10 Ways to Make Horse Shows Fun

None of us would ever compete if the experience wasn’t enjoyable. Here are 10 ways to ensure that your next show day is a fun day.

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Rider patting a horse after a round at a horse show.
Photo by Leslie Potter

There are several ways to make horse shows fun and exciting for everyone attending. Here are our top 10 ways to make a horse show memorable.

  1. Bring along a pit crew. Our first way to make horse shows fun, is to bring friends and family along. Juggling entry forms and grooming tools while also changing in and out of various outfits can leave you haggard—and potentially smeared with boot polish and slobber. Enlist a helpful pal (or two) so you can remain calm and in a positive state of mind.
  2. Take advantage of the buddy system. Competing alongside a friend makes the entire experience more fun. You can cheer each other on and commiserate when things don’t go quite so well.
  3. Pack a picnic. Nothing against the nachos and doughnuts from the concession stand, but packing a wholesome lunch will prevent a post-sugar rush meltdown.
  4. Nix the nerves. Calm your anxiety. Before each class, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and visualize yourself executing a perfect performance aboard your horse. If you can see it, you’re more likely to achieve it.
  5. Show what you know. Ignore the impulse to try something new in the midst of competition. Your chances of success are small. Instead, enter only the classes where you and your horse can shine.
  6. Consider a club. Joining a local riding association with a circuit of regularly scheduled events will allow you to compete among a consistent group of like-minded equestrians. You can move up through the ranks and vie for year-end championships.
  7. Meet and greet. Don’t be a reclusive introvert. Smile and chat with the lady at the entry booth, the harried manager and other competitors. You’ll soon realize that you’re among friends, which will help you relax and have fun.
  8. Pace yourself. Sure, in the early morning it seemed reasonable to enter 17 classes. But in reality, that’s too much of a commitment. Both you and your horse will end up grumpy.
  9. Embrace the rainbow. Don’t get fixated on blue ribbons. Any ribbon won is a symbol of achievement. A pink one (fifth place) in a tough class is better than first place out of two riders.
  10. Enjoy the atmosphere. For our final way on making a horse show fun, is that much of the fun connected to competition is soaking in the entire spectacle. You’re mingling with other horse lovers who’ve planned, practiced and primped for this day. How can you not have fun?

This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

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Cindy Hale
Cindy Hale’s life with horses has been filled with variety. As a child she rode western and learned to barrel race. Then she worked as a groom for a show barn, and was taught to harness and drive Welsh ponies. But once she’d taken her first lessons aboard American Saddlebreds she was hooked on English riding. Hunters and hunt seat equitation came next, and she spent decades competing in those divisions on the West Coast. Always seeking to improve her horsemanship, she rode in clinics conducted by world-class riders like George Morris, Kathy Kusner and Anne Kursinski. During that time, her family began raising Thoroughbred and warmblood sport horses, and Cindy experienced the thrills and challenges of training and showing the homebred greenies. Now retired from active competition, she’s a popular judge at local and county-rated open and hunter/jumper shows. She rides recreationally both English and western. Her Paint gelding, Wally, lives at home with her and her non-horsey husband, Ron.

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