Horse show season for many of us is finally in full swing. We are going to new places or are going back to old ones for competition. We are taking our equine partners to places that are far from home and that may be intimidating or familiar. Each time we go away from home we are along for the ride to a new place, which means new sights, sounds, and smells. Some of these things are scary and may cause spooks that we may not be prepared for.
Let me start off with personal experience:
My winter circuit shows were all one venue. I have taken my horse there every time and thought he was becoming familiar with the facility. You would think that they wouldn’t forget someplace. But then you realize if you are stabled in a different area and show in a different arena things become unfamiliar and sometimes scary. I honestly did not even consider this and thought “hey we’ve been here before, we’ve got this!”.
The arena itself was set up beautifully with open windows and a new set up for the letter A where we would be entering to start our first class. We entered the arena and Spartan was a little upset by the new setup and let me know it. We got to dance sideways and flip around with a half rear because he didn’t want to be in the unrecognizable arena. The fact that we had just had a monsoon outside didn’t help either. My first initial thought was to bail out of the arena because in my mind I wasn’t sure if I could handle all of this. Then I realized I am a much better rider than that and I used my new learned skills and got us through the test. It turned out pretty well and earned us a first place win! In the second class we also had a little bit of spookiness but were able to ride through it and we earned another first place win.
Ride Through It
When we are faced with spooks in the show arena many of our first thoughts might be to bail and just leave due to embarrassment. I am not saying this pertains to every rider because it doesn’t. Some of us are a little more unsure than others and some of us handle it better than others. So how do we handle this? When our horse spooks it is for a reason not because they are being naughty. The best way to handle spooks is: stay calm, sit back and use a lot of leg. Also stay away from getting nervous yourself because it could make matters a lot worse.
Dealing with a spooky horse in a new environment can sometimes be very scary. One minute you think things are fine and then in the next things are going way differently. I know a lot of us including myself go to shows expecting to have a fantastic ride and win a lot of the classes we go in. We aren’t prepared for the bad things that might happen.
I have never dealt with that at a show and learned quite a bit that day. Despite what happened I am still proud of Spartan and know that we will not always have perfect rides. Spookiness can be scary to deal with but can be handled if you remain calm and apply your skills. Don’t let it scare you out of the show ring.