Sunday, March 8, 2009

To Show or not to Show

Subtitled: Just when I thought I had it all figured out.

A had another good lesson last week. Gailey is as sound as she's been in a long while. We're both having fun, things are going well, and oh, no, here it comes again. Out of the mouth of my trainer: "How many scores do you need for that USDF medal? Have you considered showing this horse again? This is the soundest I've seen her in a while."

That dreaded four-letter word. You know the one.


Yup. That's the one.

It's expensive, nerve-wracking, at times demoralizing, and other times a heck of a lot of fun. Why I'm entertaining the thought of doing this again, I swear I should be smacked up the side of the head.

I'm no good a horse shows. I suck in fact. And by sucking, I get embarassingly low scores and suffer the pitying looks of my barn friends. Why would I consider putting myself through this again. Last year, I swore was my last show. My fragile self-confidence can't handle the whispers and comments behind my back or even worse, to my face. Such as, she can't ride that horse. She needs to get a different horse. I could ride that horse much better than her.

I know what you're thinking: Oh, she has show nerves. Man, I wish it was that simple. The truth is I don't, exactly, not really, not like many people. I sleep fine the night before a show. I don't get butterflies when I ride into the ring. I don't have problems eating (unfortunately) before a show. I can remember my tests. So what is it?

If I knew that, this wouldn't be such a delimma to me. I just don't ride tests well. And my mare, for all her talent, doesn't show well. She tries too hard, over compensates, second-guesses me, memorizes the tests, then gets mad if I don't ride the test she's doing in her head.

Okay, well, I should be able to solve that, right? I wish. For some reason, when I get in a show ring, I lose my judgment (I know what you're thinking--Ah, ha! She does get show nerves.). I ride the tests pretty accurately, I just can't seem to get a good handle on whether or not the horse is forward enough, round enough, through enough. My subconscious tries to send me signals, but my conscious mind ignores them.

My trainer and I have also come to the conclusion that I am often saddled with reverse prejudice. What's that? Well, in dressage there's a lot of talk about non-traditional dressage breeds facing breed prejudice in scoring. In my case it's the opposite problem, the judge sees this big beautiful mare floating around the outside of the arena, and thinks what a lovely mare (truthfully, I can't tell you how many times, they've also told me that as I ride by before my test starts), As soon as we enter at A it all goes to H@#$ in a handbasket. I stiffen (okay, I know, show nerves), she stiffens. I hang with my hands, she opens her mouth and pulls. Her head goes up, she plows on her forehand and speeds up.

Meanwhile, the judge's expression has gone from one of expectation to looking like she's swallowed a lemon.

I swore after the last two years, I'd never put myself through this again. I spent more time hiding in my horse trailer or camper and crying than I did having fun. This is supposed to be fun, right?


I really want that medal. I've done this for too long not to get one lousy little medal. Okay, I could borrow a friend's upper-level horse, zip through the tests, and be done with it. But I really want it with my horse, the horse I bought as a baby.

What am I getting myself into? Is it really worth it?

I'm not sure. Those trails behind my house are beckoning to me, but so is that medal. What should I do?


Anonymous said...

Oviously this is a choice everyone makes for themselves and we're all different. I can tell you the choice I made (I gave up competing ten years ago), and that I'm very happy with it. The trails on the ridge across the road call to me just as your trails call to you. The difference between us is that I don't miss the show ring at all. I have a few trophy buckles in my closet to prove I was once a decent competitor at reined cowhorse, cutting, and team roping, and I don't feel the slightest need to compete again. Though who knows what the future holds? If my son decides he wants to compete at something...

Funny thing is, I never had competition "nerves" either. And I was a reasonably successful competitor. I often won or placed in events where the other competitors were actually much more competent than I was. I'm a good "test taker" in general. But I got really, really sick of the wicked things people did to horses in order to win, and I began to feel that I couldn't stand to see one more animal abused in the interests of competition. That's what drove me out.

Jami Davenport said...

I do know what you're saying, Laura. I wish I didn't, but I've seen the things people will do to win.

Anonymous said...

I dunno, but what I'm reading between the lines is that the stress of shooting for that medal won't be worth it for you.

Jami Davenport said...

Thanks, RhondaL, you've given me something to think about.

Gayle Carline said...

I actually do love showing, although I haven't done it in awhile. From shining the silver on my saddle and bridle (I've shown AQHA trail, horsemanship & showmanship), to sitting on my horse and waiting my turn, I love being at the shows, love the exhilaration of it all.

I was preparing to show my gelding last year when he broke his sesamoid and is still recuperating (see for the whole tale).

Snoopy is a great showhorse (AQHA trail events), unlike his mom, Frostie. I love her, but when I get into the show arena, I get an adrenaline rush (not jitters, but excitement) which flows into her. My mare and I get turbo-charged - not a pretty sight on a trail course.

One day I hope to be in the arena with Snoopy, just for the fun of it.

Anonymous said...

Jami - Gayle sounds like someone who enjoys the process of showing. A lot of people do. And a lot of people show clean, too. Too bad the cheaters are the ones everyone hears about.

But if you don't enjoy the process of showing and if "the rush" is more like panic than eager excitement, then that's something to consider, too.

Like Laura says, it's your call. But likewise, it's your call, not your instructor's. :)

mugwump said...

C'mon Jami, showing's fun.....your horse is cool, being nervous burns calories, you can use it in your books, (nervous re-entry into the show pen, runs over hot judge while going for her "stretchy chewy".....)

Anonymous said...

Jami, Janet's predjudiced--she wants to get back into showing, right Janet? She keeps telling me I miss cutting...and I don't. Well, I don't miss it very much...

mugwump said...

jami- I think if I lived in Laura's neck of the woods I would bait her into crawling back onto a cutter. Or we'd sit on her porch drinking margarita's and talk about it....

HorsesAndTurbos said...

Long, long time ago, before kids, I worked with someone caring for their horses. She had just started showing dressage, and was nervous, too...and her horse showed it.

She experimented with taking 1/2 dose of a sleep aide (like Tylenol PM) to take the jitters off...and it worked! She eventually didn't need it, but this might help you take the edge off. You can experiment if you need 1/4, 1/2.. Just a thought!