A Day at the Horse Show

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Western Show Rider

Competing in a horse show is a great way to test your skills, spend time with your horse, and engage in some friendly rivalry. This can all add up to a great deal of fun, except that show days rarely go as planned. As proof, here are some real-life horse show misadventures presented on the timeline of a one-day open show:

6:00 a.m. Arrive at barn. Discover that your horse—the animal you shampooed for 90 minutes yesterday—is mottled with manure stains, despite being swaddled from nose to tail in protective clothing.

6:20 a.m. Attempt to hitch up trailer and miss. Twice. Furiously rub dent in your truck’s chrome bumper in hopes that it’ll magically disappear before your husband notices.

7:15 a.m. Pull into showgrounds. Park in last available spot located within the Four Corners of Comfort: concession stand, shade tree, water source and port-o-potty.

7:57 a.m. Once unloaded, your horse displays antics similar to a hyperactive kindergartner. This does not bode well for the day’s events. Hastily grab longeline.

9:40 a.m. While jogging through the showmanship pattern, your horse dives head first into the decorative foliage. He then greets the judge with a mouthful of fake petunias.

10:55 a.m. Successfully navigate obstacles in the trail class, except for the lope-over poles. You never quite achieve the right rhythm at the lope. Result? Log-rolling contest.

1:36 p.m. After lunch break, change into English attire. Untie horse from side of trailer; pull him away from hay net. In return, he snorts an ounce of alfalfa dust down your show shirt and directly into your bra.

2:10 p.m. Flatwork portion of hunter hack class goes amazingly well. Line up in center, alongside your chatty barn buddy. Suddenly realize you’ll be first to do the two small jumps. Too bad you weren’t paying attention to judge’s directions. Go off course.

2:28 p.m. Vindication! Win hunt-seat equitation class and proudly ride toward ribbon girl. Unfortunately, your horse acts like she’s thrusting live rattlesnakes in his face. Humbly dismount before anyone’s injured.

4:31 p.m. Friends goad you into entering a jumper class. Much to your amazement, your horse jumps fast and clean. Immediately you regret not memorizing the jump-off course. Wander around arena like a lost hiker for a few moments; exit quietly.

5:25 p.m. Evaluate your aching joints, blistered feet and empty bank account. Ask yourself, “Was that really fun today?” Glance at shiny blue ribbon in your hand. What a silly question.

During her lengthy show career on the hunter/jumper circuit, CINDY HALE won more than 20 medals for hunt seat equitation. She currently serves as a judge at local and regional open horse shows.


This article originally appeared in the June 2015 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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