One mom’s account of her children’s first horse show

The alarm went off at 6 a.m., and my girls jumped out of bed like never before. They anxiously threw on their clothes, pulled on their boots, and raced to the barn to get their horses. It was the morning of their first horse show, and Ashton, who is 5, and Sidney, 3, could not contain their excitement.The alarm went off at 6 a.m., and my girls jumped out of bed like never before. They anxiously threw on their clothes, pulled on their boots, and raced to the barn to get their horses. It was the morning of their first horse show, and Ashton, who is 5, and Sidney, 3, could not contain their excitement.

Story originally posted by: Jill J. Dunkel

The alarm went off at 6 a.m., and my girls jumped out of bed like never before. They anxiously threw on their clothes, pulled on their boots, and raced to the barn to get their horses. It was the morning of their first horse show, and Ashton, who is 5, and Sidney, 3, could not contain their excitement.

"Can we go, can we go?!?" they repeatedly asked. Their enthusiasm was easy to understand. We had practiced for weeks after watching other kids compete at a local horse show last month. That day they watched from the rail as their dad and I explained how the riders walked and trotted along the fence when the announcer asked. We showed them how those kids reversed to the inside of the arena, and how not to crowd around other horses.

That day marked the beginning of a new routine at our house: eat an early supper, saddle the horses, and RIDE! The girls would head to the arena and readily await their "announcers" to give instructions. "Walk your horses, please," we would say to start each practice session. But that wouldn’t last long.

"Mom, don’t you think it’s time to trot?" Ashton asked almost instantly. Trotting was her favorite gait. She smooched and kicked "Scoop," and off the pair would go, making laps around our half-built pen. Sidney rode "Skip" over to her dad or myself, ready to practice her leadline event.

Weeks of practice finally culminated in our trip to the tiny town of Grandfield, Oklahoma, to an open horse show. As we pulled into the rodeo grounds, both Ashton and Sidney looked out their windows looking for other kids their age.

"Can we saddle now?" Ashton asked her dad as she climbed out of the truck. Although it was hours before their classes, we saddled their horses for a "test drive" in their new surroundings. Watching them warm up their horses amidst other, more experienced riders brought back many memories.


I was 5 when I showed my first horse, in a walk-trot class just like Ashton. I got 10th that day, but it didn’t matter. It was the start of a great youth show career. My family spent nearly every weekend in the spring and summer at a horse show. I used to compete in the all-around events, showing nearly every time they opened the gate.

I remember getting nervous just before each class, wanting to come out on top every time. But Ashton and Sidney had no butterflies at all. They didn’t even realize it was a competition. They just know they were going to ride, do what the announcer told them, and maybe get a ribbon on their way out of the arena.

Sidney’s leadline class was first. Dressed in her little Wranglers and a straw hat, complete with a stampede string to hold it on, Sidney and her dad entered the arena. She was riding Skip, a one-eyed ranch horse we own.

Many local cowboys said he could see more cattle with one eye than other horses saw with two. However, when it came to kids riding, he was the No. 1 baby sitter. Skip had never been to a horse show, but he knew his job: trot when Sidney kicked, and stop when she said "whoa."

They made several laps around the arena, with Dad leading them from about 10 feet in front. In the middle of the class, Sidney saw me watching from outside the arena fence. She stopped, waved and said "Hi, Mommy!" The judge shook his head and laughed along with the rest of us.

Next it was Ashton’s turn. She was riding my 12-year-old gelding that I showed my last year as a youth. Scoop and I won several 2-year-old western pleasure classes that year, including the Western Pleasure Futurity at the Texas State 4-H Horse Show.

Scoop hadn’t been shown since then. For the past 10 years he’d served as a team roping horse, went to the occasional horse judging contest, and had spend many hours trail riding in the pastures of our ranch in Texas. But it didn’t take him long that Saturday to remember how to stay on the rail.

Ashton and Scoop walked and trotted both ways and lined up in the center of the arena. He performed just as she asked, except the few times he broke down from a trot. Ashton looked straight ahead and showed her horse, with a smile the entire time.

And that was it. In a matter of minutes – and four rolls of film — my daughters had competed in their first horse show. Ashton came home with a red ribbon and Sidney brought home a blue. Neither knew what order they placed in, just that they had shown their horses, and that it was fun.

After we unloaded everything that evening, my husband and I were reliving the day’s events when he said, "I hope we’re still doing this in 18 years." Well, the girls are already practicing for the next horse show in two weeks, so I’d say we’re off to a good start.