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.