View Full Version : My first show - advice? Update #22, pics #28

Jun. 8, 2011, 11:28 AM
I'm going to my first dressage show next month with a mare I've been riding for awhile. I've ridden dressage for most of my riding "career", but have never shown before... The mare I've been riding is 10, but she's never been to one either (and can be kind of spooky to boot). When she gets looky, I tend to get a bit tense, so my trainer is going to be focusing on getting us spook-free and calm between now and then... We're doing a small schooling show next week to get our feet wet (near by shows are hunter, so we're going to do the hack classes).

Just wondering what advice everyone has for me?


Jun. 8, 2011, 12:09 PM
Get there at least 1.5 hours before your ride time so you aren't freaking over the clock.
Once you check in and get settled, go wander with your horse til she's settled. Let her munch grass, take her over by the warmup ring, the competition ring, let her check everything out.
Most horses warm up faster away from home, so if it normally takes your horse 30 minutes to rock and roll, give yourself 25 at the show and see what happens.
The warmup arena is no place to 'work on' things, so if your 15m circle sucks at home, don't try perfecting at the show, you'll just drive you and your horse bananas.
Make your goal to keep both you and the horse in a relaxed state of mind. If she starts getting tense, take a breather and work on something she's good at. If you fight about it in warmup you'll have a total meltdown in front of the judge.
When in your test, if a cue doesn't happen clean, or you get a late transition or a ferret squirrely circle, don't panic, take a deep breath and regroup as quietly as you can, even if it takes another 20m of riding to get you back where you need to be. The important thing is that your horse understand that the show ring is not a place that will bring tension to your relationship.
My only goal at my first dressage show, given to me by my trainer was, "keep him from crawling into the judges stand" and knowing that was really all that I had to accomplish took tremendous pressure off.
If my horse isn't "bringin it" when we are in warmup, I don't project dissapointment or dominance to try and straighten his act out. I accept that today may just be another show exposure day, and surprisingly things then always work out for the best.

Jun. 8, 2011, 12:51 PM
Since my first time showing was just a little over a year ago, I still remember it quite well ;)... So my biggest piece of advice is:

Just observe how you will react to the show environment. I had no idea I was going to be THAT nervous, and it manifested in all energy draining and riding very constricted, resulting in a horse that is normally WAY forward being behind my leg. But you gotta show to find out how you react so that you can then work on strategies to deal with it. Let it be an exploratory experience. Showing well has to be learned by practicing. (And don't let yourself be pressured by all those wonderful stories of people going out the first time and doing super well, the MAJORITY of first timers don't win their classes... ;) If you do well, great, if you don't -- who cares. Learn from it and do it again. And again and ....)

Also, all horses respond differently to the show environment as well. Some draw back, some get more exuberant, some focus more on their rider, some less. Be open to dealing with what you've got that moment -- not what you may have expected. :)

Oh, and when you enter think: Mr./Mrs. Judge, look at that BEAUTIFUL horse I'm presenting to you! :)

Jun. 8, 2011, 08:30 PM
I took my OTTB to his first show ever in Feb. and decided it would be a rated show! And guess what? He babysat ME the whole time, LOL!! I was so nervous and he was SO calm I was thrilled. But something that did truly help me relax was to simply be thankful. I thought of how thankful I was that my horse was healthy and sound enough to show. Thankful that my body was fit, that my family was there watching, that I had great help at the clinic the week before, or even that I scraped the money together, etc. The list goes on and on. Be truly thankful for all the wonderful things that have led you to the show. That attitude of thankfulness will inspire you to be your best!!!

Jun. 8, 2011, 08:40 PM
Sounds like the schooling show is a hunter jumper show and you are only doing the flat classes - is that correct? Be aware that the warm up rings at hunter jumper shows can be quite busy depending on what other classes may be going on at the same time or close to the same time. There may be people jumping, people walking on the rail, people hacking, people going in different directions all in the same ring. Make sure your horse is okay with horses coming directly at her. It looks like a mad house sometimes.

Just stay calm and do your own warm up staying on the rail and if you need to circle or change direction, watch to see that you are not in anyone jumpings path. Once you get into the arena things will seem calm to both you and your horse and you will probably be grateful to be away from the warm up ring and do quite well.

Jun. 8, 2011, 08:51 PM
Stop twice around x. Have fun.

Jun. 8, 2011, 09:16 PM
if you are doing a dressage test- my advice is to not sit around and watch the tests before you- keep yourself focused on your horse and your warm up. even if its walking around, doing some light work. I ALWAYS have a crappier ride when I get lazy and watch a couple of tests before my own ride. I ALWAYS do better when I ride up from the moment I'm on the horse in warm up until the moment we exit the show arena.

Jun. 9, 2011, 11:15 AM
Thanks for all the great advice :)

Yes, I'll just be doing the flat classes at the hunter schooling show - but I really didn't think about how busy it would be! The mare is very used to horses coming up behind, passing, and that sort of thing in the ring at home, so I'm sure she'll have no problem with that. It's more new objects (i.e. judge's booth etc) and her in a new environment that I'm worried about (along with my nerves etc) lol Just want to be as prepared as possible :D

Jun. 9, 2011, 11:23 AM
Bachs Rescue Remedy is your friend http://www.rescueremedy.com/ , well it's mine anyway:lol::lol: I'm told you can also give it to horses, but I've never done that.

Apart from that, just go with the intention of having fun, I got a judges comment on my first ever judged test last year that said 'lovely smile' :lol: There were some other good points, but my main intention of the day was to celebrate the fact that I was actually riding in a show, and I deserved to be there, pinning in anything was going to be a bonus.

So my biggest tips, remember to smile and breathe, and let the rest take care of itself!

Good luck and have fun

Jun. 9, 2011, 11:36 AM
Getting there early is crucial for the spooky horse!! With a first timer or green bean, we like to be pretty much the first ones there...then let the show build up around the horse! That way they can make all the adjustment one at a time instead of having to wrap their head around everything all at once and become totally overwhelmed by it!....Good luck, have fun...and keep us posted!!;)

Jun. 9, 2011, 04:44 PM
Get there early, spend a lot of time just hacking around so your mare can get used to all the activity. I take my greenies to shows as soon as they have a good enough "whoa." Even if they are not going to be shown, it helps them get used to the atmosphere. The more they travel, the better they will be.

Be prepared to do walk/canter canter/walk transitions in a hunter pleasure or hunter equitation class. You don't see those at low level dressage, but I encountered them in a green hunter class. Make sure that you don't enter "hunter hack" unless you are prepared to jump. "Hunter Hack" usually has two low fences. What you want to enter are the Hunter Under Saddle or Hunter Pleasure class and the Hunt Seat Equitation on the Flat class.

Jun. 9, 2011, 05:01 PM
Don't forget your camera!

I agree with all the posts that encourage you to get there as early as possible. Walk your horse around the grounds before you tack up, let her look at things and even graze if there is an area for that.

If she gets to spooky and you don't feel comfortable/safe, you don't need to enter the classes. It may be your mare just needs to be in the atmosphere only the first time and that's okay.

Bring hay so she has something to munch on while tied to the trailer.

My most important advice: have fun!!

Jun. 9, 2011, 05:19 PM
B R E A T H E!

Most important.

Come out of the ring with no dirt on your breeches.

Hug your horse, provide treats and be grateful that you can be there.

Do not plan on doing any more than you do at home. Don't change any piece of equipment. Smile and think good thoughts no matter what.

You can do anything else you want at your SECOND show! Lol!


Jun. 9, 2011, 11:12 PM
Wait, what? No dirt on your breeches? You, horsefaerie, are better at this showing thing than I am. This I can guarantee.

To the OP-- Mistakes happen. Usually only on one movement. Once they happen, move on. Don't dwell. Just keep actively riding your test as if the mistake never happened. Took me forever to get that.

Carol O
Jun. 10, 2011, 08:46 AM
Pack some imodium in your trunk in case of show nerves. Dirt is not the only threat to white breeches!

Jun. 10, 2011, 10:17 AM
OH yeah, on the thought of white breeches, even if you aren't due, or you think that you are old enough to be past that sort of thing, take some protection with you. This old woman was just so delighted (NOT) to have her first monthly for 6 months the very weekend that she was doing her first show in decades, and her first white breeches event ever.

Jun. 10, 2011, 03:44 PM
Wow - lots of stuff to think about (lots I wouldn't have thought about... lol)! Thanks everyone for advice/suggestions :) Bought my first pair of white (albeit full seat - yuck) breeches yesterday. Now only about a million other things to organize and I will feel moderately ready! I will let you know how it goes!

Jun. 10, 2011, 03:48 PM
Pack some immodium in your trunk in case of show nerves. Dirt is not the only threat to white breeches!

Ditto. During show season, I single handily support whoever makes Pepto Bismol. Also, try to pack healthier food. When I'm nervous, eating greasy food (and I'm a vegetarian) never makes me feel better!

Also, if you do borrow tall boots, ride in them before the show day! This goes for any tack or clothes you'll be wearing. Things may fit fine, but sometimes they can catch movements that you weren't prepared for and the show ring isn't the place to find out! This was especially true for me with boots.The boots were way slippier than my half chaps. Just my .02!!

Have fun!

Hunter DQ
Jun. 10, 2011, 07:21 PM
You said "yuck" on full seats. Do you not ride in fullseats often? You might want to ride in a similar pair a few times first because the thicker ones do feel different (and also can make your boot fit a bit tighter), unless you're already used to it.

Remember to have fun! As a trainer at one of the local colleges likes to say, "you're not curing cancer, just riding horses."

Hollie McNeil
Jun. 13, 2011, 12:01 PM
As an instructor with lots of both kids and adults getting into the show scene for the first time, good advice would be to pretend you're going to a show. Get your show clothes on, especially the boots you're going to show in, put on your white gloves (or black if that's what you're showing in) and go ride your test like you are facing a judge at letter C. The real thing will be so much easier after this dress rehearsal.

Jun. 13, 2011, 07:48 PM
get at the show well in advance. and just think, All of this is a game!
This is going to be fun! When your mare does get spooky, stay Relaxed! when you get tense, she will get even more tense.

Remember, Relax, laugh, and have a great time!! :)

Jul. 11, 2011, 03:23 PM
Just want to give an update - the show was yesterday and I thought for my first ever dressage show it went ok... Managed to get two errors on our first test due to my own stupidity (i.e. doing the WRONG TEST!!!!), which then made me even more nervous and flustered - even during my second test. My mare was very looky, but not spooky (which I was thankful for) - the only problem with that was she turned into a giraffe often... I believe one judge called it "star gazing" :lol: We had nice moments (which I wish I had pictures of) and a lot of not nice moments (which unfortunately I do have pictures of). I'm a bit disappointed we didn't do better, but I've been told for my first time out it wasn't bad lol

In the end we definitely have A LOT to work on when we are away from home, but now we know what it is (i.e. consistency!!!!) and hopefully the next one will be better :yes:

Jul. 11, 2011, 03:38 PM
Congrats on the show. Considering it was your first dressage show and the mare's first dressage show, it sounds like you guys did just fine.

You goals were to stay calm and not have any (or many) spooks and it sounds like you achieved that. It takes a while to get over show nerves and get used to the flow of shows. Dont worry about the errors, we all make them, its fine.

Jul. 11, 2011, 03:42 PM
There, it's out of the way.

Did you let your trainer call your test? If not, do it next time. There's enough to think about at the show w/o worrying about recalling the rest.

Jul. 11, 2011, 06:28 PM
Did you let your trainer call your test? If not, do it next time. There's enough to think about at the show w/o worrying about recalling the rest.

I absolutely agree with this! I remember my first few dressage tests, and hearing a good friend of mine call them for me was absolutely wonderful! It made me feel much less alone and more relaxed out there just to hear a friend's voice, and it guaranteed that I wouldn't throw in the wrong movement somewhere along the line (which I promptly did one of the next times, when I didn't have anybody calling it for me!).

Congrats on breaking the ice, and I hope it's just the start of many fun times at shows for you! :D

Jul. 11, 2011, 06:59 PM

I remember very little about my first show except I was so happy when it was over. The best part was getting the test sheets, they had so much great feedback. None of it was much of a surprise but it was all in writing by someone my trainer highly regarded but had never met either me nor my horse.

My biggest issue has always been forgetting to breath when I'm concentrating. Even in lessons or practice. So silly me, I hand write 'Breathe' at particular spots on my test. Did the same in choir on the choir sheets years ago, so a habit that does me good today.

Again, Congrats and post photo link you get a chance.

Jul. 11, 2011, 07:05 PM
Good for you. Regardless of the outcome of your first test you lost your cherry:lol:. Now tests won't be about fearing the unknown. Also, now you have actual feedback and real experiences to grow from.

So congratulations.

Jul. 18, 2011, 03:46 PM
Here (http://jayetatone.com/photos/proofs/London%20Dressage%20Association%20-%20July%2010%2C%202011/Bake%2C%20Andrea/) is a link to the professional pictures put up (I have some of my own but they are not good at all!!). Some of the pics are good and some are not so good :lol:

Let me know what you think :)

Jul. 18, 2011, 11:22 PM
You look great! Especially for a first show :)

It can take quite a few shows to ride a test more like you do at home, and to look this good the first time out is a great sign! Congratulations, and keep up the good work!

I always say the goal for the first test (whether the rider's first or the horse's) is to stay on the horse and in the ring, and to make it a positive experience. Anything more is just a bonus :) After a first test, I want my horse to leave the ring thinking "That wasn't so bad, I can do this!" regardless of how tense or spooky he was before the test. It looks like you provided that positive ride for your mare, so shows should only get easier in the future... and I think you already got at least one or two frame-worthy pics too!

Jul. 19, 2011, 01:00 PM
they are actually alot better than what I was expecting based on your experience description.
I would seriously consider lengthening your stirrups several holes.
Remember when you lower your hands to get a yield at the poll, you don't get connection or cooperation, you get a pretty evasion in response to pain on the bars. Ride the horse into the bridle with bent elbow, low scapulas kept together.

Jul. 19, 2011, 02:43 PM
Here (http://jayetatone.com/photos/proofs/London%20Dressage%20Association%20-%20July%2010%2C%202011/Bake%2C%20Andrea/) is a link to the professional pictures put up (I have some of my own but they are not good at all!!). Some of the pics are good and some are not so good :lol:

Let me know what you think :)

LOVE the pictures:) You both looked great. I especially enjoy how your mare knows EXACTLY where the photographer was...as she was looking at him/her. Too cute! Personality wins with me:lol: Congrats on completing your first dressage show!