Reflections On Showing

The Art of Showing

Last year, with A LOT of prep work, Dancer successfully showed at Third Level.  With reward based training and plenty of exposure, I was able to keep Dancer calm and focused at some important shows.  Dancer earned me my USDF Bronze Medal.  This year we have our sights on showing Fourth Level.  Unfortunately, our first show was a bit of a disaster.  Not because Dancer wasn’t ready to show Fourth Level but because I failed to keep him quiet.

I will admit.  Dancer can make showing very exciting.  His default behavior to anything new is extreme anxiety despite repetitive exposure to all and anything new.  Where this behavior comes from I’m not sure but it is something I have had to deal with from day 1.  At first, I was very disheartened.  For all the success we had last year, we totally failed thus far this year.  Where did I go wrong?  What happened?

It takes several days or weeks to really sort through all the feelings you experience when something you work so hard for every day bombs right before your eyes.  As I am continually challenged by Dancer, I realize this.

  1. I failed at the number one rule of training.  Setting your horse up for success.  That’s why this weekend I will be schooling Dancer at a large show and taking my time acclimating him to everything.  The schooling area, the rings and all the commotion.
  2. I obviously didn’t make our “working” together rewarding enough.  From here on out, every show has to be super rewarding and I will not canter down center line unless he is completely willing.  While I school this weekend, I will have my rewards ready as always and will focus on a REALLY high rate of reward.
  3. I am reminded of the concept of proof.  Proof is the idea that the horse is under stimulus control of the rider anywhere and everywhere.  While Dancer was completely obedient, he was not calm.  My focus will be: how can I continue to train calm in the midst of chaos?

I completely realize that due to Dancer’s nature, I have my work cut out for me.  Being the goal oriented optimist, I believe we can do it.  I will let you know.  For through my failures and success, you become a better trainer and horse owner.  Here’s to taking reward based training super seriously.  Right down center line.