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Show Ring Camp

Eli Clarke (member Red Adair) came to her first Show Ring Camp in May 2009 - here is her report!

Our First Show Ring Camp

Being a complete amateur and embarking on my second season of showing at county level, when I happened upon a post on the Horse & Hound forum in March mentioning a showing camp, I got rather excited and thought I must go. I didn't know many showing people and was doing my best with very little showing knowledge and learning through making multiple mistakes. I really did need some intensive help to get the best out of my horse.

I promptly joined The Show Ring forum and began planning my week away at camp. It was great to start speaking to people who show and I got lots of very helpful advice even before we went to camp. The week of camp soon came round and I packed up my little lorry with all sorts of things, most of which I didn't use in the end, but as I hadn't stayed away with a horse before I decided to take all bar the kitchen sink I think!

I hadn't been to The College Equestrian Centre before but it wasn't too far to travel and we got there safely with loads of time to settle in. I settled Chester in, he seemed very happy in his stable; he is the kind that so long as he has food he's happy! Then went off to find my B&B (no living in my lorry) and came back about an hour later when many more people had arrived. It was a bit nerve-racking going up to people and introducing myself but I soon got chatting to some other cob owners, having similar horses I found it easier to strike up conversation, it also gave me the chance to ogle some lovely horses!

That evening we all gathered in the canteen for some food and a chance to get to know each other a little more. Everyone introduced themselves, but I am truly awful with names and hardly remembered a single one! It seemed that we were still missing a particular cob and his owner as she was running late, when she arrived I left the gathering and went to help her unload and settle her horse into his stable, by the time we had done this everyone was off to bed so I trundled off to my B&B for the night.

Monday First riding day of camp. I got up early and went to give Chester his breakfast; he seemed to have had a good night's sleep as he was covered in shavings. It was schooling day and I had a lesson with Sheila, Chester was in a good mood and went very well in his lesson. Sheila said he needed to use his hocks a bit more and get them underneath him so we worked on small circles in trot and then striking off into canter from the circle. This did improve his transitions which I had been struggling with so I was pleased with our progress.

Sheila was very encouraging and said how nicely I ride Chester, which was lovely to hear considering our last instructor had given up on us (we went through a really bad spell last year and hadn't had any lessons since). I put Chester back into his stable and went to watch some other lessons; it was really interesting to observe, especially other cobs as I didn't know anyone with a show cob before camp.

In the evening we all gathered in the canteen again and over dinner talked about how we had got on and had a chance to look at photos of the day, which were fantastic, I bought seven I think, over the course of camp!

Tuesday Showing Day. My first session was with Allister Hood first thing in the morning. At this point I was incredibly pleased with my choice of horse, not only is there no hair to plait, but he is also poo coloured so a quick brush, squirt of showsheen, chucked some tack on him, cleaned myself up and off we went. It was a FAB session with 4 beautiful cobs. It was treated like a show class, we all went around together and then Allister rode each of them and gave us feedback on what the ride judge wants. It was great to get that kind of insight from a panel judge, priceless!

In the afternoon we had a session with Paul Cook, which again was great. We concentrated on what the judges want to see on the go round, so very different to the morning session. Paul decided that we should practice our gallop, as he really likes cobs to gallop! So one by one we did a gallop and Paul gave feedback on each one. Up until this point I had kept it quite quiet that my heavyweight lump of a horse can actually shift when asked to! So when it was our turn off we went into canter and I set him up well and he thundered along the side of the school, I think we surprised everyone. Paul seemed rather happy with our performance and Chester I think, was quite proud of himself too.

After the session a number of people appeared who suddenly wanted to play swapsies and have a go on Chester, everyone just wanted to gallop and Chester was more than happy to oblige.

In the canteen that night I got a prize for our efforts in Paul's lesson which I was very surprised to receive. Each day the instructors nominated someone from their lessons who they thought had improved the most and today it was us, very proud of my neddie. That evening we had a quiz and to be honest I was pretty useless, but had an amazing team, the questions really were quite tough. We ended up on joint first with another team, but lost on the second tiebreaker question, it was very close!

Wednesday I wimped out on jumping, well I actually thought that another schooling session, this time in a snaffle would be more useful as I am not a great jumper and Chester isn't really either. I wanted to get Sheila's opinion on whether we could do dressage over the winter. Chester was a good boy, despite being a bit tired. He did some good work, but at the end threw in the towel when asked to leg yield, he was shattered and just decided to tell me in no uncertain terms that he had done enough in that session.

I watched the jumping lessons which were great, really confidence giving for all the participants and then as we didn't have another lesson in the afternoon we decided to go for a little leg stretch around the cross country course with one of the other cobs. Chester misheard me when I said shall we go for a "little canter" and he set off at a pace up a long hill. He obviously still had fuel in the tank. It was good fun and gave Chester a break from the school.

Thursday There were some desensitization sessions in the morning which I didn't do as Chester is pretty good with most things, but it was very interesting to watch and see huge improvements in some of the horses within just the one session. I then took Chester for a walk this time on the XC course with another cob. We had a very leisurely stroll which was lovely and plodded through the water.

After lunch we had the chance to try side saddle which I found very strange and quite un-nerving, like learning to ride all over again. I did manage to walk, trot and canter so was quite pleased with myself, but I don't think I will be taking it up any time soon. Had to then pack up and say my goodbyes to everyone, which was really sad. I had made some great new friends and learnt so much that I didn't want camp to come to an end. I knew many people lived miles from me and that it was unlikely that I would see them again for many months. We all exchanged phone numbers and I am sure some of the people I met will be lifelong friends.

I am so glad I went to camp it really has set me up for the season and given me the confidence that I know what I am doing and a much better understanding of what is required of us in the ring, lets just hope I can put the theory into practice.

Note from TSR - The Show Ring is a non profit making organisation and no money is retained by The Show Ring from these training camps.

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