Monday, July 11, 2011

thoughts on horse shows

I went to a large three day open show this weekend to cheer on a good friend from my childhood 4H days. The great thing about this show is that it is truly diverse. There were stock breeds, Saddlebreds, Arabs and 1/2 Arabs, TB's, and ponies. There were divisions including western pleasure, registered QH, hunters, jumpers, driving, equitation, green horse, trail, in-hand, and saddleseat. I like going to watch this particular show series because there are so many different horses and riding styles there.

It is also always very busy. I do not think this show would be ideal for Lucy until she's been to a few small schooling shows and I have some confidence in her in that kind of an environment. The classes that I watched had anywhere from 15 to 30 exhibitors in them. Some classes had to be split. The green horse division was HUGE.

I also saw some questionable riding, and some even more questionable horsemanship. I get that things like that happen at most shows, but it always sucks to see. I've never really cared about ribbons, even though I know the whole point of showing is to beat the competition. For me, though, a show is more about having goals and beating those. I can't really control what my competition does, but I can control how I ride (and hopefully how my horse behaves) and I'd rather have a positive experience than worry about a ribbon.

There is a schooling show that has a couple more dates this season that I'd like to take L to. They also have a green horse division but it isn't nearly as packed as the show this past weekend was. I also think they foster a more encouraging and welcoming environment, and the goals center more around having fun and being ultra safe and inviting, instead of a super competitive vibe. I hope we can do one of these shows toward the end of the summer.

For those of you with green horses, how did you pick the venue for their first show(s)? Did you participate in a green horse division?


  1. When I started working with Tarzan, he was 8 years old and *very* green. As in, he'd had some okay rides under saddle, and once they were satisfied that someone could ride him without dying, out to a pasture he went and he was ignored except for every once in a while when someone had time to ride him.

    One of the first shows I took him to was one in a town nearby. It's not a very laid back show, but I know a lot of people who show there and I've showed there before and it looked pretty decent. They had a "Beginner Horse" class and a "Beginner Rider" class. (NOTE that it was illegal for the same rider/horse pair to be both in the beginner horse and beginner rider division. I saw someone try this and they were kicked off the show grounds for unfair horsemanship/sportsmanship. Go show people!)

    When looking for a good first show for a green horse, look for a show that has a laid back atmosphere, but not a ton of horses. Not too few horses, either, because its good for a green horse to be used to crowds. Prior to your class, walk the horse around the grounds to let her have a look at everything, especially around (and in, if possible) the arena. That's what I did with Tarzan and boy did it help him calm down! We also brought his 'barn buddy' and brother, Pete, with him to take the edge off the nerves. When doing our walk-around before the show, my trainer walked Pete with us for comfort. If Lucy has nerve issues I suggest doing this, it actually helps a TON!

    Hope I helped! Good luck to you!

  2. I took Izzy to several schooling shows. Low key, not a ton of people, horses, or pressure.

    Come to think of it, we're still kind of in that phase. Oh well.

  3. Hampton's first show was a laid-back dressage show. Since then, I decided to take him to the chaotic open horse shows. Tons of entries, people that can't ride, terrifying warm-up arenas, loose children, strollers, bikes, etc. But you do have to know your horse - I knew it wouldn't blow his mind and he needed to be in that type of environment for experience. But some young horses may need more quiet shows before the exposure of an open show like you described.

  4. Jackson's first shows have been schooling shows. I like the quiet, laid-back atmosphere and I like that the judges seem to want to help you improve. Jackson is very calm on trails but for some reason he flips out in crowded arenas - or strange empty dressage courts (like the test court at shows). I like that I haven't spent a fortune to enter and that takes some of the "well we better be great since I spent all this money" stress away. Once he can handle the schooling shows (he still can't do that), I'll move him up to the biggies.
    My previous horse fell asleep at schooling shows so I took him to the rated ones. He needed all the noise and distractions to wake him up. I guess it all depends on your horse - and you know that better than anyone else.

  5. I wrote a lot about my horses first couple of shows...he was and is still very tense off property so I had to choose carefully. First, I would school at as many places as possible first. Maybe trailer out for a lesson, or you can ask show venues if you can school the day after a show, they usually leave all the courses up for a day or two.

    Otherwise I chose something that would be fairly quiet, lots of room for parking and room around the trailer, and where they will let you take your time if you have problems in the ring.

  6. I hear ya on the trying to ride your best and improve instead of ribbon chasing!


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