This is the story of Natalie & Shadow's first harness show in 2000.
It has been many years since I went to my first agility show. Recently I went to my first harness show with my miniature horse. I would like to share the experience with you. His name is Shadow and he is a 5 year old pinto stallion. He is the first horse I have ever owned. I brought him in March last year. Less then 12 months ago I did not know how a bridle went together, let alone a harness. But driving horses looked fun. So that was our goal. So with a bit of help from a guy I met at some seminar in the middle of nowhere I got started with this thing called long reining. Some nine months later I entered my first show.
I chose a show that was about 20 kms from home, Marburg. We arrived like every other competitor, with plenty of time to spare. I was there about 3 minutes when I realized I had left the nicely polished bit on the table at home. Luckily David, my other half, had come along for the day. So I off loaded Shadow and all my stuff and David drove away and left us. I wanted to stay so Shadow had time to get used to all the sights and sounds of the show, especially the trotters whizzing round the outside of the track.
I was rifling through my bag and holding onto Shadow, I had nowhere to tie him as my ute was being driven home to get the bit. Next thing I know Shadow spooked as the trotters came around again. He pulled free of me and went racing up this fenceline. A lady was standing directly in his line holding two large horses. They broke free as they saw Shadow approaching. I managed to somehow dive tackle, shove Shadow off course, toward a truck and he slowed. I securely held him and turned back the way we had came. Walking back calmly, another two horses were tied to the side of a truck spooked as we passed and broke loose. All horses were caught quite quickly without any drama. Well we were off to a great start.
Once things had settled a little, I thought it was time for Shadow to get a closer look at the trotters. So we moved about 20 metres closer to the track. He was quite upset at first, rearing and misbehaving quite badly. Within 5 minutes he had settled somewhat and I moved him further back as they were about to start a race and I didn’t want to upset any of them. We managed to survive the race with only a minor scuffle. Things were looking up.
The mini trotters were warming up. Shadow was quite relaxed around them as they were only horses. More of them showed up and they were all racing around this tin shed. 3 tried to fit where only 2 would go. There was a hell of a bang and they all spooked. They all had such sensitive mouths that they pulled up instantly, NOT. There were kids screaming everywhere as there little racers raced about uncontrollably. Only stopping when some brave soul stepped out in front on them. Needless to say, there were plenty of tears as they struggled to overcome there fears. Shadow hardly battered an eye lid at all this. But I was worried as chaos was following us everywhere.
I decided to err on the side of caution and harness Shadow up early and drive him around in a quite corner of the show grounds. The grass was a bit long so he had to work quite hard. With the edge taken off him I thought it was time for a rest. Just as I was going to unharness, everyone else was harnessing up. So I got David to sit in while I fussed the last few arrangements.
It was time to head to the show ring. By the time we got there it was about half a kilometer. A fair way for little legs. We waited ring side for quite a while. Shadow was starting to become a little unsettled. We left ring side and went for another little drive. Eventually there was a 5 minute call. We hurried back to the ring. Once allowed in for a warm up we cut a few laps. Thinking about it now it was probably almost 5 minutes of laps. On the last half a lap the warning signs were starting to show, his stride was shortening. The ground was a little boggy and cut up after the rain.
Turnout class was first. We were the first in the line of six. He stood quietly, great start. Once asked to trot out, we were slow of the mark, then Shadow would not break into a trot at all. He was buggered. No matter what I did he would not accelerate. No worries, a bit of stage fright. Smile and take it on the chin. I thanked the judge for his patience. Next class was Pony in Harness. Same thing happened. Not to matter. He can have a rest before the whip class. He managed to trot over to the line up for the whip class. Then things got worse. We had to be push started out of the line up and definitely no trotting.
Judging was all over. Once everyone had left I decided to give it one more go and he trotted around for a small figure eight and I quit on that positive. We ended up with 2 ribbons as there were only 3 in the class.
Given the experience all over again, I still would have erred on the side of safety. I would much rather have been laughed at for a pony that wouldn’t trot then glared and snarled at for one that was dangerous and really naughty. I kept a smile on my face and thought at least we looked the part even if we did not play the part. There is always another show around the corner. Hopefully we will be better for the experience.