There are three main reasons that I think schooling shows are valuable for off the track thoroughbreds, and why I include them as an important part of my training process in preparation for Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeovers.
- Adding miles/Experience – the more you and your horse practice in a show-like atmosphere, the better prepared you both will be in competition.
- Experimentation – I don’t always know what will work in a show environment for each horse. Sometimes I want to try something new that I would not risk under true competitive conditions. A schooling show is a chance to try new things in a simulated environment, see what works, see what doesn’t, so I can be confident in my decisions when my horse and I experience the ‘real deal.’
- Adaptability – at most shows, I like to give my horses a day or so to settle and acclimatize themselves to the environment. But I also want to train my horses to quickly adjust to any environment. A schooling show is perfect for this kind of training. We trailer in. We compete. And we go home. What this means is that my horses must adapt to the new atmosphere fairly quickly and learn that just because there are unfamiliar things in the show environment, they can still be rideable and relaxed. It’s my job as a rider to be adaptable as well. I need to be their security blanket and not let the stress of things going wrong affect how I ride: competition rings running ahead or behind schedule, random storms popping up and causing delays, a crowded schooling arena, or loud sounds and random people running by. My goal as a rider is to stay calm, “try” to practice perfect, have a sense of humor when things don’t go according to plan, and laugh when my horses do something silly. Bottom line: have fun and enjoy the moment.
To see how my Retired Racehorse Project horses did at their most recent schooling show at Chattahoochee Hills, check out my latest vlog.