History: Horse Show Manners


This is a LONG one, better grab your drink and sit down for a bit!!

Have some serious stories (MANY more than one) but 3 incidents in one day at one Open Horse show in July 1998 stand out in my mind and memories.


We’d been back in NC for 15 months, the first time with horses/ponies. I’d struggled to find instructors/trainers that would work with our small ponies & young children (insurance issues prevented some lessons – Madira was just 5 and Sierra was 4) and had gone on to do the work with them all myself. I AND they worked hard and we finally were at a point where I thought they might be ready to go “show off” what they’d accomplished up to this point when we were invited by a young lady (through our Equine Vet) to come to their clubs’ OPEN show. The show included classes for children in ours’ age groups, but not for ponies (I mistakenly thought that this was OK – not thinking about how many “biggies” are out there that have never seen small equine of any sort).

Never been to a show at 1 pm in a very hot state in July. I was hot and flustered and VERY LOST when I finally managed to find the showgrounds (several 3 point turn arounds with a stock trailer on very narrow NC back roads)… a bit later than I’d planned. UGH. I unload the girls and ponies and before I go to do their entries, get them dressed and outfitted, ponies touched up etc and leave them at the in-gate waiting for their numbers and me to come back (the foal to the one mare is IN THE CAB OF MY truck in the air conditioning, LOL). The mare was quiet at the gate and the girls were off to the side where I’d left them. Got them entered in the classes and had their numbers and returned to find an ADULT man telling all three of them that their PONIES were NOT ALLOWED on the showgrounds and whomever had dropped them and their little misfit POS’s off needed to remove them (and lots of other NASTY, MEAN THINGS) – of course – all 3 girls were in tears, already sunburned faces going splotchy/red with the tears and icky noses running freely and then the ponies started getting upset too… I was “up in arms” but think I maintained politeness ever so much better trying to show the girls right from wrong – told the “gentleman” to mind his own business, pulled out the baby wipes from my pocket and cleaned up the girls’, quieted the ponies, attached numbers and we went back over what was expected of the girls to perform (pattern showmanship class – YIKES)…

The youngest, Sierra, refused to enter the ring. OK, I’ll let you bow out. The other two – at first – were pretty “froze up” when the MALE Judge asked them questions about horse care and class patterns. Not difficult and both knew the answers, but… The other kids in the class were having problems at this point too (some of the larger horses were dragging their handlers around – afraid of the ponies), so he restarted and then our oldest, Skye (8yrs) found her tongue and answered – quietly and correctly. The judge BEAMED at her – which caused her to relax and Madira (5 1/2 yrs) followed suit. She stumbled over her next answer and it wasn’t correct but did quiet her now dancing mare (dam of foal, now with me at the gate) and reposed her – almost correctly. I was proud of their abilities at this point – no not perfect but OK and w/ lots to build on. They didn’t forget much once they “un-froze”. I pretty much had the class pinned correctly in my head BUT forgot about the son of the “gentleman” at the gate. He didn’t place at all (my oldest took 1st and the middle took 5th/last) and Dad was MAD! Didn’t even let the girls’ out of the gate before going into another very nasty rant. FINALLY, some members of this club took hold of him, pulled him aside so we could clear the gates and get away…

A little bit later, I made an embarrassing mistake that could have resulted in injury. The girls/ponies are now under saddle and they are practicing in the arena before the classes start for riding. A storm is building and the breeze is freshening. ‘Dira is riding the mare and I’m holding the colt while they stop so that he can nurse. He’s a very short 15 days old. The Judge approaches us and states that while in her riding class, the colt can be turned loose to run “at her side”. Oops – I should have known better.

When they enter the class, it’s got quite a number of kids on all sizes of horses. The ponies ours are riding are the smallest and then that TINY baby was in with them, too. It was fine until he started zooming around! Can you say that those horses got upset? I managed to duck under the rails and catch him as he zoomed by again, the gate keeper let us out. BUT the whole class had been affected (I wanted to drop in a hole)… FINALLY, everything returned to normal and the class was finished. I was just thankful everyone was OK, can’t remember how the placings in that one went…

I kept a hold of the colt for a couple more classes – overall, again, I was proud of our girls and their ponies. Last class they were in – then we dashed for the truck/trailer as the storm opened up. Almost literally “threw” the ponies w/ their saddles on, into the trailer and the girls and I hopped into the truck to wait it out. The lightning was pretty spectacular…

The storm went by and we hopped out and unloaded the ponies to untack and wipe them down (they’d gotten wet thru the open sides of the stock trailer when storm blowing sideways). The Judges’ “job” was soon done and he came and introduced himself to us and spoke to me for a while. NOW – I had been out of the horses but I had kept up with the industry. I knew who this QH judge was, knew where his QH farm was and was thrilled that he was giving back to “our” community by judging a small, open show. I was both flattered and thankful for his kind introduction, his handling of the showmanship class that was our daughters’ intro to the “HORSE SHOW WORLD” and the fact that he had some nice pointers. Then he went on to state – “…. when your daughters are finally off the little craps & into the full size horses, they will “clean up”…” He handed me his card and stated …” when they are ready for REAL (& yes, it was emphasized) horses, visit us…” and I was stunned. …………………… REALLY?

The ponies were tied at the trailer, now unsaddled, while the girls and I got some burgers/dogs/fries and watched them setting up for the gaming classes. As they rolled out the barrels – Skye realized what was going on. “MOM – are they going to do barrel racing like in the Rodeos we watched w/ Papa/Gramma?” The first class was announced and I’m studying the program. “Well, yes” and all 3 turned to me with big, shining eyes and chirped “CAN WE?” “Well, we haven’t practiced…”

“MOM, we KNOW the patterns -do them all the time (on their stick horses in races w/ the other kids in our neighborhood in town)…” I left them by themselves watching the 1st adult barrel racing class, while I went up to the Entry booth and checked to see if they could still enter their age group classes. I ended up only entering the oldest and the youngest, since Madira didn’t look so good (she would go on in the next few years to get sick at almost every show we attended and THAT’s how she remembers her summers – being sick at “all” the shows I “drug her to”).

We go back and re-tack up the ponies. ‘Dira is not upset about not riding. We didn’t have any western gear for Skye, she was riding english, so she still was. Didn’t occur to me to use ‘Dira’s saddle on Skye’s larger mare and just let the stirrups down. Also, Skye’s pony has a huge trot, but not a real good canter/gallop… Hmm… Into the ring they go and it gets quiet as Skye and Magic TROT to the first barrel, make their turn and TROT to the 2nd barrel (she remembered the pattern YES!!) – as she’s lining up to the 3rd – EVERYONE starts screaming – get that pony moving, get to that barrel. Seemed like encouragement and finally Magic did break into a weird, choppy canter (she wasn’t happy with the thick clods left by the rain/tractor before the games either). Then rounding the 3rd barrel, the “booing” started… Skye & Magic were “Boo-ed” right out of the arena – at a trot! Then it was Sierra’s turn on LITTLE Stuffy (maybe 35/36″ at the time as a 26 month old shetland). She’s wearing a western hat and saddle and though she starts out at a trot, Stuffy gamely plows thru the ground and picks up a canter… Breaks to a trot when Sierra almost took her the wrong way, corrected and went on. They managed a GALLOP from 3rd barrel home BUT they were also “Boo-ed”… It was almost the same for the pole bending class. Funny – they both placed in both classes!!

All of the classes were a jackpot system – they won $$ back instead of getting ribbons/trophies. The 3 girls did well enough in each of their classes that they PAID for all of the entries AND the gas and the FOOD we ate!! I kept the card I wrote their winnings on for YEARS… Tossed it when I put all the info on computer only to have that computer hard drive crash a few years ago. BUT I haven’t forgotten!

It was quiet on the way home. I was thinking the girls were understandably tired, but then they all started simpering… “What’s wrong with Stuffy?”, “Did we really do something wrong?” “Why were they “Boo-ing (OMG, I had thought I was the only one to hear that!)?” “Why didn’t anybody LIKE our ponies – aren’t they really good?”…

All I could think was “O, Lord, grant me strength…” and “Larry, where are you when we need you to help explain the cruelty that abounds w/i our human race (he was in Saudi)?”… We made it home, my answers must have sufficed somehow, the girls were bathed and tucked into bed after dropping the ponies at the pasture they lived in.


I never attended another event put on by that Organization. Maybe it was wrong, but living/handling ponies and kids “by myself” while hubby was overseas was enough. Instead, we went to other events, some not nearly as exciting as the gaming, but more accepting of the small ponies. 2 years later, this same Organization knew that I had gotten together with another trainer/instructor and we had a slew of kids riding OUR ponies and some horses. They wanted us to come support their events – ESPECIALLY the YOUTH EVENTS. l refused and the person calling me about a specific youth show said I was “mean” for not supporting their children’s events and a few OTHER NOT VERY NICE THINGS. I don’t remember being rude or nasty, but I could have been. I didn’t go – but the other trainer/instructor DID – taking 4 children, their families and 2 of our ponies (along with horses owned by the other families). It didn’t go any better than the first show from what I understand and the trainer/instructor was VERY UNHAPPY (she hadn’t believed me when I’d told her about my first experience with this group – said I was blowing it all out of proportion) but then she believed me!

I wasn’t as “Snap Happy” then with a camera, the camera was a 35mm (meaning lots of hard copy prints to get 1 or 2 nice ones!) but I managed to get a couple of shots of the girls that day!

“Spirit” in the cab of the truck (O, yea, when I moved the truck/trailer and then “unloaded” him from the cab, you should have seen people’s faces!! He jumped out on his own – on the lead rope – when I asked) and then Madira (sunburned!) riding Patty w/ Spirit hiding behind. This was after “their” class and Spirit was a bit “spirit-less”… LOL

I added a pic of Sierra and Stuffy while getting a lesson in showmanship the next weekend. But every show (3 or 4) for the next year or so, Sierra would either have to have me go in the ring w/ her (starting out holding her hand) or not go in at all if I wasn’t allowed to go in too…

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And Skye riding “Magic” –

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We had just picked up Magic over Valentine’s Day weekend and she’s been under saddle since mid-April – so 90 days. And in future shows, Skye would be wearing her jacket (except at a few shows where it was allowed to let them ride w/o), proper jodpur knee straps and a saddle pad that fit the smaller pony and saddle properly, with the pony’s mane also braided correctly (well in a long, running French braid)…


Not sure how we ever continued with showing over the years, but that’s many other stories!!


About lppaintedponys

Husband and wife team raising shetland ponies, rescuing dogs/cats & becoming self sufficient.
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