Tips on Taking Your Green Horse to Its First Show
The words “green horse” or “first show” are two words that can occasionally create a worrisome feeling in your stomach. Whether you are a professional trainer, do-it-yourselfer, or dedicated client, we’ve all been there, awaiting the experience of showing a green horse.
The moment you decide to research that show-bill, book the stalls, and swing your leg over your horse, your mind may start to wander. What if we break gait? What if he spooks at the banner? What if we miss a cue? What if…
You may begin to think, “what exactly should we be preparing for” before your maiden voyage. Preparation is indeed vital when taking a fresh face out on their first adventure. And having a positive attitude going into these circumstances can make a world of difference, not only for the horse but for you as well.
Sometimes, a particular problem may arise when you arrive at the show grounds, and eliminating the issue may be overwhelming and seem impossible to resolve.
We had the opportunity to catch up with top trainers, Beth Case of Highpoint Performance Horses and Blair Townsend of Masterson Farms, to discuss some of their tips when bringing a newbie horse into the show world.
Know Your horse – Beth Case’s first piece of advice was, “You should know your horse before you get there” whether that means walking around the show grounds, giving them a minute to relax, or taking an extra lap on the longe-line. She said, “It’s not good to show a fresh or crazy horse, especially for their first time. If they aren’t prepared, it will just be a bad experience.”
Remember Your Basics – Having something your horse wholeheartedly knows how to do is sometimes all you have left to remind them that everything is going to be okay. Blair told us, “We spend a lot of time on the basics with our colts. We want to make sure they know how to stop, back, turn, and do the transitions. They don’t have to be perfect by any means, but you don’t want to be out of control. Show ready or not, it does help when one gets nervous or scared, and you always have your basics to go back to.”
Eliminate the Negatives – Case says she tries to “avoid getting into a wreck with traffic because once they have one, it’s a hard thing to get over.” Negative experiences always seem to have such a more substantial impact over the positives experiences. Limiting those scary moments may seem like a daunting task. Beth adds, “If you go into the pen and know there’s something that’s going to be scary, don’t ride right up to it. Ride further away from it, and work your way back to it. Don’t go right up to something scary.”
Control Your Expectations – No, that does not mean lower them to the point of which you are not accomplishing what you came out to do. “We’ll get to a horse show, and we don’t automatically expect those horses to go right to work,” said Blair. “We will give them the afternoon or evening to settle in, and usually the next morning we start. Of course, we longe them all to allow them to get acclimated.” The first show can occasionally be a massive step for your green horse, and they are attempting to take it all in stride.
Practice what You Preach – Prepare, prepare, prepare seems to the word of the day when going out on the first adventure with your green horse. Beth told us, “I don’t tend to think any differently before I go to a show than I do every day. I do the same type of training to get the horse broke, whether or not they are going to a horse show.” You always want to avoid surprises and try not to throw any curve balls at your horse during their outing. Practice what they know.
Exhibit Confidence – “Being settled, not being nervous, and being confident in the pen,” are just a few things Townsend mentioned she likes to see from her green horses. “We like to feel like we could go a couple of laps and not have to pick up our hands, although some horses, when you are showing them for the first time, you do have to help them. The biggest thing is just being confident with these young horses. Sometimes, they get confused and lose some confidence, and you’ll have to build that back up in them.”
Expect the Unexpected – This is the ideal mindset to have when assembling your first show game-plan. Try not to put too much pressure on your horse or yourself. Remember to stay positive, focused, and enjoy every second, as this is the start of something great. At the end of the day, whether your rides were horrible, or the best you’ve ever had, thank your horse for enduring this adventure with you. You can only ride forward from here.