to the show until you're back home again and no one died. ;)

wise words ; )

We had one who was quiet as a mouse at home. He'd been off the track for at least a year, maybe more, owned by a 12 year old novice boy although still getting regular training rides to keep him two steps ahead of his kid. The pair was WTC and jumping cross rail courses at home so signed on for the walk trot and ground poles division at a low key schooling show.

The gelding was a bit bug eyed coming out of his show stall so I got on first. After a quiet hack to the warm up ring we entered the schooling area, or should I say attempted to enter. Group lessons at home, with everyone going the same direction, no problem. Horses going every which way at all different paces, end of the world for poor little Billy. He literally cantered backwards into the woods lining the warm up decided this was his safe place and had to be physically dragged out

Sep. 10, 2009, 02:17 PM
There is a big difference between "ready to go as an educational exercise" and "ready to be competitive".

There are plenty of people who take a green horse to the show without even taking it in a class.

As long as the horse isn't going to have a melt down with the activity at the show (and some OTTBs over react to the PA system), it is ready.

If he is overall accepting of the activity of the barn, then take him to the show. Just be prepared for a range of responses.

Sep. 10, 2009, 02:38 PM
Honestly, you won't know whether he's ready to go to the show until you're back home again and no one died. ;) There is no telling whether your horse is ready, really, and the show you found sounds perfect. Chances are good that you will be more nervous that he will.

My only word of advice for you is to try and get him in a group lesson situation once or twice so he is used to going along quietly with other horses in front of and passing him.

GAH--that is my biggest fear.....I have visions of him getting loose and running around wreaking havoc.....of him tossing me in a ring of 20 horses....of not getting him on the trailer to go home......

I groomed for a VERY long time as a kid/young adult but the only shows I participated in were on-site schooling and B shows. So I am not super-experienced as a show rider or even with trailering, schooling rings etc.

The barn I'm in doesn't do group lessons....but we have ridden in company several times....I think the most was 5 horses at once in a small indoor. So far his biggest reaction is too slow down if another horse comes too close. I've also ridden him during other people's jumping lessons.....he is fine with everything except the jumps falling down. :lol:

SprinklerBandit--the whole show, including hauling, stall, fees etc. would probably cost me less than $100. The show is the weekend after we close on our new house so believe me, there's no major cash flow for showing at the moment!

ETA: Janet--good point. First and foremost I am looking for an educational experience; going in an actual class is not the top priority. I suppose I could enter the 2 walk-trot classes and if he just can't hack it, well, it's only a $20 loss.

Right on Target
Sep. 10, 2009, 03:04 PM
I say go for it! Sometimes it is hard to tell what exactly they'll do. I think mine behaves best if I go alone and not with another horse from the barn.

For what it is worth- I trailered a friend's OTTB to some lessons and he was DEAD quiet. Didn't mind horses going all over the ring around him. Fell asleep waiting for our turn to jump. That quiet.

At the three events I've been to with him, he was a prancing machine for two of them and very pleasant for one. He drug me around the ring at the canter for the first one. I thought my arms might fall off after three classes in a row.

Second event- jousting clinic. He was nice and quiet.

Our third event was a crosscountry schooling show and he was a spaz to warm up (prancing sideways into other people), but he quieted down after going around the course and getting a little adrenaline out.

Sep. 10, 2009, 03:41 PM
I took my horse to her first and second show just to go hack around, stand near the gates, and school in the rings. She had lots of chance to take it all in before dealing with the pressure of schooling in a busy ring then being alllllllllll by her lonesome in that big scary ring full of strange scary jumps. She falls asleep ringside now :yes: it's her happy place.

Sep. 10, 2009, 03:43 PM
It really can't hurt just to go and try.

I have an OTTB who is going very well at home, and I have taken him to two so far.

The first time was really just to see how his brain was. He got to hang out on the trailer, hand walk around the show, lunge a little, and that was it. Very low key with no expectations.

He went to another show the beginning of August and he was so good, I got on him. A little walk and trot in the warm up ring. He was good, ended on a good note, and that was it.

I plan on taking him to one on the 20th to actually do a flat class. We will see how it goes;)

Good luck with your guy and let us know how it goes!!

BK to some
Sep. 10, 2009, 03:46 PM
try riding him in groups a few times till he can be settled. make sure you can get him past scary objects. will he stand tied to the trailer or be ok in strange stabling?

i would wait till you know for sure you can canter safely and confidently, because you just never know when you may find yourself at a canter, even if you are only in a w/t class hehehee.

i took my newest 4yo ottb to his first show in early august, didn't sent pre-entries, didn't even expect to show him, just hang out, but he was so good we showed and jumped and everything. he was much better over fences than the flat classes though. so go with very low expectations, and see what you get!

Sep. 10, 2009, 03:49 PM
Consider taking him for the experience, with no real plan to actually show. Lead him around, let him eat grass, hop on if he looks calm, hack around the grounds, and toss him in a class or two if he is taking it all in stride. Do as much or as little as you feel comfortable with, taking his reaction into account. No pressure! Just have fun. Approach it more as an "outing" than "his first show."

Sep. 10, 2009, 04:21 PM
Honestly, you won't know whether he's ready to go to the show until you're back home again and no one died.

There is a big difference between "ready to go as an educational exercise" and "ready to be competitive".

Excellent things to keep in my mind, and I say go for it if you feel ok riding him in public.

I took my OTTB to his first show in the fall just to hang. He was pretty good considering (I think he only w-t-c & maybe x's then?), but golf carts completely freaked him out. So we parked one next to his stall for the 2 overnights. :lol: Come next spring he was 100% better than he was at the previous outing (he showed this time) & the next outing 2 months later he was even 100% more improved (showing & good ribbons). He was the type of horse the outings were good for him & he came away so much more improved for the experience each time.

And for what's worth--all the things you are worried about happening can happen even years later after attending many many shows. :winkgrin:

Sep. 10, 2009, 04:27 PM
Honestly, you won't know whether he's ready to go to the show until you're back home again and no one died. ;) There is no telling whether your horse is ready, really, and the show you found sounds perfect. My only word of advice for you is to try and get him in a group lesson situation once or twice so he is used to going along quietly with other horses in front of and passing him.

i agree! when i did my first show in april with my green bean, i didnt feel ready for beginner hunter. i told my trainer that if i tried to show, i reserve the right to scratch! and she said fine but what is the worst that will happen? your horse rears, bucks, throws you. (my horse is dead quiet) she made me feel silly. so i went to the show and showed. and it went great. if you dont try you will not know. i find alot of times the horses surprise you in a good way. it was the same way when 2 shows later my trainer said move up to the 2.6ft. i completely did not feel ready. and to my surprise/ horror they had a triple in the schooling hunters! first show at 2.6ft! but one again my horse surprised me and quietly marched down the triple without a fuss! have fun!

Prima Donna
Sep. 10, 2009, 05:15 PM
I also have an OTTB mare though she was only 4 and very excitable when I started taking her to shows. Like your barn, there weren't really any chances to have her in a ring full of horses. I would take your guy with a few thoughts:

1. Let him relax on the trailer and munch hay, facing some activity

2. See how he reacts in a schooling ring to other horses going by. Maybe let him stand outside of it and watch before going in.

3. If he is overfaced by all the commotion in the schooling ring, try to find a flat class with only a few peole or hit the schooling ring when it is almost empty.

4. Plan to show but if you don't get to, think of it as a good schooling experience.

I think I went to three shows to school and let my mare get used to it before I actually showed. Now she can hop off the trailer and be ready to show in the amount of time it takes me to tack up.

Good luck and have fun!

Sep. 10, 2009, 05:35 PM
Ditto fordtraktor-- My coach taught me a good concept with my greenies: Have No Agenda.

Even though I will usually have shipped a given greenie out for lessons and trail rides prior to showing, I ship to the early shows in each greenie's career thinking 'let's see what happens.'

If Green Bean unloads and immediately melts down, we hang out until he is capable of, say, grazing by the trailer (snicker), and then call it a success.

If GB unloads okay, I walk around the show and let him see the sights, often with a steady-eddie friend.

If that goes well, I'll try the tack-and-hack theory.

Then, if he rides around fine, in and out of the warmup rings, and we happen to be in time for a relevant flat class or unjudged warmup, I'll do that (** only if I think I have any baby brain left-- I'm big on quitting before I get to the end of the baby).

Some horses show their first time out. Others graze for a couple of shows (or a couple of days at an away show) before I even throw a leg over. And even once we're showing, I'll often skip a class or division if one or both of us isn't in the right mental place for it to be a good experience.

The key (for uber-competitive, likes-to-show me, anyway) is to not rush around or create mental pressure by trying to get the very greenie 'prepped' for a specific class, but instead let him tell me what he's ready for on a given day, and acknowledge that just because he did the warmup last show doesn't mean he'll do it this one, and so on ...

Just ime, your mileage may vary, etc., but I would say definitely go to the show, then let Green Bean tell you what he's up for. Fwiw, the last two OTTBs I brought along showed their first time out, likely thanks to having seen lots of chaos in their former lives. Good luck and have fun with it!!

Sep. 10, 2009, 06:52 PM
I also go with the intention of not doing anything. I might walk around, I might lunge, I might hop on and sit there, I might hack around, I might school in the ring, I might show. (And I might fall off. :winkgrin: But let's stay positive.) Who knows? I just go and then proceed from there.

Vesper Sparrow
Sep. 10, 2009, 07:08 PM
I am lucky in that our barn hosts at least four shows a year. My greenie (TB but never raced) also regularly participates in group lessons, so warm-ups are no problem. He also had some polo training involving being tied to a trailer at matches and he is very brave, quiet and has an exceptionally good head. His progression has been:

1. Just turned 3, I led him around and let hiim graze outside during in-house show. He didn't bat an eye.
2. Same summer, trainer showed him in w/t at in-house show. Didn't like being in arena alone but dealt with it.
3. That winter, he trailered away (with a couple of other greenies) to a livestock judging competition. That was a great experience--being tied to the trailer and then taken inside and held on a lead 20 feet away from cows and sheep and a zillion people for the afternoon! Scared at first but soon settled down.
4. Just turned 4, trainer rides him at first away show at w/t/c. Fell asleep between classes.
5. Same summer, I ride him twice at w/t at in-house show. He dealt with it like a pro.

I think I will be able to take him off the grounds next year myself without a problem.

Sep. 10, 2009, 07:31 PM
Also, if you're not doing this already, maybe you can take him to other horse farms and have him unload at a new place, ride in the ring, and see how that goes. Or meet somewhere for a group trail ride, anywhere where his sense of routine will be shaken up. Do it at least 2-3x -- lots of horses handle a new situation well enough the first time, but they are so 'impressed' they appear to stay mellow. Their real thoughts about a new experience come out in the next few times out...

Sep. 10, 2009, 09:25 PM
I took my greenie to his first shows this summer. The first was a western gaming playday at the local public arena. I took him so that he could listen to the PA system and go to a new place. By the end of the day he was okay with being ponied by a steady-eddy horse and walked towards and away from a group of horses. These were huge accomplishments, and exactly what I (as a prissy H/J rider in my English saddle and britches) wanted out of the day.

The next time, we went to a 4H type open show that was also low stress. We entered in W/T pleasure and eq, and during his first class I did nothing but talk to him in the ring and have everyone on the rail talk to him as well. We went up and met the judge, we walked instead of lining up, I petted and scratched him while riding. He improved. We didn't even come close to bringing home a ribbon. But that wasn't why I went - I wanted him to go somewhere new, be ridden, and learn what it was like to be in a show before I ask him to really show his stuff.

I also made sure to tell the show managers, ring stewards, and judges that he was very green and that this was just for learning. Constructive feedback appreciated, but that I was there for him to experience a new place. Fellow competitors also knew this and gave us space and time. I think it also helps that instead of wearing a tailored hunt coat I was wearing a flak jacket...

Sep. 10, 2009, 09:33 PM
DD is taking her greenie in the walk trot division this weekend. She is soooo excited!! Pony is soooo sane it should not be an issue and Dd is just happy to be getting off the farm LOL!!! IMO you go when you "think" you are ready, if chances are good that you will survive then go, let your horse experience something new, that NEVER hurts!!!
Dd will do the w/t division a few times then move up , slowlyyyyyyyy. We are not in a hurry!

Sep. 10, 2009, 09:52 PM
IMO it depend a on your expectations. Guessing you will take him mostly for the chance to see something new and get a gage on both him and you.

My general advice is to always be comfortable doing a little more then you plan on doing at the show at home. If you want to jump 2'6 you should comfortably school over 2'9. If you want to canter you should comfortably do it wo stirrups at home. You get my drift.

Seems like you were only planning on doing undersaddle classes and nothing over fences?
Doesn't seem like much of an issue to me as long as you can ride out a little freshness or know to pull up before the canter gets out of control etc.
If you have some sticky transitions it's not, as somebody mentioned, going to get you killed if he decides to be a little tense and pick up the wrong lead. You might not pin well if he picks up the wron lead but so what?

What you might want to do is try to emulate a horse show situation at home to get a preview. Or as somebody said, if it's not too much of a hassle, ship him over to the neighbors barn and ride him there once or twice.
If you mostly ride alone or with one or two others, try to get a group together, take the martingale off (if you use one) and ask your trainer to watch you and pin you all in a mock flat class. Asking somebody to watch you will put your nerves on the outside of your body, same place they will be at on show day and a TB might react to this. Can be good to have a heads up! Also gives you a chance to see how TB reacts to cantering in a group and perhaps being passed by others!

I suggest getting ready early and spending some time in the schooling area, it will give you a good gage on how he's planning on reacting, you can ride him longer if he's fresh or hang out if he's cool.

Bring all your tools just in case. He might turn into a lion and if you hava a lungeline you can stay on the ground for an extra 15 min and just let him run it off if you have to. Bring your drawreins or a stronger bit in case there's no place to lunge and you have to ride it out of him. Earpuffs can be good too (drove away from mine this weekend and we were fine but had a hop and scoot when a motorcycle passed on the road next to the ring!).
He might be just fine and it's always good to be prepared so bring some carrots too ;-) !

And on that note, don't forget to hit an ATM the night before. You might think that packing a lunch will be fine but passing a greasy foodstand 20 times with no cash for fries sucks more then anything else that could go wrong at a show!

Good luck and have fun!

Sep. 10, 2009, 10:16 PM
I'm all for the No Agenda policy.

I am in the same place with my 4 yr old homebred filly. She is, to say the least, a challenging horse. :-) Fanciest horse I've ever bred or owned, lovely mover, cute as a button. Also sees dead people. And killer signs. And. . . well, you get the point.

At three I knew I didn't want to start her at home myself like I had my other home breds, so I sent her to a very local driving trainer and she spent three months doing a ton of ground work and desensitizing with her. Five days a week, I was probably there being second fiddle four of those days. She declared my mare about the most challenging young horse she had worked with.

I backed the filly in August a few times, then gave her a couple weeks off and sent her to a cowboy who is very, very good for her first 30 days. He did a lot with her, I came down and got on about once a week, and the day before she was supposed to come home she became the first horse in 10 yrs to buck him off. That's my girl. I rode her that day but we left her another week to get some more work, then she was laid off to grow up for the winter (that had always been the plan). In the spring she went for the month of May and I went 2x a week to ride her. It went a lot better, but let me tell you, there is NO NAPPING up there.

I've been riding her 6x a week from May to August, although now that college is back in session (me professor) I am not getting on as much--she's settled a lot this summer, still a challenge but I no longer have to go to a Very Zen Place when I set boot in stirrup.

I'm contemplating getting her out to some shows this fall, just to hang out and be ridden in the warm up area if I think I can maintain proper vertical order. I've hauled her places for trail riding since the second week she was under saddle, so she's gone places and ties to the trailer. It's still an adventure, though!

The OP's horse sounds ready for a trial run! I say go enjoy your day, enter a couple classes if it looks to be going well, if not, just school or hang out.