Your First Horse Show
While owning a riding a horse is a wonderful experience in itself, most riders eventually feel the urge to take their horse out into the world of horse showing. Showing is a wonderful way to challenge yourself and your horse and to get a chance to compare yourself to others in the same discipline.
There are shows available for riders of all ages and levels of experience. Many farms that teach lessons hold a regular series of schooling shows that often are open to the public. You will also find that many fairs hold low-level horse shows and some areas even have special clubs that host a series of shows through the season.
The first step is finding what shows are available for your discipline. Not all shows have classes for all kinds of horses or riders. If you know of a local barn that specializes in your discipline you can try giving them a call to see if there are any shows in your area that might suit your goals. Another place to look is at local horsey websites where many show organizers will post their shows. If your horses are a part of a specific breed organization try contacting that group and see if they have any events out your way.
Once you have found a show take a look at their class list. It is important to understand what is required in each of the divisions before deciding which ones to enter. The classes are not always what you might expect at a glance. For example, a pleasure class might look like it should be performed out on the trail, but in fact it is in a closed ring with a group of horses who are judged for how quiet and comfortable they are to ride. If you are unsure what any of the classes are contact the show organizer and they will be glad to help you.
Before the show, spend some time practicing the things you plan to do at the show. Make sure that your horse listens well and is used to working with other horses in the ring. If you can, take your horse to a neighbouring farm or two to get him used to working at a place other than your home farm. Not all horses trailer well, so if your horse has not been shipped recently you might want to practice loading him a few times so that you are not stuck with a horse who will not get on the trailer the morning of the show.
The day before the show spend a lot of time cleaning your horse. It is a sign of respect to the judge to present a well-groomed horse. If your discipline requires braiding you should make an effort to braid your horse. Even at the lower levels it is better to show a horse braided if it suits your discipline and the practice is great, especially if you plan to try showing at the higher levels in the long run.
Your tack should also be thoroughly cleaned and polished. Don’t use any products that would make your saddle slippery, you would not want to have a spill thanks to slippery tack. Set aside some clean brushes and bandages to use on the show day.
Before going to bed make sure that you have everything packed up and ready to go. Show mornings are stressful enough without having to race around trying to find things to take with you.
On the morning of the show be sure to plan to arrive at least an hour before your classes are to begin. This will give you time to sign in, get your horse tacked up and warm up. If you are not sure what time you should be there contact the show for an estimate and arrive half an hour earlier than they suggest. It is better to be too early than too late.
When you arrive go to the show office before unloading your horse. They will sign you in, give you your number and let you know where things are at. Once you are signed in return to your trailer and unload your horse. If you have time take your horse for a little walk around the show grounds so they know what to expect.
About half an hour before your classes tack up and start to warm up your horse. Most shows will have a ring set aside for warming up your horse. Keep your ears open for the announcer so you know when your class begins.
In your class relax and just do your best. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, what matters is that you try your best and have fun.
When the day is finally over give your horse a thorough grooming and let him go and relax. If your horse can be turned out for a while it is a great way to get him to settle down and de-stress. Have your barn manager give him a hot bran mash or some extra treats for dinner if your horse enjoys that sort of thing. Most horses like to have a day off after showing, so don’t make any plans to ride your horse the next day.
Once your horse is back home and settled in you can get a chance to relax too. Take it easy and have fun going over the events of the day. Learn from your mistakes and plan ahead to make sure that things will go even better next time.