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Downtime at the Horse Show

Updated on October 20, 2011
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Donna Campbell Smith is an author, freelance writer, and photographer. She has an AAS degree in equine tech and is a certified instructor.

What folks do with their down time at the horse show depends on which roll they play in the scheme of things. Grooms and trainers have little time to spare at a horse show. It is usually the peripheral support people who between classes are looking for activities to fill the in the gaps. While some are happy to while away time sitting in lawn chairs relaxing with friends down at the horse barns, others are creative in finding things to do between classes.

Many who play the important role of show groom share the response, “What’s down time?” The hours spent caring for the show horses leave little time for anything else. Even when there is a lull between classes these dedicated individuals are hard at work taking care of the horses, mucking stalls, cleaning tack, and keeping the barn area looking shipshape. If they do have a minute to relax it will more than likely be close to the horses, maybe sitting on a bale of hay sipping a cold drink or eating a sandwich.

"What's Downtime?" Asks the Horse Grooms

Eating Well at the Horse Show

Speaking of eating, it is easy to forget to eat, or to eat well, while at a horse show. Many exhibitors feel it is important to make a point of getting off the show grounds for a good lunch or dinner every day. That’s not always easy to do, so packing healthy foods that can be eaten onthe runis important. Fresh fruit, cheese, and sandwiches packed in a cooler can keep the energy going through the day.

But many horse owners and trainers like to keep close to the barns during free time between classes so they can greet visitors and answer questions about their horses, especially the stallions. For them the shows offer a marketing opportunity for the farm’s breeding program and sales of young horses. They might look for a quiet place away from the show grounds long enough for a nice dinner, but even that is often a rarity.

Horse Show Folks are Hospitable Folk

Horse show folks are hospitable folk. A walk through the barns during a multi-day horse show is like walking through a close neighborhood. Groups of people are sitting in their yard chairs sipping cold drinks and catching up on life. Even the area in front of a barn’s stalls reminds one of old time front porches with comfortable chairs and flowers blooming. The best thing about it is they all share a common interest – horses.

Barn parties are another popular horse show pass time. They can be very elaborate affairs like the floating barn party, with each course of dinner served at a different barn, down to simple to pizza parties for the kids. Ice cream socials, wine and cheese affairs, and barbeques entertain exhibitors at many shows. These events save people from having to leave the grounds to eat, and gives everyone a chance to relax and socialize.

Many horse show folk do find time, especially when they have traveled away from their home state try to find time to get away from the show for a little sight-seeing and seek something that is completely non-horsy to do like visiting a zoo or aquarium, a museum or even a shopping mall.

Kids at the horse show are notorious for having energy to spare, even after a whole day of showing. One show mom solves the problem of her children wanting to “do something” and getting some rest by taking them to the movies after the horses are bedded down for the night. While the kids watch the movie she takes a much-needed nap in the dark, cool theatre. The hotel pool is another favorite haunt of show kids.

If you are an instructor with a string of kids and horses at the show you may want to retreat from your customers at the end of the day. With the horses in the capable hands of their grooms and the kids in the hands of their parents it’s off to the hotel with a good book and much needed rest. Many teacher/trainers declare that otherwise they would not be able to keep up the pace that working with young people demand.

The social fabric of the horse show is what holds the horse industry together. In between classes deals are made, lasting friendships develop, and nervous riders find support. Often what looks like downtime is really just an extension of running the business, but the horseshow businessis one that harmonizes well with pleasure.

Donna is the author of The Book of Miniature Horses

Kids Have Energy to Spare

This young lady smiles for the camera after winning a blue ribbon. Then, its off to see her "horse show" buddies once her horse is washed and bedded down with hay and oats.


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