As a judge and competitor, I’ve seen a lot of bad horse show experiences. From horses who begin to anticipate in the class to those who refuse to go in the gate. There are riders falling off and others just falling apart emotionally.
If training a horse is like climbing a staircase, many mishaps occur because riders try to skip a step, or even jump to the next landing.
This past weekend at a horse show, a rider I was coaching wisely decided that she and her horse would scratch a class she’d entered.
Here are some hints to determine if you enter the class or to remain in the warm up ring.
1. Don’t start a debate you can’t win.
Though there are no guarantees, whatever you ask of your horse, prepare to follow through until you succeed. As a trainer, my aim is to never have to step back down the training staircase, so I ask in little steps.
In the show ring, it may be impossible to finish what you started and make sure your horse does what you've asked without disturbing the other competitors or disrupting the class procedure. Much training can be undone when a horse figures out an escape route because the rider can't deliver on what she's asked. So the horse show, rather than furthering your horse’s education, takes it back a step.
2. “Over prepare, then go with the flow”
If it’s not happening outside the ring, it’s not likely to happen inside.
Make sure you’re able to perform the required gaits, maneuvers or jumps really well in the practice area before entering the class. It’s easy to be swayed by peer pressure, or the fact that you’ve already paid the entry or dressed in your show clothes. Ideally, you will have practiced at home a little tougher than is actually required, so that the course, pattern or test at the show seems simple in comparison.
3. At some point you have to get in the game!