Friday, June 22, 2018

Horse Show Lessons

After a hiatus from the upper echelons of the horse show world for a few years, I decided to dive back in this year with my new horse Madison.  We've only been to three shows so far but my division in Virginia is one of the very toughest anywhere (the Older Adults) and I was weary about being back at this level in this company.  But I must admit I am having so much fun and the horse is holding her own despite being green and lacking experience at this level.  Every show we are improving and the consistency will come in time.  I'm chalking this up to rider "experience" and "been there done that" but after a while you really do learn.

So what I have learned about this humbling sport after all these years?

1) It's Only a Horse Show
This is a hobby. It's what we do when we have time off from work and it's a horribly expensive sport, but it's just a horse show.  The world won't end if you don't get a ribbon or if you chip a jump or fall off. Yes, I fell off the mare once already this year (rider error thank goodness) and I am still laughing about it. 

2) You Have Good Days and Bad Days
We are not professionals and we ride well some days and other days we don't.  If we were perfect all the time (although there are a few professional amateurs in my division, I'll admit) we'd be pros.  Even Michael Jordan and LeBron James had off games.  Learn to adjust and accept your own riding abilities.

3) There's Always Someone Out There Better Than You

4) Buy Lots of Photos
I regret not buying every photo that was worth buying of my older horses - Sega, Dandy, and Alfie.  You can never have enough memories to line your walls with.  I am buying every photo of Madison that is worth having.  I may need to find a bigger house!

 (My only Devon photo - should have bought them all)

5) You Are Only as Good as Your Horse
This lesson was learned about 20 years ago from my old trainers wise mother.  You need a good horse. You can't achieve much on a bad horse and it costs the same to own a good one as a bad one so get the good one.

(Alfie at Warrenton Horse Show)

6) Get a Good Trainer and Follow Their Advice
See #1, #2, #3 and #5.  I would not have Madison if it weren't for my very good and astute trainer.  She has taught me a lot as have most of the trainers I have worked with.  You can't do this sport well alone and a good trainer is a key ingredient at all levels.  And if you can't follow your trainer's advice then get a new trainer.

(Trainer Ashley)

7) Chasing Points is for Point Chasers
The years I showed Sega on the circuit we never chased points and we still managed to win some year end awards.  But she had a 12 year horse show career which is unheard of in this sport. Don't pound your horse to death, show every weekend,  just to own a cooler, a ribbon, an award that no one will remember next year. It's.Not.Worth.It unless you are a show manager.

8) Look the Part
It never hurts to look the part. This is the easiest part too.Buy a good fitting pair of boots, a decent hat, a well-fitting tailored coat in one of the new tech fabrics, a nice Essex shirt. Wear gloves, use a hair net, have a nice fitting saddle pad and nice leather girth. Your horse's tack should also be well-fitting. This part is SO easy.  

9) If You Don't Enjoy Don't Do It
See #1 above. This hobby is so expensive. If you don't love it find a new (read less expensive) sport. But it's always more fun when you have a good day.

10) Primary Colors are Always Best
At the end of the day we all want to win. I am trying to teach Madison to love blue, red and yellow the best. She is learning!


  1. I love seeing a horse and rider taking a jump... One of the most beautiful things in the world to me....And when it's caught on camera at just the right moment: perfection!

  2. I agree with ALL of this! I regret not having videos of my first show horse (although, to be fair at that point video wasn't nearly as easy to get as it is today), and I was lucky enough to be able to go back and buy more photos of our time together nearly 10 years after the fact.


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