Along for the Ride – Horse Show Expectations – an Arizona show report

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.

I thought I’d jot down some thoughts from the first show of the year in Arizona last week.  It was a big show, not just a local affiliate show. In the lead up to the show, I had high expectations even in light of my weak preparation due to weather and my lack of experience getting a younger horse ready to show (Warwick was in Australia for 3 weeks leading up to the show).

However, the week before the show, I was having real doubts about going.  I felt that we weren’t ready, I was concerned about driving 13 hours by myself with a new trailer and horse and it’s always hard to leave home and the animals that stay.  For me, no matter how good the people are that help us out, it’s still stressful to drive out the gate and turn it over to someone else.

I told Warwick about my doubts and he supported whatever decision I made.  Please don’t laugh when I tell you how I made my decision. A little backstory first.

I am working with 2 incredible women to host a Women’s confidence retreat later in the year – where people bring their own horses and we get to work on ourselves and go on trail rides, eat great food, and really delve deeply into self improvement.  They are both Theta Healers, amongst other awesome credentials they possess. They referred me to someone locally to go and have “a session” with. I’m pretty open to new things lately, so I thought that if they recommended it, I’d go! I didn’t ask many questions beforehand.  When I made the appointment, Denise (, the lady I was to go see, asked me my birth details. No problemo!

It turns out she is an astrologer/business coach/numerologist type of person (I still can’t really explain what she does).  When I got there she had a print out of how the planets were all aligned when I was born. Then she proceeded to describe me to the very Nth degree just by reading my chart. A few hairs on the back of my neck were standing up.  Then she asked about Tyler and his birth details and described him to the Nth degree. It was crazily accurate. We talked about the future and I left with another appointment scheduled.

So, what did I do when I was having doubts about going to this show?  I texted Denise! I basically asked her to tell me if the stars said I should go or not!  She replied an emphatic YES! She said that the energy for Travel & Competition was high and that if it was going to be FUN then I should go. Go I did!

I think I’ll have to make this a series because to go over everything is going to take awhile.  So, I will cover travel through arrival day and then continue in subsequent posts.

I decided to break up the drive and I found a horse hotel about 8 hours away, in Palm Desert near Palm Springs.  Most of the drive is down the very straight and flat Highway 5 which is pretty boring. Then up the “grapevine” and over through some little towns – which bypasses Los Angeles – which is never any fun to drive in.   I had planned to leave by 9AM so I could get things situated here first and not surprisingly, was out the gate at 9:01AM (I’m very punctual – which was verified by Denise – I think she said “You get shit done” – ummmm, yes, yes I do).

The drive was unremarkable – I listened to The Art of Living by Thich Nhat Hanh.  Highly recommend it. The horses traveled fine, I found good places to fuel up (the trailer is pretty long, so it is a bit tricky to maneuver into fuel up).  

We arrived at the horse hotel around 5 pm, got the boys settled in their outdoor pens, got the trailer parked and had time to turn them both out to let off a little steam after their trailer confinement.  They only had little automatic waterers which neither of the boys liked (I had Dale and Oscar with me), so I just dug out a couple of our buckets and filled them up.

I did a quick Ziva Meditation, ate some dinner, cuddled the dogs, tucked the boys in and went to bed. I wish I could say it was a restful night, but I had more anxiety that night then I’d had in awhile.  I was parked right outside of the facility, in their parking lot. It backed up to the desert basically. Nothing behind us but open land with Joshua trees and scrub. Coyotes were howling and I thought – “Great, just great.  What if there are people wandering around out here. What if there is a serial killer in Desert Hot Springs (seriously, I actually contemplated the serial killer scenario). Yada Yada Yada” I remember waking up, thinking Ok, I’ve just gone through 1 sleep cycle, now I need to cool off, go into another and repeat that a couple more times!  My mind did calm down a bit but sleep was still restless and I woke up pretty early – good time to do my Ziva meditation, make some coffee and because the sun came up earlier there I got on the road by 6:07AM!

It was only a 4-5 hour trip into Scottsdale so not too bad.  I re-listened to the Biology of Belief by Bruce Lipton – fascinating stuff!  I felt like I had a bit of an anxiety hangover (I haven’t been drinking so it wasn’t a traditional one).  I think the restlessness during the night really had an effect!

I arrived at the venue and was able to pull up right outside the barns, unload and get everyone situated.  I set up the trailer, put the Air Con on, because it’s Arizona and went off to ride!

This is where it got a little interesting!  Both boys were now calling out to each other!   I started with Dale and my intention was to take the time it takes.  This horse show usually allows us to arrive 4 or 5 days before the actual competition starts, but this year, we were only allowed to arrive the day before!  I was scheduled to show both horses the next day. The plan was to “school” meaning I’d go in with the intention of showing where I could in the pattern and fixing what needed fixing.  This should mean not a whole lot of expectation.

Anyway, I started well with Dale, doing a little focus work but he was definitely not responding like at home.  I decided, well, he is good at it when I ride him so I’ll just get on. He actually did do better once I was on him.  It only took about 10 minutes for him to settle in. I rode him in a couple of the arenas because they were all open and he took that in his stride.

We haven’t been able to do much stopping at home because of the weather and our arena being outside has been too wet to do much of that.  So, I needed to work on this. While we have made progress with some of the “tightness” that Dale exhibits, on this day, Dale held onto it like a pacifier.  When I say tightness, when we run down for a stop, he is tight in his shoulders and he runs downhill and has been known to porpoise a bit (have a hump in his back and his neck down while running, not really bucking, but not really not bucking).  Instead of driving from behind, running free and loose, he can run tight like this. This does not set us up well for stops. After a little while, I thought about it and decided to go back a couple steps! I had to establish more forward period. So, that is what I did.  I got him more forward at lower speeds and then he loosened up on his run downs. A small victory, but I was feeling very smart. I knew I had another ride on him in the morning before the official class and my expectations were still high.

I rode Oscar, who was a little more “up” than usual.  He called out to Dale several times and wasn’t his usual chill self.  As I mentioned, usually this is not anything to cause concern because we have days to figure it out and let them settle in.  I tried to convince myself that this was going to just be a “I guess we’ll see how they are when they aren’t very well prepared” show.  “You need those sometimes”, I told myself. “It can’t always go to plan”, I tried to convince my brain. It was a struggle because I knew I didn’t believe any of those things – I wanted to do well.  I wanted them to show well. I wanted to have fun in the arena without them doing anything wrong. You know what they say – Expectation is the root of all disappointment or something like that…totally!

I took them both down to the washracks and gave them a good bath – something they desperately needed after the winter we’ve had.  The Arizona sun felt good on all of us! I also gave them both a Bemer (PEMF) treatment and they got their yummy grain and dinner.  I went to bed that night excited to get up and ride them again before the show started. I was draw 2 on Oscar and 17 on Dale, so it was to be an early morning and I’d be done by 10:30 AM which gave me all day to play in the desert!

Next blog will be about DAY 1 and 2 of the horse show.