Monday 28 June 2021

Surprise Hunter Show

Naia and I participated in a last-minute hunter/jumper show on Saturday, in the illustrious trot poles division!

I wanted to see how last week's clinic went before planning any other away trips, but after the clinic I saw that a local hunter/jumper barn was holding a show this weekend. The clinic had gone pretty well but Naia is definitely at the stage where she will benefit hugely from lots of short trips in the trailer. I saw that the show was offering a trot poles division and I figured that hauling to a barn 30 minutes away and trotting over some poles in a new arena would be great exposure for Naia.

The entry form was pretty light on details and I'm a definite stranger to hunter land so I sent the organizer a bunch of questions which she very nicely answered: 

  1. Am I eligible for trot pole division with my green horse or is it for children only? I was welcome to show in trot poles, but would be the first adult to enter
  2. Can I show in dressage tack for trot pole division? Yes. 
  3. What's the warmup situation like? They had a warmup arena that would open at 7:30am. 
  4. What time does the show start and is trot poles the first division? 8am and yes. 
  5. Is it okay if I get there at or before 6:30am? Yes, and she provided me with detailed information for trailer parking since I would likely be the first to arrive. 

With the relevant answers provided, I decided to go for it and I submitted my late entry (the options for late entry into hunter/jumper shows are nice for situations like this!)

My preparation for this show was substantially less than for the clinic last weekend, but I did do a ride at my home arena where I set up a pattern of trot poles and made Naia trot them without walking them first. I also contacted my friend who has a small tack shack of consignment gear to get a regulation length crop (my dressage whip would be too long), and some beige breeches. My friend's tack shack is based out of the same barn as the show so when I picked up my new gear I took some extra time to walk out to the show arena and trailer parking field to get the lay of the land. The night before the show I brushed Naia's mane but did not braid or pull it. I traded out my pretty beaded browband for a plain one, and loaded up the truck and trailer. Finally, I pulled out my white show pad, show jacket and show shirt, all of which haven't been used since 2019 (but thankfully still fit!). I knew we weren't going to be the most huntery pair there, either in appearance or way of going, but we would technically meet the rules and I hoped show the judge that we made some effort, even if I wasn't going to subject my mare to a braid job in the dark (the barn lights are on a timer, she is turned out so I couldn't braid the night before, and as it was I left at first light in the morning). 

Getting the lay of the land included seeing whether there would be mounting blocks to use

The morning of the show I woke up early (though may have snoozed my first alarm), got out to the barn, and since I had prepped everything else the night before, all I had to do was catch the horse and load her. It took a bit to load but I took my time and kept consistent with the steps I had practiced and Naia acquiesced before too long. We got to the show grounds close to 6:30 so pretty in-line with my original plan. As expected we were the first ones there. I unloaded Naia and immediately led her around to show her the portapotties, the trailer of colourful jumps, the outside of the arena, the check-in tent, etc. Naia was brave and curious with investigating the strange sights. However we also were completely mobbed by mosquitoes so we fled back to the trailer to douse both ourselves with repellent. This is also where I started to think that the show was a very bad idea. 

(All photos from day before show)
Important to investigate scary portapotties!

Tacking up and warming up did not go to plan. All of the other entries in the trot pole division were students at the host barn so they were getting ready at the barn (which is super far from the show arena), and Naia didn't have any other horses near her. The area was super quiet when I was trying to get her to used to seeing the sights, but once I started trying to groom and tack up spectators started arriving, tents were moved, the sound system was being tested, etc. All normal show stuff but it just happened at exactly the wrong time so Naia was in a bit of a tizzy at the trailer and it took way longer to tack up than it should have. The check in tent didn't open until after I was tacked up so I had to stop there on the way to the warmup arena, and unfortunately the (very nice) volunteer at the tent didn't have her glasses so it took fooorrreeevvveeer for her to find my entry form and number. I regret that I was a little short with the volunteer but my stress level was rising by the second as the time before the show ticked away. This meant that we didn't get to the warmup ring until just before 8am, instead of 7:30 like I had planned (I would have loved to be riding before the commotion started but the warmup arena didn't open until 7:30). Even getting to the warmup just before 8am would have been okay, since I had already done a ground work/lunging warmup and I was 6th in the order of go so I had a little time, except literally right after leading Naia to the warmup ring, all 5 of the other trot pole entries left the warmup arena as a group to go to the show arena. No other divisions were warming up yet so poor Naia who had finally seen other horses, had to deal with being completely deserted by all of them! Understandably she got a little upset so I regretted my life choices some more and took the time she needed to do some more ground work before mounting up. At this point I figured I might have to scratch my first class and just do my second class, but I was at the show already so I might as well try and do at least part of the thing. 

I thought this tent right beside gate to the show arena might be an issue but fortunately it was not

Once I got on, I only had time for a couple circles of walk and trot in each direction before I had to ride over to the show ring. Naia felt pretty good once I started riding though so I figured I might as well try for my first class, it's not like a trot pole class requires a lot of warmup. At the show ring it became apparent that there is a huge difference in the number of spectators between a hunter/jumper show and a dressage show. A big part was the number of children competing, which meant a gaggle of parents, siblings and grandparents attached to each one. Also Alberta has only recently allowed increased numbers of people for outdoor events so I think a lot of people were just excited to go do a thing. For a local show there was actually a lot of atmosphere with people milling around and sitting on camp chairs. Of course the majority of the people were not horsey and were pretty terrible about moving out of the way of horses. I was terrified that Naia would step on someone as I inched closer to the board to learn my courses (they hadn't been posted when I had been by the show ring earlier). Luckily Naia loves people and was okay with the commotion, especially once she was back beside the other horses. I had time to watch one other person go before it was my turn for my first class. 

We walked into the show ring for our first class, trot poles hunter, I showed Naia the fancy wheelbarrow/flower display, and I didn't pick up the trot until halfway into my circle. We then proceeded to trot our trot poles course. She was looky and wiggly in places but was willing to listen to me. I didn't care at all about my equitation but instead focused on giving Naia clear aids and releases. I clucked when I needed to and also loudly exclaimed "good girl" when she gave a good effort. I didn't think it was pretty in the slightest but we went over all the right poles in the right order and I was very happy with her. When I brought her back down to a walk Naia was willing to blow and stretch out and I was happy to see that doing the course had helped her to relax rather than amping her up. 

Show ring prior to show but already set up for trot poles

The same order of go was repeated for the second class so I was the 6th rider out of 6. In between my courses I kept Naia near the show ring with the other horses and alternated standing and walking her around. I was a bit appalled at how little room the spectators gave me but was thrilled with how Naia was handling the atmosphere. At this point I also looked at the ribbons the volunteers were setting up to see if we had a chance of earning one. I could see that they had ribbons to 5th place and since I was in a division of 6 people and I knew a couple had gone off course, I was excited for the prospect of a 4th or 5th place ribbon as a souvenir from Naia's first show. 

We went in for our second class, trot poles equitation, and repeated the same thing as the first class except with a different order of jumps. This time around I focused on keeping Naia a little straighter and my position a little more centered, but my prime goals remained to go over all the poles in the correct order and give Naia a good experience. 

Good experiences include feeding lots of cookies at and after show

After my ride, they seemed to be taking a while to figure out the placings so I started riding Naia back to grab my halter. However halfway there I heard the announcer call for us to come into the ring without our horses. I didn't have any support people at the show and I wouldn't have wanted to leave Naia unattended at the trailer even if I had had time to get her back there (which I didn't), so I dismounted and led Naia with me into the arena, hanging back behind the kids so we wouldn't trample anyone. It turned out that 3 out of 6 people had been eliminated from my first class (1 from falling off, 2 from going off course), and I ended up with a second place ribbon which I was a little surprised at but pleased. However the more surprising part was that even though there was only 1 elimination in my second class, the judge pinned me in first place!  The trot pole division was only 2 classes so my 1st and 2nd places won me the division champion award which came with a pretty ribbon, a purple grooming kit and some other miscellaneous goodies. I was especially excited for the Quic Braid because I use that but it isn't sold locally and ordering spray bottles in the mail isn't always the best idea. I was honestly shocked that we had done so well and was a little embarrassed about winning against children, but it was a pretty cool way to celebrate Naia's first show! 

Pretty ribbons!

Unfortunately, the hardest part of the whole experience was when I had to take Naia away from the horses and people and back to the trailer. She just isn't used to the trailer being our home base yet and it didn't help that a row of round bales separated the trailers from everything else going on. It also sucked that the early divisions were mostly horses who live at the barn so there weren't many horses around the trailers. It took some work to get Naia to stop barging into or away from me and listen enough for me to safely load her in the trailer. I was tired and hot (it was already pushing 30 degrees C by 9am) and struggling at the time. However in hindsight I know this is just part of Naia needing more miles and to go to more places. I also need to feed and tack up at the trailer as much as possible at home so she starts associating it with being "home base". I did succeed in loading Naia and we left the show grounds at 10am. That gave me just enough time to unload Naia at home and switch vehicles before driving two hours for a meeting of my area dressage group that started at 1pm. (Did I mention that I planned this whole show thing while knowing that I already had afternoon plans? No? Probably because I recognize that I am a little crazy and didn't want to broadcast it too much lol. I really wasn't sure I was going to pull off the plan and was prepared to scratch the show or the meeting if I needed to but instead I had a very busy but successful Saturday!) 


There was a show photographer and I pre-purchased a set of 10 photos but I haven't seen them yet so will do a separate post when I get them (probably at the end of the week). As I was leaving the show the photographer did tell me that my horse was very photogenic so I'm hoping that means there are some good ones! 


  1. A low key showing situation, with lots of noise and bustle is a great experience for a baby horse! You persevered!

    1. She clearly needs more of these experiences but all in all I'm proud of how she handled it and I'm excited to get out and about with her in the future

  2. What a great experience. Good for you.

  3. Showing a youngster on your own is just sooooo challenging! Good on you for starting to get those calm, quiet miles under her belt.