Along for the Ride – Arizona Show Report finale

by Robyn Schiller

Robyn is the wife of horse (and people) trainer Warwick Schiller. She invites you to join her as she journeys through her life as trainer’s wife, mother, businesswoman and Internationally competitive rider.

Continued from Arizona Show Report

SHOW DAY 1 – Wednesday

I woke up at 4 and thought I could sleep for another hour, but that did not happen.  So, I got up, made coffee, did my Ziva Meditation and was out the trailer door by 5:15 to ride.  I had decided that I’d ride Dale first, then put him away and get Oscar out and ride. Then I’d get Oscar spiffied up and go show him.  Oscar is better if you ride him early, put him away and when you get him out before you show you don’t do anything except walk around.  That is his formula. It works. Every horse is different. Some are good if you ride them, prep them and then show them without a break.  Some need for you to ride them, put them away, ride them again, prep them, show them. This is one of the things you have to learn about your horse.  We were lucky that Chuy had Oscar and told us what his formula was! I was told what Dale’s formula was, but I will find a different formula and that is all I will say about that.

They were both much improved in the early morning riding sessions.  Neither of them were calling out to each other now and I just saddled up and got on without doing anything on the ground.   While I didn’t feel like they were “ready ready” I didn’t feel trepidation either.

Oscar was first to go in the show pen and even though he wasn’t super chilled out before the class, he was  a little “up”, when we went into the show pen, he waited for me and listened to me very well. This made me very happy seeing that the last time we were in a show pen was in Tryon at the World Equestrian Games and we were both going faster than we’d ever gone in a show arena!  I was really happy with him and only had to fix a couple of things. We actually got a decent score of 71.

Dale seemed ok when I took him in, he was a little distracted as I jogged to the center to start my pattern.  The turns went ok. It is when I loped off that I had to go to schooling him. The pattern calls for a small slow circle first and he thought he needed to do a large fast!  So, I went to 2 hands and corrected him and went back to one hand when I thought he was “with me”. The biggest surprise was when I went to run to my stops. At home and in the warm up pen, we have been struggling to get him to go forward enough.  So, I was prepared to have to encourage him. I needn’t have been! About 4 strides into it, he took off! Well, that is what if felt like. It felt like I had totally lost control of him and my neck was snapping back like he hit the turbo boosters.  Watching the video back, it didn’t look that bad (it always feels worse than it looks). I controlled the second run down and stop and by the 3rd, it was actually kind of good! Glad that the maiden voyage on Dale was over – Now I had identified what I had to work on!

I had decided to go to the store and do some Cryotherapy in my downtime, which I did.  When I left the showgrounds, I was still in the lead on Oscar! Upon return, I had slid into a tie for 3rd and that held up for the class.  Not bad to go through and fix some things and still get a paycheck – good ol’ Oscar!

I rode Dale again that afternoon after getting some advice via telephone from Warwick.  I fixed some leaning issues I had encountered in his circles. He didn’t really give me an opportunity to fix the running fast to stops issue, so I just had to focus on straightness.

SHOW DAY 2 – Thursday

The next day we were showing again and I decided that I’d let this be the decision maker on whether I tried to show Dale in the big Derby class on Friday.  It was a big entry fee (which also meant you could win big money) and I wasn’t sure we were going to be ready. Warwick was flying in on Friday and there was another class I could show in that morning if I decided not to show in the big class.

This day, our draws were 30 on Dale and 109 on Oscar and it was in the big coliseum arena.   That meant about 8 hours in between! So, I decided to get up and ride Dale early again and he improved more.  I wanted to go in the show pen and show him without having to fix anything – basically I needed to test out if I could get through a pattern one handed so I could decide if I was going to show the next day.   I did get through it, he did improve in some areas, but I didn’t feel confident enough to justify the high entry fee for the big class. I guess I’m glad that my entire 2019 monetary goal had changed to “experiences” (as explained at the end of my Breaking Old Habits blog).  

I rode Oscar during the day and got him out later before we went in the show pen keeping to his winning formula.  He was good again, we showed at about 8 PM and although he was a little more forward than I wanted him to be in the circles, I did get to fix another couple of things and still got a score – another 71.  He is consistent! It was good enough to tie for 3rd again and get another paycheck! Our big class was Saturday, so I was going to use Friday’s class to really school him and make him be perfect with no intention of getting a score.

We all went to bed a little tired that night!   

SHOW DAY 3 – Friday

I had drawn up 7th on Oscar and later on Dale in Friday’s class.  I got up early again for a ride on Dale but Holden was acting sick.  He and Drover had gotten into the horse’s Camelina oil late Thursday while they were in the tack room.  I guess the lid was not as secure as it should have been. Without knowing how much they had ingested, I had been keeping an eye on them (they have been known to get into it and it sometimes gave them a tummy ache, but usually it’s just a little bit of oil on the ground).  That morning Holden’s tail was down and he was ultra clingy. So, I loaded him up and hit the ER Vet. We called poison control for dogs and got a good prognosis. He said to expect some explosive pooping and maybe some vomiting but that it was not life threatening. Luckily there wasn’t either of the expected things and he improved all day.  Better safe than sorry – I love that little dog more than anything.

I got back in time to get on Oscar and warm him up a bit before taking him in the show pen.  We weren’t able to do the whole formula, but enough that he thought he was going to be shown – which is what we want to do – kind of like the Do The Opposite principle.  Prepare him to be shown, he thinks he’s going to be shown and then don’t show and fix everything. Then next time, he won’t know if he’s going to get shown or fixed so he waits on me :)  I got some good corrections in.

Then I immediately got on Dale and got to warming him up since I missed the early morning riding session.  When I got in the show arena I needed to fix him pretty much the minute I went in which made me very happy that I had decided to not spend the money for the big class.  Here is where I will share all my disappointment. I had bought a very cool horse whom we all thought would be ready for me to go show. It was now that I realized I had set my expectations way too high. Maybe I overestimated my showmanship abilities.  Maybe I needed my horses too perfect before I went to show them – Chuy alluded to this and also assured me that he had a buyer for Dale if I wanted to sell him. To be honest, I entertained this thought. In the 4 short months since I bought Dale, I’ve changed.  My priorities have changed, I’ve leaned into some meditation and belief stuff and my goals have shifted. Maybe I should sell him, we have too many horses anyway, etc. etc. I hit a frustration/disappointed level that surprised me. I’ve been on such a high since WEG that this was a bit deflating.  Normal. Life. First World Problems. Yep! Also, totally predicted by the Ziva Meditation chick. ‘Better out than in’ she says. She says that the unstressing process can feel the same as stress feels going in – Wonky! She suggests not making any big decisions in the first month – I’ll take her advice – Dale is not for sale.

Now that the pity party is over…Warwick arrived later and we went out to ride both horses again.  He had me fix a couple things with Oscar that I had missed and he fixed the things I couldn’t on Dale. Couldn’t = beyond my breadth of knowledge in preparing a horse like him.   He made some corrections that I had forgotten and their session ended very well. Warwick was pretty jet lagged and the early mornings & emotions were catching up with me too.  I think we were both asleep by 8PM.

SHOW DAY 4 – Saturday

The big Maturity class for Oscar was first thing.  I had drawn up 13th so I got up at 5 to do my coffee, meditation and ride routine.  Warwick coached from the sidelines.  We put him away to get BEMERed and eat and then got him shined up and ready to roll. In the show pen, the first 2 maneuvers were spins and while he spun very well the first way, I did not get him shut off at exactly the right moment, so there was a penalty.  So, on the scorecards the 3 judges marked me a +1 maneuver/-½ penalty +1 maneuver/-1 penalty and +½ maneuver/-½ penalty (the penalties can look different from where the judge is sitting). Which basically means I didn’t get much credit on that maneuver because I didn’t get him shut down correctly! It’s important!  The rest of the pattern was pretty good until the last stop, which he did well, but when I went to back him up, he resisted which is not like him. Then when I walked him off to leave, he was limping. Not cool – I broke my horse!

We decided to give him some Bute and see how he was in a couple hours.  It seemed to help. We debated whether we have a vet there look at him or wait until we got home for our regular vet, who knows him, to have a look.  Since it wasn’t life threatening and he could be in a stall for the remainder of the time anyway, we decided to have our vet look at him when we got home, I made an appointment for Tuesday.  I used the BEMER on his body and his leg. He improved but was still slightly lame.

As far as the results of the class, we ended up pretty much top 5 in all 4 divisions and won some money.  We could have been higher in the placings if we hadn’t had the oopsie in the turn, but that is the way it goes.  I love that little horse.

Warwick rode Dale again and made more progress.  I wish we had had the time we usually do at a show, because he was almost ready!

SHOW DAY 5 – Sunday

We had the opportunity to do a Paid Warm Up which is paying for time in the arena to do whatever you want to do.  I had Warwick take Dale in so he could feel him under those more show-like circumstances. Dale was great. He really did well – so now we know that we may need more time at the horse show before we show him.

I had already decided to scratch out of the next big show in Houston, Texas.  It is a biggie. It is also a 3 day drive there and 3 day drive home and 2 weeks at the show.  I had decided before we left for Arizona not to go to it – maybe next year!

Driving Home – Monday

Driving home on Monday we left at 3:30 AM.  Pretty uneventful until a tire blowout at hour 9.  It was the best case scenario for a blowout though, as it was inside so there was no damage to the fender.  You might have seen Warwick’s post about it – we were prepared, so it was just a slight inconvenience. I’m really glad he was there though!  I think I could have handled it, but I’m glad I didn’t have to find out!


Vet came and did lameness exam on Oscar.  We could not find anything with x-rays or ultrasound, so the thought is that he just jammed himself pretty good in a stop on his back leg and we will be giving him some time off and reassess.

I’ll be getting Petey out and leg him up – there is a local affiliate show over the first weekend in May.  I think that is my next outing.  We will arrive 4 days early so I can get the best Dale prep possible and see how that goes! 

I’m continuing with my Ziva meditations and I’m dragging Warwick along to see Denise next week – I can’t wait to see what the stars say!

Thanks for letting me share. It sure is a journey!