Spring Time is Show Time

Are you ready for the horse show season to begin? Have you used the break wisely preparing to make this the best time for you and your horse?

Spring is just arond the corner, so is the new horse show season getting ready to start. Showing your horse is exciting, no matter if your are a seasoned exhibitor or this is your first show season. To keep the show season exciting and FUN, start preparing now.

A few checklists can aide in making the show season a success. Here are a few tips that will assist you in making this show season a success, no matter if you are a beginner or a seasoned competitor.

  • Set your goals and keep them realistic – Your trainer can help you pick what classes you and your horse can perform best in now and what classes still need to be worked on.
  • Do your homework – You cannot prepare for a horse show the day before and expect to do well. Practice makes perfect.
  • Know the rules – Seasoned or first time showing, check the rulebooks and know what to expect. Breed clubs, 4-H clubs and open clubs have rules books. Many shows use the United States Equestrian Federation rules. Always get a copy of the rules and review. If there is a question, call the show manager to verify what rules are being used for the show.
  • Know ring etiquette – Nothing is more annoying to a seasoned competitor that riding with novice riders that do not know proper ring etiquette. During the warm-up period in the ring there will likely be a lot of horses going many different directions. Proper ring etiquette consists of keeping at least one horse length between your horse and other horses in front, behind or beside you. If you see a nervous or mis-behaving horse, try to keep your distance. It will help the horse that is upset, as well as keep your horse from thinking maybe there is something to be upset about.
  • Manage your time wisely – The only time to ever enjoy getting out of bed before the sun rises is show day. Nothing will make you feel more flustered and overwhelmed is running late. Getting to the barn early gives you some time for grooming, to check you packing list and the ability to be patient while loading you horse in the trailor.
  • Warming up your horse – Don’t warm up your horse for so long that your horse is too tired to perform well. How much time your horse will need depends on the temperment of the horse and the level of athletic abilities that will be asked of your horse during the show. In general, try to warm up about 20-30 minutes before you have to go into the ring. Give your horse a break in between classes if possible. You, the rider/handler take breaks as well, drink fluids and relax.
  • Breathe, don’t get nervous – This is easier said than done for even the most seasoned competitor. Before you go into the ring, visualize yourself achieving the best performance of your ability. Look like you have already won the class even if it is just beginning. Don’t worry about the other competitors. Act as if you are riding alone in your home arena. It will calm your nerves and you won’t pay attention to what the other riders are doing, but to your own riding. Never get angry at your horse if you don’t do well. Even horses can have an off day.
  • Leave your ego at home – This is easier said than done as well! Remember this is just one day. There will most likely be many riders and horses of equal or better riding levels there at the show. You may or may not agree with the judge’s decisions. Again, this is just one day and one show, tomorrow is another day. If you have done the best job you could do in a particular class, given the circumstances in the show pen that day, you should feel proud of what you and your horse have accomplished.
  • SMILE! – Judges love a genuine smile, not one that is plastered in place. Just enjoy yourself with your horse. If you and your horse are having FUN, it shows and the judge will notice.

Finally, a few extra pointers from a judge’s view, both positive and negative. The following can make the show ring a better experience for all competitors. First the positive features in the show ring.

  • Turn out: over-all picture of the horse and rider/handler
  • Manners: presentation of horse and/or rider
  • Organized, confident, calm handler
  • Properly fitted tack, clean and polished
  • Handlers conservatively turned out and practical
  • Interested and alert
  • Quiet hands
  • Horse is conditioned, fit and is the proper weight
  • Smiling handler

Now for the negative features in the show ring as far as a judges see them.

  • Poor turnout, rough coat, poor condition
  • Unruly behavior, this makes it difficult to view the horse
  • Overzealous, show handlers (distracting)
  • Poorly fitted tack, throat latch dangling, loose noseband, dirty bit, bit too low in the mouth
  • Handlers sporting flamboyant attire
  • Dull horses
  • Coaching from the side
  • Poor condition and poor muscle tone
  • Handlers who stare at the judge

Horse shows can be a simple or as complicated as you want to make them. No matter if you are a beginner or veteran, keep it simple. You will have a lot more FUN. This is the most important part of showing your horse – HAVE FUN!