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! 

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Comment by Lennise Mann on September 6, 2012 at 3:16pm

I had my first ever show 2 weeks ago!!  I am hooked!  My horse was amazing!  We did scratch a class cause I wasnt ready-both emotionally and actually!  lol But we had an amazing halter class-got 4th out of 7th and our walk/jog class we got 1st out of 2!  He handled all the excitement and noise like a pro!!  He even handled MY nerves without freaking out at all-just being his normal silly self!  He was a absolute doll!  He really was born for this!!  I can't wait until next year! But I totally get the points you made!  My rididng instructor always said that you ride above what youre going to compete at.  So we practiced the lope/canter but knew I would only be going walk/jog classes for my first show! 

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