1. Save the Date
It’s rarely a good idea to show on a whim. Without thoughtful preparation and several schooling sessions at home, an impromptu show can result in an emotional failure. Besides, isn’t the build-up to the show part of the fun? You’ll need to give your horse an equine day spa treatment so he looks his best, then you’ll have to choose your wardrobe, polish your boots, clean your tack and wrangle a few extra dollars from your loved ones who enable your horse show habit.
2. Know the Rules of Competition
It’s disheartening when you believe that you and your horse performed flawlessly, yet your number isn’t mentioned when the ribbons are announced. Don’t take it personally. Instead, avoid the heartache through education. Before entering a class, research the judging criteria. Does your horse come close to matching the ideal standard? Is your horsemanship up to that particular challenge? Also, make sure you aren’t sabotaging your chance for a ribbon. You might be competing in illegal tack or inappropriate attire. It’s your responsibility to know the rules.
3. Compete in Your Comfort Zone
It’s hard to have a good time if you suffer from a severe case of Horse Show Nerves. While it’s normal to feel eager anticipation, physical symptoms like digestive disorders, weakness in your legs and severe anxiety are usually related to being fearful. To help calm your nerves, only enter classes where you’ll perform or demonstrate the very same skills you and your horse practice at home. The familiar routine will help you relax, bolster your confidence and abolish the fear. Who cares if you’re still jumping crossrails after fifteen shows? You’ve avoided a nervous breakdown, and you’re having fun!
Read more: Show Where You’ll Shine
4. Bring Along an Entourage
Whether you call them a team, a posse or a cheerleading squad, a small group of barn buddies always adds fun to a horse show. They’ll whisper encouragement from the sidelines, clap when you win a ribbon and commiserate when things go poorly. Make sure your entourage includes one veteran Horse Show Mom (to make multiple trips to the entry booth), an energetic pony clubber (to run back to the trailer each time you forget something), and a volunteer groom (to help keep your horse shiny). Reward their allegiance with a simple tail-gate potluck of homemade goodies. Honestly, half the fun of showing is sharing the experience—and a piece of fried chicken—with like-minded friends.
Read more: How to Be a Horse Show Buddy
5. Have an Onsite Mentor
You’ll reduce your own stress (and therefore increase the fun quotient) if your coach, instructor or trainer is present at the show. Typically you’ll pay a fee for their service, but you’ll have the benefit of a professional at your side. A mentor can help you tune up your horse in the schooling pen before your class and help you figure out the best strategy for riding a course or pattern. Most importantly, they can analyze each performance and provide specific ways to improve before your next class. Finally, their perspective is priceless. Though you might not come home a champion, a good mentor can sum up the day so it ends on a positive note. And if you can leave the show with a smile on your face, then it’s certain that you had fun.