That’s A Wrap (on show season)

Savannah had her last show of the year in the second weekend of November. If your young rider participates in shows, you know that there isn’t really much of an off season in horse showing. Technically, the next show year starts December 1st, but our barn typically doesn’t show much (if any) over the winter months. We will enjoy this time off from showing to learn new skills, prep for a change in division next year, and save some money (haha, yeah right).

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I like to take a look back and see just how far we have all come over this past show year. It was Savannah’s second year showing. She has grown so much in the sport and I continue to learn a ton too. She competed in 12 horse shows this year, both local and rated. The goal of the year was to get her in as many different shows as we could at different locations. Her trainer wanted both her and her pony to see different rings and jumps and go up against all types of other kids and ponies. The more exposure she gets, the better prepared she will be in the future.

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Some shows were great and some were tough. Everything was a learning experience for us both. It is awesome to see your kiddo succeed and bring home some great ribbons, and it is so hard to see them struggle. I have never been more proud of her though. She bounced back after tough shows, focused at her lessons, and learned from her mistakes.  I loved to see the passion and determination in her eyes. She is competitive by nature and is always pushing herself to be better.

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I learned so much this year too. It is a lot more enjoyable to watch the shows when you know what is going on and what the judges are looking for. I can tell if she is in the correct position in her under saddle classes and over fences. I know if she has picked up the correct lead and am able to count strides in the lines between jumps. I make sure to listen carefully at her lessons and ask questions if I have them. It has brought Savannah and I closer too, since I can speak her horse language. 

Her trainer has made the decision that Savannah is ready to graduate from short stirrup and go to a new division next year. She is so excited to jump bigger jumps and learn harder courses. I can’t wait to see what next year will bring for all of us.

 - Bobbi Bires, Equestrian Mom

Balancing Act

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If Savannah had it her way, she would be at the barn every day from the time she gets out of school until it is time for bed. Her head and heart are 100% full of all things horse. I admire her passion and commitment to her sport, but I also worry. I can’t help it, I’m her mom.

I worry that she needs to find balance in her life. What if this horse thing is just a phase? Will she have alienated all of her other friends when she is ready to do something else? How much time do I need to make sure she focuses on school work each week? How much time is too much time at the barn?

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If your child sticks with this riding thing, you’ll find that the demand on their time becomes more and more from all angles. Savannah’s in 4th grade this year which is a huge shift in her academic rigor. She’s had a significant increase in homework and the content is more challenging. She’s also reached a point in her riding where it’s very important for her to be consistently riding 2-3 times a week, all year long. I’ve also encouraged her to remain active in things that she started doing before horses took over our lives. She’s still in the same Girl Scout troop that she started with in kindergarten and still takes weekly piano lessons.

I am finding it very hard as a parent to know when and what is best for her when it comes to activities. I’m sure all parents feel this way at some point, whether its horseback riding, hockey, soccer, etc. It seems that in today’s world kids are all in with whatever sport they choose. I strive to try to make sure she is well rounded as much as I can. She still enjoys her other activities, so we make it work.

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Savannah knows that as long as her grades stay acceptable, she can continue at this crazy pace. We maximize her time as best we can. The ride to the barn is about 25 minutes each way. She is often doing homework, reading or studying while we are in the car. She is naturally an early riser, so piano practice is typically done before school. If all of her school stuff is done for the weekend, I have no problem spending extra time at the barn. Right now, that is where her heart is pulling her. I love to see her eyes light up and the smile on her face any time she is around her pony. Eventually all those other things may fall to the wayside, and it will be ok as long as she is happy.

- Bobbi Bires

Show Mom

We are closing in on the end of Savannah’s second year of showing, and I feel like I have learned a lot (although we have barely scratched the surface of this whole thing). Here are some of the show tips that I’ve learned along the way.

First: Horse shows start super early – like in the saddle, in the warm up ring, by 6:30 AM, early. Yeah… not kidding. Might as well roll your kid into the car half asleep and wake them when you get there. It is a really good gauge on how committed your child is to the sport.

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Second: It is an ALL day affair. You may have a little bit of an idea when your child will show based on the Prize List (it’s like the order of classes), but there is no telling how long it will take to get to their division. It all depends on how many people are entered in each class and how fast the show moves. As you get to the big rated shows it gets better and they usually have a schedule on their website that gets updated throughout the day.

Third: You are going to need to bring some stuff with you… for yourself. You will need sunscreen and a hat to protect you – not all places have shaded areas. Throw one of those fold up camp chairs in your trunk – not all places have somewhere to sit. Grab some snacks and drinks – not all places have a concession stand or food trucks. Don’t forget the bug spray! Once you get to know the venues that your barn frequents you will be able to gauge what you need.

Fourth: Bring your checkbook. You will have to pay show fees to the facility and they don’t usually take credit cards. These include a flat fee for the office/administrative plus a per class fee depending on how many classes/divisions your child competes in. Some other fees could be for stalls, hay, shavings, etc if you are staying overnight or renting day stalls for the horses. P.S. these are just the fees you pay to the show. Your trainer will bill you for their portion too (shipping of the horse and the show day training fees).

Fifth: STAINS! Horses are dirty! Your kid will be a hot mess by the time they are done for the day. I have learned to send Savannah in regular barn clothes and have her change into her show clothes at the last minute. She can’t even groom her pony without getting dirt all over her…. And for some reason most show shirts are WHITE. I don’t get it, but whatever your favorite stain remover is it will become your best friend.

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Sixth: Braiding – for your child and your horse. So I am one of those moms that never learned to French Braid (well until now that is). If your daughter is under a certain age or rides a pony, they may have to wear their hair in pigtail braids with bows. I knew how to regular braid, but those don’t hold up very well. So, I have now learned to French Braid and it helps tremendously. For some shows the pony may need braided too (not lying… check out YouTube). Their mane and tails get pretty fancy in the hunter world. If you want to save a few bucks in this gig you can learn to do it yourself.

Lastly: Packing the Tack Box for shows. I very quickly made a list of everything Savannah would need for herself and for her pony to go to a show. I laminated it and threw it in the tack box with a dry erase marker (yep… I’m that crazy lady). It has helped a ton. She can cross off the items as she packs and we aren’t scrambling for a forgotten spur or glove once we are at the show. It is teaching her responsibility for her things as well.

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I hope that this helps even just a little bit as you prepare to embark on the horse showing world. It is a lot of fun and I love to watch my little girl in that ring doing what she so obviously loves!

- Bobbi Bires