Important Lessons You Can Learn From Horse Shows (Even if You Don't Place)

With horse show season beginning, you will likely, at some point or another, come home from a show without placing. And while it might seem like you lost out in that situation and didn’t have a successful horse show, there’s still a lot you can learn from the show. Here’s what you should think about.

Asses Those Who Did Place

Take a look at the horses and riders who placed above you in the class. Consider the differences between their ride and yours. What are their strengths, and how do they compare to your strengths? If a friend has recorded the class, reviewing the video later on once you are back home can be a great way to understand the differences between your ride and the top-placing rides. Once you understand those differences, you can then think about how to improve your performance.

A quick note: When a class calls for judging that may be subjective (as in, a hunter round is judged according to preferences, whereas a jumper round is judged on fences cleared and time), a judge’s individual preferences may become strongly evident. If you suspect that preferences are the reason that you did not place, then reviewing the class can still be productive, but don’t try to rebuild your riding to suit a single judge’s preferred style. There will be other shows and you will ride under other judges, probably with different results.

Think About What May Have Gone Wrong

You might know exactly what went wrong in the show or class, but sometimes talking with your trainer afterwards can identify additional areas for improvement. Once you have identified what went wrong, it is important to change your focus to how you can improve and fix those issues for future shows. Problems that reveal themselves in the show ring should become a part of your regular training so that you can fix them and improve as a rider.

Talk With the Judge

Depending on the show that you’re attending, talking with the judge after the results are announced might be a possibility. Talking with the judge can be eye-opening, since it can reveal things the judge saw that you’re not aware of.

If you opt to approach a judge, do so during a time when you are no longer emotional about your placing. Try to approach the judge during a time when he or she has a few moments to talk; don’t try to speak with them while they are in the ring or while others are exiting the ring after your lineup. When you talk with the judge, ask if they would be willing to share their thoughts on your ride so that you may improve; do not approach the conversation as if you are questioning the judge’s decision.

While a show that you don’t place in may feel unproductive, it can actually be more productive for your riding than a show in which you and your horse come home as champions. What have you learned from these less-than-ideal shows?

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