The Pros and Cons of Showing Horses as a Grown Up

Grown ups at a Horse Show

Last year, I returned to horse showing after ten years away. With this perspective, I can see why it wasn’t my parents’ favorite activity. “Hey, how about we cut a massive check and bake in the heat this weekend? Wait, there’s more—you’ll also have to force-feed your nervous baby bird of a daughter tiny crumbs of sandwich because she has to eat something, and carry ten half-empty water bottles, and consider expensive photos, and there will be absolutely no telling when the day might end.”

I can see how a poolside nap might sound better. But I’m a grown up now, and I get to make my own foolish decisions. And there are pros and cons to returning to showing as an adult.

Con: It’s been a loooooooooong time.

Yes, you’re rusty. Yes, you’re nervous. Yes, it still feels criminally early.

Pro: It’s been a loooooooooong time.

…And show clothes have come a long way. Breathable? Washable? Comfortable? Be still my heart. And credit card.

Con: Showing against kids half my age.

Is it humbling for this full-on adult to collect a green ribbon while a mere child carries away her tricolored swag? Do I feel incompetent watching her swap horses to ride in back-to-back classes when I can handle exactly one horse in a single set? Do I need a nap around 2 p.m.? Yes, to all of the above.

Pro: Showing against kids half my age.

If you happen to be at all proud, entering a class crawling with teenagers and watching them repeatedly kick your butt is a surefire way to remind yourself you didn’t come here for the ribbons. Bonus: It’s true.

Con: No parents.

Upon arriving at my first show back, I immediately locked my keys in my trunk. I spent the first 45 minutes crouching by my car, waiting for AAA while thunder boomed and lightning threatened to murder me. This would never happen if my mom was here, I thought, jealously eyeing the parents toting boot bags and sheltering their young competitors from rain and ribbonless days and missed diagonals and anything else that could go wrong.

Grown ups at a Horse Show

Pro: No parents.

I’m relaxed. Everything is streamlined. No one hovers while I tack up. No one asks what else I need to do before we can leave. No one naps in the car experiencing the most boring day of their parental lives. After my equine partner gets 5,000 treats and a leisurely cuddlefest, I can wander the tack vendors with an iced coffee and saunter home at my own pace.

Con: I paid for this.


Pro: I paid for this.

I write my own blank check to the show and promise myself I won’t dwell on the final number. If it ends up being nothing but the most expensive riding lesson ever, well, we can just keep that between us friends. Bonus: Buying the expensive photos.

Con: It had better be fun.

See the preceding section.

Grown ups at a Horse Show

Pro: It had better be fun.

I was cantering to the inaugural fence of my return to showing when I realized I was clenching my teeth in fear. And in a surprisingly lucid flash of sanity, I recalled what I’ve repeated to my horsey friends on many a rough day: “You paid for this.” That was all it took to turn my clenching into a smile and my dread into excitement. It’s easy to take it too seriously. After all, it feels serious. There are ribbons at stake! Ribbons! But in the end, this is what we amateurs do for fun. So yes, fun it better be. And if you give it a chance (and don’t check your bank account for a while)… is it ever.

Liked this article? Here are others you’ll enjoy:

An Open Letter to an Ex-Hunter

Life with Horses: The Ladies Crossrail and Chit Chat Club

Emily Bogenschutz lives in Texas and is a freelance writer,
recent hunter-turned-jumper, and professional sneaker of saddle pads
into the washing machine. Follow her on Twitter: @EJBog.


  1. That cost thing is a big one! Gone are the days of being blithely unaware of how much money you are spending at the show, because your parents took care of it.


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