Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Show Season from the Owner's Perspective

Secret, the super little mare that has been cleaning up all year, belongs to Linda Butz. Linda is a first-time horse owner, and Secret a barely-handled 5-year-old in December of 2007, when Linda bought her. Watching their bond grow has been something right out of a made-for-tv Hallmark special. Here is her take on the show season. Riding a horse like Secret is a privelege, and having an owner like Linda is just icing on the cake.

2009 Show Lessons from a Dressage Novice

By Linda Butz

I came into my first dressage show season completely uninformed. I had only owned Secret for a year and I had no idea that she decided she wanted to be a dressage horse! Other than seeing the freestyle at Dressage at Devon once, a local schooling show (where Secret was a disaster, but at least she got on and off the trailer), and the Big Fall Show as a spectator, I had no experience with showing. I had a lot to learn!

Ange and Laura had the show season planning meeting in January for everyone at Red Bridge and I remember being amazed by Victoria F’s show folder. Of course, I promptly put one together and it was a life-saver during the year. Otherwise, I’d have forms and test booklets everywhere. I remember everyone talking about schooling shows, rated shows and the “holy” BLMs. I didn’t have a clue what a BLM was! Then there was the Morgan circuit, Arab circuit, etc. I read Ange’s show booklet until it fell apart.

In March, Ange and I had a discussion as to whether I was more interested in ribbons or scores. My answer was, “ribbons, of course!” I was determined that Secret wasn’t getting a snazzy brow band until she won a blue. Of course, she accomplished that the week before we were to leave for Mason Dixon and one of my friends hastily produced a green jeweled brow band made by one of the kids she knew. It was gorgeous but took some hot gluing during the show to hold it together. After Secret took the training level championship, the “real” snazzy brow band had to be green, which it is. It also matches Ange’s eye shadow, but that’s another story.

As the season went on and I learned more about our warmblood competition, I realized that scores are more important than ribbons. I learned that placing behind the warmbloods wasn’t a bad thing and sometimes we sneaked in front of them or at least gave them a scare. I learned to keep spreadsheets listing venues, scores, and judges, file forms with the two breed associations (it’s lovely to have a dual registered horse), write checks(!), chat up the show secretaries, volunteer whenever possible and always thank those who were volunteering at any show.

I got to experience the wild Arabian circuit. There’s always something to watch from horses pulling carts to the western disciplines to saddleseat to native costume. Catherine and I are pining for a native costume for Secret although it might take us all winter to get it on her since she’s afraid of her fleece-covered halter. Catherine will also have to ride her because in native costume classes one enters the ring at the canter. Arab shows have barn parties, crazy outfits (not that boring dressage black and white) and lots of bling. Dressage is shunted off to a side ring—the main ring has all the crazy classes that I can’t begin to understand.

After dragging myself home from a couple of shows I learned the importance of food. We can never have too much water as it’s easy to get dehydrated. Cold cuts for sandwich fixing works out well as the food at the show grounds is never spectacular, if it exists at all, and we’re always grabbing something between classes. We wouldn’t get through without popcorn, M&Ms, and trail mix. I’ve learned to take a bucket back to the hotel to raid the ice machine in the morning and to leave the cooler at the showgrounds. I still come home exhausted and hungry, but happy I got to spend multiple days with my horse and my horse friends.

At first it seemed that one-day shows were much easier. For a multiple day show, there’s the packing (grain and hay are heavy), unpacking, setting up stalls, feeding, picking stalls, filling water buckets, walking the horses, bed check, and then getting up and doing it all over again. However, after a few one day shows, I learned that having a horse that doesn’t like to stand on the trailer by herself means that I cover miles of ground while she grazes so forget eating, bathroom breaks, or anything like that! Now I’ve come to love a show where she has a stall in which to relax and a chair on which I can sit! One day or multi-day, I love having that intense time with my horse and I think she enjoys it as well. It almost makes walking into the barn at 5:30 a.m. when it’s 40 degrees and we got lost trying to find a Dunkin’ Donuts open at that time so we could at least get coffee worthwhile. I always am greeted with nickering. Of course, it usually means, “I’m out of hay and I want my breakfast and some fresh water while you’re at it,” but it warms my heart nonetheless.

It’s been an interesting season. We did a ton of shows to get Secret the experience she needed and she responded beyond our wildest dreams. I’ve become expert at tack cleaning, horse bathing, staying out of Ange’s way on show day, and holding the show coat and test book. I learned how supportive everyone is at Red Bridge. The fun comes in cheering each other on through good days and bad. Showing has given me the opportunity to get to know everyone at the barn. We’ve rejoiced in wins, commiserated when it didn’t go well, and mourned when one of the horses gets hurt or goes lame and needs to stay home (after the entry fees are paid, of course). It’s been a wild ride. Only the Big Fall Show remains. I can’t wait for the break but I know I’ll be excited to see the 2010 season begin.

Do we have a date for the 2010 show season planning meeting???

1 comment:

  1. She's afraid of her fleece covered halter, but she recovered pretty well from the canopy flying through the air!