We did it! Hugo went to his 2nd show, and it was my first time to show him. Going into the show I wasn’t even sure I would actually ride, I just wanted to see how it went, but I am SO GLAD that I got to. Ok, before I get carried away let me start from the beginning.
A/AA rated USEF h/j shows in my area tend to start on Wednesday and end Sunday. The horses “move in” on Monday, and the get schooled by the trainers on Tuesday in ticketed warm-ups. I heard hat Hugo schooled great in the covered ring he was slated to show in. I was there first thing Wednesday morning to watch my trainer show him in the baby green division. I really don’t have enough PTO to be taking 3 days off of work every time I horse show, so this will probably be the last show for awhile where I can actually watch my trainer show him.
My barn had a LOT of horses at that show, and it was a juggling act getting them all shown on Wednesday in 3 different rings. It was nearly 2 pm by the time Hugo’s time came, and even then we had to hang out at the ring for awhile before it was actually time to get rolling. Although that can be hard for a young horse, it’s the way horse showing goes and it was a valuable lesson in patience. Hugo, the little stinker, pretended to be itching his leg at one point and then sneakily tried to rip his bell boot off. He didn’t quite manage, but he did rip the “professional choice” rubber label off. That pair is less then 2 weeks old too, ugh lol.
When it was time to rock and roll he looked soooo good! The warm-up rings at this facility are all dark, small, indoors so I was impressed by how chill he seemed. I don’t even know if he’s ever been in an indoor. When it was time to start jumping he gracefully cantered up to the first fence, a small oxer. I expected a cute effort (first jump and all) but my jaw nearly hit the ground when he pulled this one out:
Uhh ok Hugo, we see you. Nice effort, but definitely not necessary. Assuming he was just over zealous due to it being the first jump, they approached again. And again. and again. Each time he put in a similar effort. This was the 4th time over (notice it’s also been lowered):
Uhhhh what the heck? It was obvious something just wasn’t clicking for him. After a bit more flatwork (in case it was due to freshness) the poles were put on the ground in a pile. He seemed scared to even walk over them. It was so interesting watching, because it become super obvious something just wasn’t clicking. He seemed to have NO IDEA what the poles were. He did finally concede to walk over the pole pile and it was like a light just clicked. He then trotted and cantered them in a completely normal fashion, aka like it was no big deal. Once it was raised to a small jump again he also jumped it in a normal fashion. I do NOT know what he thought the warm-up jump was at first, but it was obviously clicking at this point and he was back to his normal self.
As you can imagine though, this whole process led to a much longer warm-up then we normally would have had him do. Alas, that is how it can be with baby horses though, and it was a valuable learning opportunity. It was HOT (in the 90s) and around 2:30 pm at this point, so he didn’t have a ton left in the tank when he went in the show ring.
I was a little nervous that he’d be worried about the show fences, but I shouldn’t have been. He marched around like he owned the place. I could tell he was lagging a bit by the 3rd round (he did a warm-up and 2 baby green rounds) and he broke to the trot early on the approach to jump one, but recovered and still put in a nice round. He’s MUCH fitter then he was at his last show, but he still needs to get stronger and the longer then normal warm-up session showed a little.
I was absolutely beaming though. He didn’t hesitate at a single jump. He marched down the lines and got every lead change. He looked like a freaking pro out there!!! Only his 2nd show and I couldn’t believe how polished he went around. When the results came in I found out they placed 5th in the warm-up (out of 36!) and 4th and 7th in his baby green rounds in a field of 11. I was so so excited.
Video from day 1:
My trainer showed him again on Thursday to complete the baby green division. Thankfully, he got to go earlier in the day (about 10:30) and didn’t have to spend nearly as much time waiting around. They started with poles on the ground in the warm-up just to make sure everything was clicking. He was so chill that they kept the warm-up short and quickly headed to the in-gate.
They absolutely laid it down on the first round. I think I stood there a bit slack jawed. Even better then the day before due to a bit more pep in his step, I couldn’t find fault with the round. His next trip (and first baby green round) was going super until he had a hard time with a lead change and skipped it behind. No problem, he’s very much still only 5 and I’m impressed with how will he does his changes already. That is a pretty big penalty when it comes to judging hunter round though, and typically results in no ribbon. I was so proud though, all the pieces were absolutely there.
In his 3rd he got all the changes and made everything look effortless! When the results came out I felt like popping champagne- they had WON the warm-up out of 27 horses, and got 2nd in their 2nd baby green trip out of 14!!!!
Later in the afternoon he got to come back for the baby green under saddle, where he was an absolute angel and pinned 3rd in a large and lovely group. Although I love his movement, Rio isn’t exactly a ‘hack winner’, so it’s pretty exciting to think that Hugo might get the occasional hack ribbon.
I was on an absolute high after such a successful day. I discussed it with my trainer, and we agreed that I might as will try the modified adults (also called the low adults) with him the next day. At 2’6 the jumps weren’t any bigger then the baby green fences had been, and the division would be in the same ring.
Video of his winning warm-up round from Thursday:
I was EXCITED to get in the ring with Hugo. I hadn’t shown since fall of 2020 on Loopy, the lovely mare I leased for a minute before I broke my foot. I had also shown Loopy in the modified adults and had a great time, but she was a lot more experienced then Hugo. Although he looked FABULOUS with my trainer, we all know that trainers tend to have a way of making things look easier then they actually are ;). I was definitely low-key nervous that under my guidance things would fall apart a bit.
We again kept the warm-up fairly minimal, and I went into the ring. I was a little “out of body” at first I think. Yes, I rode the course, and it went surprisingly well, but it was all a bit of a blur. I didn’t read the last line right and chipped in, but thankfully still made it out in the necessary 5 strides. I sort of asked for all the lead changes (and amazingly got them!) but it was kind of a “thank the universe” kind of thing, and not necessarily due to my own good piloting. When I came out of the ring I think I was still a bit dazed. We had done it, and we had survived!
I went back in for my next round, again still a bit on auto pilot I think. Towards the end of the course I started to think, “wow this is actually going really good! I haven’t chipped yet!” About this time I headed towards the single oxer. I had fully told myself I was going to ride the oxer like I’d seen my trainer ride on the 2 previous days: confidently and out of stride.
Instead, I came out of the corner and thought “hmm I wonder where the distance is”. I think Hugo felt me kind of sitting down into the tack and hesitating and he did a lovely, albeit unnecessary, downward transition to the trot. Thankfully, this exact scenario has happened to us in several lessons and I didn’t panic. I calmly trotted the oxer. He landed the correct (right) lead, but I must have gotten crooked with my body, so he changed to the left. I then changed him back, all on the same long diagonal.
At this point I’m a full on crazy person in my head. “WE TROTTED THE OXER!” and “that was going SO WELL, why did I screw it up?!” and some version of “this isn’t dressage, WHAT were those changes?!”. I finally get out of my head (still cantering) and look around the ring. Wait a sec, why am I in the side of the ring? All the courses finished with you on the other side of the ring, near the gate. This doesn’t make sense… DOPE!!!!
I had just cantered past the last line, which I realized I hadn’t jumped yet. The course didn’t actually end with the oxer. I sort of started to circle/head to the in gate and then I thought, “should I just leave the ring in embarrassment? I trotted the oxer AND went off course. Maybe I should just quit here. But like also, I’ve already blown it, maybe I should finish the course just for practice?” I quickly decide that I might as well, and circled around to the last line. Hugo jumped it great.
As soon as I walked out of the ring I started to apologize profusely to my trainer for that train wreck of a course. I was a bit surprised- she wasn’t the least bit upset or scolding. Not even a little! She said I did great, and to not sweat the mistakes. Not quite hearing her, and thinking she was just being nice, I resolved to do better in my next and last round of the day.
I was a bit more “in it” this round. Still kind of on a nervous cloud, but I felt like I was actually riding pretty good. At the last line (the same one I’d chipped in my first round) I was determined to do better. Instead of riding up to it confidently though, I pulled and held and chipped it even worse then the first round. Whoops!!! I felt so sloppy, and was frustrated at myself while leaving the ring.
Everyone around me seemed thrilled with how it went and kept congratulating me, but I was super hung up on what I saw as big mistakes. I’ve never gone off course in a hunter round before! And yikes were those some rough spots. And a million other negative thoughts. I really couldn’t see the good parts at first. I wasn’t upset with Hugo at all, I felt like he was great but that I’d let him down by riding like a hot mess.
I think I actually just kind of grunted when one of my barn mates said good job (sorry Tara!). I felt like I couldn’t accept any compliments because I wasn’t happy with my own performance. Maybe it was seeing Hugo go so perfectly with my trainer and I was putting a ton of pressure on myself to produce similar rounds. I am not sure to be honest. It wasn’t about the ribbons (I didn’t even know how I’d done at that point), I was just upset with my own riding and feeling like I’d let myself/Hugo down.
After some time went by I kind of chilled out. I started to remember all the parts that went really well, and acknowledged the fact that I’d just gotten around successfully on my baby horse for the very first time. When I finally watched the videos I also got a whole new perspective. Hugo looked SO freaking cute, and 95% of the round was really really good!!
Even the 2nd round where the wheels kind of fell off didn’t look like that much of a train wreck. So what we trotted a jump, Rio and I used to trot fences sometimes, and in the 3′ adults no less! I was never so hard on myself with Rio, and we often had much bigger mistakes. I remember times where Rio and I would leave out an entire stride in a line. And oh boy did we ever struggle with lead changes. And here I was at my very first show with Hugo getting caught up in the tiniest things and not really celebrating all the successes. OOF! I later found out we got 3rd in the warm-up round out of 19 which was definitely nothing to sneeze at.
Video of our warm-up round, aka our first trip in the show ring together!
Not going to lie, I was ready for the show marathon to be over on Saturday. I felt exhausted from the week, and could only imagine how Hugo felt. Knowing this would be our last show for probably the next 4 months though, I knew we could push through and try to finish strong. After my little kerfuffle Friday, I was determined to have the right attitude and really just enjoy myself, no matter what happened.
We had the world’s shortest warm-up in an attempt not to waste any energy (I think I did 4 jumps), I went into the ring. I was excited and much less nervous. I really felt “in it” and like I was actually riding and making good, effective choices throughout the course. I was gauging how Hugo felt, and changing my ride as necessary. It felt more like riding in a lesson, and less like the nervous autopilot haze of the day before. We had the back rail of an oxer down when I got a little worried we weren’t going to make it out of the line in 5 stride and I accidentally pushed him past the difference, but otherwise the course was GOOD. and I felt good about it! I wasn’t the least bit worried about the rail.
Our next round went swimmingly. I could have been braver to both the first fence and the single oxer (both were a little snug) but I made those choices and then I rode them. The lines were all great, and I remembered to ride straight after and set-up for the lead changes. I felt really really good about the round.
Our final round went almost as well. I did get a little lax after a diagonal line and didn’t quite get straight for the change. Hugo changed in front but we were already starting to turn and it took a good 5-6 strides to get it behind. But ya know what? I didn’t freak out about it and didn’t like it derail my focus for the next line. I finished with a huge smile on my face, so incredibly proud of both Hugo and myself. I later found out that we pinned 4th and 5th in the modified adult rounds out of 22! It was definitely the icing on what was already an amazing day.
Video of our final round, and my favorite. Even though we had the late change behind, I felt like I rode this one the most confidently:
And that’s a wrap for our first show together! Honestly, it went so much better then I could have even hoped for. I cannot believe what a good egg Hugo has proven himself to be. I feel almost unbelieving that I ended up with him- he seems too perfect! I am so looking forward to our future together. We are going to take it slow and easy this summer, and then I hope to be ready to get several more shows under our belt in the fall.
P.S. Giant shout out to my ride or die, my BFF Liana. Liana took all the phots of me (except for the 2 professional ones by Jerry Mohme), but just as importantly she is an amazing friend who always supports me. THANKS GIRL!!! I also wouldn’t be doing any of this with out my amazing trainers and barn. I have the absolute best barn mates, and they make every show so incredibly fun. Good luck to everyone showing this week!
Congrats! Hugo sounds like such a great guy! I’m so glad you found each other!
Awww, thanks Kelly, I love being your horse show mom!
This is absolutely incredible! Even amongst the low points I think you had some very solid takeaways, and what a good baby horse for his first show. You two have an exciting future ahead of you.
I LOVE reading this ! Especially after living it with you! I can’t believe you were so hard on yourself after showing your FIVE year old horse at your FIRST show together! We definitely we need more champagne in the tack room fridge at the next show, though. Show nerves are for reals.
Y’all were adorable and you rode fabulously. Nevermind that your baby horse was a saint. Congratulations! You’ve waited and worked hard a long time for this!!