Why go to a horse show? Why don’t you just light $2,500 on fire and then have someone push you in dirt?
Yep. That pretty much sums it up. But showing your horse is also gives purpose to the many hours and days you spend training and grooming, which can motivate you to do your best even on those days when you just don’t feel like doing it. Shows are also a great opportunity to meet other owners, to socialize and to share knowledge.
Below are some of my experiences with horse sows, the good and the bad, and the reasons why I continue to attend them.
You plan for the show, make your entries. Choke a little at the size of the check you just wrote. Pay your trainer and hauling fees. But, smiling all the while you feel confident that you are about to show the judges the result of your hard work. You don’t know if you will wow the judges, but you know that the scores you receive will at least reflect your effort. Maybe you have even moved up a level, and you feel great about meeting the directives and expectations of said level. You are a bright eyed and shiny girl ready to have fun with your pony.
Arriving at the show, setting up, getting the horses settled, you are ready to go school!
Let’s go work. You wait for the time that works best for your trainer. That, of course, also happens to be the time the grounds keepers are weed whacking and setting up the viewing tent. After your horse has finished having a stroke and is still quaking in his shoes, your lesson begins.
Has your trainer always sounded this grumpy? She must be having a long day. Wait, why is she talking to you like you are not riding well? Why is your horse feeling different than he does at home? Have you always struggled so much to keep him round? Has the diagonal across the arena always been that long?
Somehow you get your act together and have a productive training session. Still feeling confident, after cleaning your tack and polishing your boots, you leave to enjoy a nice dinner with your barn friends, eager to start showing the next day.
You sleep horribly.
The next morning everything runs smoothly. The horse is clean and braided. Every part of test preparation miraculously flows. Heading to the ring on time for your warmup. Your trainer meets you and you work together to make final preparations. You run each step of the test through your head one more time and climb into the saddle.
Then everything goes blank.
Walking back to the stalls you hear your trainer say, “Well, you had some brilliant moments.” In painful slow motion your memory starts to return, and you replay every moment of your warmup and test with excruciating detail. You did not wow the judges. You want to crawl in a hole, realizing that you are now going to feel really awful until after you have the test back.
Why, why, why do we do this? We could have taken a vacation (that’s the thing people without horses do). We could have sat under a tree and enjoyed a book. We could have stayed inside, clean and in the air-conditioning. I don’t have the answer. I know why I do it, and maybe some of my reasons are yours too.
I love horses. I love every minute of trying to partner with them to perform a move of beauty in balance and harmony as a team. I love making those pointless 20-meter circles. I love sweating on a summer day. I love riding in the winter despite the cold, because I am just that tough. I love having my trainer evaluate me and help me ride better. I love having her challenge me. Although I don’t love struggling, I do love making baby steps on the way to mastering a task with my horse. I love the challenge of working hard at something I am not overly talented at, but desire doing well. I even love stepping out of my comfort zone to present myself and my horse in front of the frightening people to allow them to lift me up or tear me down with their remarks. Then I come back for more.
Here’s $2,500 to burn. Now, will you push me in the dirt?