Recently Dante & I attended our first ever proper show! Yes, you heard that right me & Dante went show jumping! For anyone who has followed Dante’s progress from when I bought him in October, I honestly thought this day would NEVER come!!!
He was quite the problem horse to say the least, but it just goes to show that sticking at something and working hard really does show results. We are still not perfect, far from it! These last few weeks I feel like we are both progressing well together, but now as a team.
Have a read below, find out how our practice day went two days before the big show itself, find out how I got him washed & prepared! It feels like a lifetime since I have done it all!
To give a quick explanation of what was going on, the yard I had previously been at run an annual jumping event against a neighbouring yard . where they both compete teams & individuals for a chance to win the winning cup. With the show being on Monday, the Friday previous a practice course was set up, for all teams & individuals competing on Monday. As Dante has never done a proper show or jumped a proper course I thought it was best to bring him here first, that way I could decide from his behaviour if he was ready to partake on Monday.
OMgod I was so nervous. I really did not know what to expect from him. As we arrived at our previous yard Dante was on his toes. There was a lot going on, horses & people everywhere but I was very surprised by his relaxed behaviour besides the few looks here & there. I popped him into a stable to let him settle down, as I had a quick catch up with everyone, and to have a quick learn the course!
I lunged Dante at home before I brought him over, it helps to get rid of that bit of extra spice in him & so that I didn’t have to spend the guts of an hour warming him up trying to get him relaxed. So with that I walked him into the practice arena & hopped right up on him.
It was so weird. I kind of feel like the two of us were walking around the arena for the guts of 5 minutes thinking what the hell are we getting ourselves into. I had a quick trot & canter on both reins and jumped the two practice fences set up, with that I headed down to wait for my turn to jump.
I was absolutely shitting it as they called us into the arena but the minute we walked in, it was as if the two of us turned our game faces on. The nerves were suddenly gone and before I knew it I was cantering into fence number 1. Dante was amazing to say the least, he kept a steady rhythm in his canter through out the full course. He was disunited quite a good bit and did keep changing legs in between fences but as long as I kept pushing him on through it we were flying. I have zero faults in his performance, I was delighted with him, besides a few knocked poles everything he done was a step forward in the right direction.
Delighted with his performance, I decided it was time to take the plunge and finally start entering shows with him and that I did. Myself & Dante put our names down for Monday, unaware if we were going to be on a team or as an individual but either way I didn’t really care as I was so happy with the way he worked around the course we had just completed.
After arriving home ecstatic about our performance, A day later I received a text to be told Dante & I had been selected to jump as an individual & as part of a team. That nervous feeling crept back in again, but I suppose you have to power on and get over these fears if you want to get anywhere!!
So I began prepping & getting him ready for our very first show. He needed to be plaited, washed, groomed & our tack needed a little bit of a sprucing up! You may think I am mad, but I have began using hair masks for Dante for his mane & tail as it is very coarse & fluffy! (I needed something to tame it!) With a glass of wine, and a bucket of warm soapy water I began my mission to scrub Dante until he was sparkling!
With baby shampoo & warm water I simply began to sponge him down scrubbing the visible dirt away, he’s a bay horse, so he is quite clean besides his 3 white socks, (I didn’t wash the bottoms of his legs until the morning of the show as he is not the cleanest horse when it comes to standing in his stable!!) Once his body had been hosed of, I used my Elvive hair mask. I simply rub it through his mane & tail, on the package it says to leave it in for 5-10 minutes but I leave it in for 15 minutes & rinse out. After all the scrubbing was complete, I threw Dante on the walker to dry, leaving him in his stable with his cooler on! At least that way I had a good chance of keeping him clean!
Before every show, I plait the mane the night before, and bud them up the morning off. I can’t imagine it being too comfortable with rosebuds in over night. Regarding his tail, I don’t really tend to plait it, he likes flicking it and swishing it around the place & he keeps it relatively clean, so I did not see the need to!
As mentioned above, the morning of the show I washed his four socks (legs) before loading him up into the box, using a whitener shampoo to try keep them white, sealing them with a bit of baby powder to keep the colour vibrant! After all of this was done, I threw on his travel boots, his cooler & loaded him up into the horse box and we set off to the venue!
Driving into the venue I was half expecting Dante to start kicking and jumping around the box in excitement, but needless to say he was lovely and calm. There was so much going on, horses walking and trotting by the box people everywhere, after 20minutes of him standing around in the box he began to get quite anxious.
To be fair to him he could hear everything going in but couldn’t exactly see anything, so I don’t blame him! I took him out of the box, let him have a stretch and put him into a stable to let him properly relax before getting him tacked up & ready!
The Warm up
There warm up arena, which is an indoor arena, it is quite small & uneven so I decided it was best to give him a quick warm up out in the field before hand. Dante was taking everything in, no bold behaviour, but he was looking at everything and had that real spring in his step. As I began to trot him he was really using himself, I could feel the power in him! This quickly came to an end as a few kids from the yard kept cantering up & down the field with their ponies and this was really beginning to set Dante off. I felt as if I had lost his concentration completely as he was way too focused on what was going on around him to bother listening to me. So as I pretty much brought everything with me just in case, I decided to throw my draw reins on him so I had slightly more control & I headed into the indoor arena to try get a good warm up done before our first round.
To be fair to everyone, they were so accommodating towards us when we went into the indoor, they gave us the space we needed to get a proper warm up. He was working so well, in trot & canter he was a bundle of energy, but it was controllable so it gave me a good ground to work with. He was very responsive to everything I was asking him to do, which did surprise me. He can be quite a difficult horse at time in terms of keeping him from getting flustered. So with this I acted quick, took the draw reins off and I popped him over two or three jumps before we headed into the arena for our first round.
Tip: I highly recommend not over jumping a horse too much before entering your round. Working on transitions and making sure your horse is listening to you is far more beneficial. I would keep my jumping at a max of 4 times, unless you run into major problems or really sloppy jumping.
Round 1 – Midi
I was left to wait 5-10 minutes outside the gate before I entered the arena. My nerves were totally forgot about at this stage as Dante literally would not stand still. The tables had turned, I am pretty sure Dante began to gain more nerves than me at this stage. So with a few reassuring pats on the neck & talking to him trying to relax him he settled as we walked into the arena.
The crowd was huge. There were people talking, shouting, microphones being spoke into & Dante didn’t bat an eyelid. I was amazed, we were both in our happy place, back jumping!! Dante awaited instructions from me and instead of flapping around, I got straight into it, I heard the bell and I began to approach the first fence.
He was fantastic. He came back to me in between fences when I asked and didn’t rush or take off unannounced. He did have a good look at a big red sign hanging up on one of their fences, but as I ignored it and rode him on he began to ignore it too. I wont lie, our jumping was slightly sloppy. We knocked around 4/5 poles, not to blame Dante but he wasn’t really lifting his legs over the fences, he wasn’t appreciating the height of them one bit, they were 70-80cm!
Overall I was delighted with his first round, knocking poles didn’t really bother me one bit, as I was more focused on how he behaved over anything else. This was all a brand new scene to him so keeping him relaxed was key. Beside it was more like a warm up for our team event coming up next!
Round 2 – Maxi
He was yet again taking everything in his stride, the crowds, the noises. As we entered the arena for our Maxi round, I could feel him a lot more relaxed underneath me. With the first round out of the way he knew what he had to do & we both knew the course.
Again, we got straight into it, once the bell sounded we started approaching our first fence. I will admit his strides are so hard to read at the moment! But that will take time as we both have only started jumping properly!
Once over the first fence, he did knock it, but as we approached the second fence, I pushed him. I pushed him for the big stride and he met the fence perfect. The next 4-5 fences I kept pushing him for the longer stride and he met everything spot on.
I was delighted with him, but when it comes to our jumping at the minute we both just need time to adjust to each other more & get used to each other. His jump can be huge at times, I am just about getting to grips with staying in the saddle!! But jumping the bigger fences seemed to be a lot more comfortable for both me & him.
We finished the course with 8 faults possibly 12, but again I didn’t really care about the knocks, his behaviour was all I was worried about for his first show out! That and well we had no refusals either! So overall I was delighted with his performance.
We ended up placing 3rd in our Midi round & 4th in our Maxi round, so with these results I was delighted! But like I keep saying, I was mostly concerned about his behaviour over his performance, bringing him to this show has really opened my eyes to how far we both have come!
When I first bought him back in October bringing Dante to this show was my goal, and I am still fairly shocked that we reached it, considering how much trouble I had with him up until 2 months ago!
So for everyone reading this, if I can do it ANYONE can do it!!!
Onwards & upwards from here!