After the high of 4/4 wins with Athena’s first show, everything got very real very quick for me. You see, we really had no idea how Athena would respond to the show grounds and the entire experience and although she was extremely talented, we didn’t know if she had the mind and attitude to be a great show horse.
(Me and my best friend Groot running show errands!)
Well, Athena kept her cool better than I did! Haha! She was amazing. It became very real that we could achieve some great things and the thought was so exciting yet terrifying. So Sherry, my wonderful trainer, suggested we go to one of the largest open shows in North Carolina, the Holiday Classic up in Raleigh at the JB Hunt Horse Complex.
Leading up to the show, I was pretty calm about it, but also trying to be overly prepared. This was going to be one of the larger shows I have been to as well, and I didn’t exactly know what to expect. Luckily Sherry was there to help guide me every step of the way!
We got up there Friday evening to get Athena settled in and hopefully beat some people out the arenas to get Athena settled in. This was her first overnight trip and we really didn’t know what to expect of her. She was pretty nervous that night and I rode and lunged her until she calmed down. I was so grateful for Sherry who guided me on how to keep Athena’s attention and how to work her down. By the end of the night, we were both exhausted.
I didn’t leave the barn until 11pm that night. I wanted to make sure Athena was warm enough and had plenty of hay. I was exhausted, so I went to my hotel down the street and knocked out.
I woke up at 0430 the next morning so that way I could get ready, feed Athena, and get to the arenas before the crowd hit. I was pretty tired because I was running on less than 4 hours of sleep, but I was pretty excited to start the day. I was so nervous I didn’t eat breakfast and I was so worried about how Athena did all night. I got to the grounds and Athena greeted me with a whinny. Suddenly all the worry melted away as I smiled and loved on her as she ate. I just love that mare. I was there before everyone else was up and ready, so I hustled preparing everything for the day so I could start working Athena. I knew we were going to need it.
We were supposed to be in the covered arena, which was Athena’s first time ever in a covered arena so I focused on working her in there. She did better than expected and eventually calmed right down. The show decided to move to the outdoor arena (thank goodness!). Our first few classes started at 9, so I worked her down until the crowds came in and then we went back to the barn. Sherry met me at the end of our workouts and said she thought Athena was good. So as I started fixing Athena’s braids and putting her tail in, she munched on hay and Sherry got my patterns. It was so cold outside and my hands were so numb. We trimmed up Athena, painted her hooves, and got her looking great. I spent the rest of my nervous energy polishing up the Harris Halter Sherry lets me borrow for shows and got it sparkling pretty nice. First up was Showmanship, so I got dressed and headed down to the arena.
Athena did SO well! She had a great pivot and did not miss a beat. I, however, messed up my quartering. The ring steward walked the opposite way of what we were used to and was SO fast! Everything else was flawless, and we finished 8th out of 19. Not bad for my second time showing showmanship ever! I was so proud of Athena! We would have done so much better if I hadn’t messed up!
Next up was a super fast outfit change, Hunters at Halter. I literally changed ringside and hopped back into the arena. Athena is a rescue, a grade rescue at that. I know she has some flaws, but to me she is the world’s most beautiful horse so I do like to go into halter classes, just for fun. Well, we got 2nd out of over a dozen horses! I was so proud!
The next class was Stock Mares at Halter, so I did the quickest ring side change you have ever seen and hopped back in. I really had no expectations for this class at all, there were some great looking mares out there. And let’s be real, although she is clearly a paint she doesn’t have that traditional halter stock horse build. There were over 25 horses in this class, but somehow although Athena was SUPER fidgety we got a call back! It seemed right as the judge would walk up she would cock her hip, or move her feet. We clearly need to work on that! Haha but my Athena placed 6th overall! I was pretty shocked!
Next up were our huntseat classes. We showed some adult GYAP classes, walk trot classes, and we had an equitation class. These classes were HUGE (40+ horses), and had to be split up. I didn’t have very many expectations, I just wanted to give Athena a really good experience and build her confidence at these larger shows.
We got a few call backs and in one of the classes place 8th over 25+ horses. I was pretty happy with Athena! I was nervous about my equitation class because there was a turn on the forehand, and I literally taught Athena how to do that the day of the show. But we had a flawless pattern and although Athena’s turn was a tad shaky, and she was anticipating the pattern a bit, I was really happy with our first equitation class ever.
We ended the day around 4pm and I realized all I had to eat or drink that day was a tiny muffin and a few sips of hot chocolate. After I got Athena settled hunger and exhaustion hit and I was ready to eat and curl up into a ball. We went to my favorite restaurant in Raleigh, The Pit, grabbed some cupcakes and headed back to the hotel. I fell asleep around 8pm!
I woke up the next morning and hustled to the barn. Today we would be in the indoor arena and I hadn’t had time to get Athena adjusted to it yet. So we got to the barns, got her tacked up and then headed into the indoor. They were already set up for trail and people were already in there, so it was very cramped. Athena did great and never spooked. I was so impressed with her!
We only had two classes that day, and I was very stressed out. I was feeling under the weather, Athena spooked really bad in the chute and was nervous with the rain, crowd, and new arena. It was a rough day. But Athena look great, did well, and in one of the classes we got 6th and a call back for a very, very large class! I was so happy with my girl! So many couldn’t believe that it was only her second show and first time ever in the indoor arena!
I learned so much from that particular show. I learned to relax and just trust in my horse and she will do her job. I learned how to handle sassy competitors during the warm up arenas (with a smile of course!). I learned how to manage every precious minute during the show day and what routines Athena responds to best. I was reminded that every class won’t be fair, but as long as my horse and I continue to improve then that is all that matters. I learned to trust my trainer, before classes, during classes, and after the class. Most of the time they are right anyway! 😉 Words cannot express how proud I was of my horse. She was hanging right up in there with some of the top AQHA and APHA competitors in North Carolina with only her second show. We really took care of each other!
I just wanted to give a HUGE thank you to Sherry Stewart for bringing us up to Raleigh and then meeting us at the grounds every morning and helping us get to our best. She was encouraging, pointed out our flaws so we could improve, and was patiently there every step of the way. I also wanted to thank my loving husband, who helped take these great pictures, helped me with ringside outfit changes, and made sure I was eating and drinking water all day. I also wanted to thank Maddie, our friend from the barn who helped hold Athena and helped with anything I needed at all that weekend. I would have lost my mind without the love, support, and help from those three that weekend! Thank you SO much guys! I couldn’t do it without you! <3
Thank you for reading and being so supportive of Athena and I! Stay tuned for our next update with Athena!
Read more about our journey together by CLICKING HERE! You can read how I found her, how we overcame an injury that most said she wouldn’t recover from, and how she went from an aggressive and scared rescue to a stunning and loving friend and show horse!
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