More Horse Show Competition Tips
Annemaeve wrote a terrific and informative hub of Preparation and Competition Tips for Horse Shows. I would like to add my 2 cents worth and, hopefully, supplement her excellent article.
So, you think it's time to show your horse and your horsemanship skills before a judge. Showing horses can be a very expensive endeavor, in both monetary and emotional costs. You need to be sure your talents and training match the requirements of participation of your chosen show.
A horse show is a great place to meet and socialize with like-minded equestrians. You can cheer for your friends and fellow students, and truly be excited for everyone's accomplishments. You will find a horse show is also a terrific learning experience. You will discover a lot about yourself and come away with new insights. .
Shows in General
Local schooling shows are a great way to introduce you and your horse to the stress and excitement of horse showing. You want to be sure your horse is manageable around noisy crowds, loudspeakers, kids running around and horses everywhere. You can use a schooling show to introduce a show situation to yourself and your horse. Competing at schooling shows is a fun and more relaxed way to show your horse.
Competing at rated shows moves up the stress level. You will be among other competitors that may be light years ahead of you in experience or horse talent. Watch and learn. Be sure to be prepared for the classes you enter and just do the best that you can.
Find a Good Trainer
The best way to gain skill and knowledge is to have a trainer helping you. They can tell you what they see happening and give you the tools to ride effectively. It is your responsibility to find a trainer that you trust and have a good rapport. A good trainer will guide and support you, and is invaluable to your advancement.
Identify your Goals
Competition is a great way to test your abilities. Don't go in expecting to win, or even place, for that matter. Your goal is to do the best that you can. Know that you have prepared and you are ready to perform in front of a judge and others and be graded on your performance.
You may only have a few minutes in the show ring. This short time is the representation of hours, weeks and months of preparation. Knowing that you have a show in your plans will help you define your riding goals and expand your knowledge and skills. Just remember that you are showing for the challenge and to have fun.
Pick your Show
One should never be showing at the upper limits of one's ability (unless you are riding at the top of the game) because things fall apart a bit too easy in a show situation. Be truthful about your abilities and skills, and your horse's abilities. If you are schooling at a certain level, you may be able to enter that same level at a schooling show.
But for a rated show, it is better to show at a notch below what you are doing at home. At this lower level you are much more confident. You will be asking your horse to perform maneuvers that he knows and can do well. You will come home happier, and with a more successful performance overall.
Some competitions, such as eventing or jumping or cutting, are demanding sports that requires great skill. If you or your horse are not fully trained and prepared, you can cause great injury to your horse or yourself. Not to mention the humiliation, when you are clearly unprepared for the task before you.
Also, you may want to investigate the reputation of the shows you are considering entering. Find a well run show, and it will be a joy. A disorganized show may unfortunately result in frustration and headaches.
Know the Rules
We can't emphasize this enough. Every discipline has their own set of rules that are followed. Even if you are just entering a local show, you should familiarize yourself with the rules of that show. A local show may be more lax but as shows become bigger and more competitive, it is imperative that you know the rules of the game. There is nothing more disappointing than being eliminated from a competition simply because you didn't wear the correct clothes or enter the ring properly.
Make a Timeline
Made a timeline or count down to the show date. Work backwards from the date of the show and list what needs to be accomplished each day.
The day before the show I let my horse rest. That day I am cleaning all my tack, washing the truck and trailer. This is the day to give your horse a soothing and cleansing bubble bath and a graze in the grass.
My last ride before a show I give my horse a final tune-up ride. The time for new schooling is over. If he doesn't know it by now, he is not going to learn it before or at the show. We just want to focus, reinforce and sharpen him up a bit and build confidence.
The weeks before the show ride your horse well and work on correctness. Work with your trainer, or add lessons to your practice. Be sure to know what will be asked from you at the show and schedule the appropriate training and refinement in your timeline.
Make a Checklist
Make a detailed list of what you need well ahead of the date of the show. Be sure to have all the necessary tack and show clothes that you will need. Repair or purchase as needed.
I have posted my list that I followed for many years while eventing. I traveled a great distance to show, and spend nights away from home. I liked to camp at the grounds where my horse was stabled. Copy this list, paste it in a word doc, change it and make it your own. Remember to keep it detailed. Check it many times to be sure you have all that you need packed and ready to go.
Be well rested. Everyone gets show jitters so leave yourself plenty of time so you don't feel rushed. Don't panic. Stay calm. Spend some time alone and use any extra time that you have to relax and remain peaceful. Breathe slowly and deeply and do stretching exercises . Close your eyes and imagine your ride, doing it perfectly. Imagine every step and transistion. You have done all the work to get here so relax, go out, ride well and show what you can do.
At the end of the day
First, take care of your horse. Rub his muscles. Wrap his legs if he has been jumping or running hard. Bed his stall generously with shavings or straw so he has a dry, soft place to lay down and rest during the night. A warm bran mash or extra carrots will show your appreciation.
Now is the time to review your day, your accomplishments, identify areas you need to work on. Be grateful and know you did your best.
Have both your horse and you physically and mentally prepared. Plan to look and feel your best. Arrive with all your tack and your horse sparkling clean. Know the rules and be on time. And most importantly, have a fun time, and thank your horse generously afterwards.