Does your barn host a few fun shows each year involving an afternoon of games on horseback? Have you ever thought about joining in, but decided against it?
Listed below are the top 10 reasons I love a good fun show and why you should consider entering.
Increase your confidence
I will be the first to admit that I am not the bravest rider, but every time I have done a fun show I have ended the day with more confidence in both myself and my horse. Whether it’s doing an activity that I didn’t think we could do, or pushing past a fear that was holding me back, fun shows have been a confidence booster each and every time.
When I owned Ray, an 8-yr old anglo-trakehner, I was struggling with his canter. It was more forward than I was used to and we struggled with our canter departures. I had planned on riding all of the show’s activities at a trot, but found that after we started, I was comfortable cantering back to the gate. Each time was a little easier, a little less anxious, and each time we would canter a little bit longer. It’s also amazing what you can do when there are a bunch of people around and you put that little bit of pressure on yourself.
Bring out the best in your horse
Ellie and I are not speed demons. She is a big girl and sometimes turning her is like steering a cargo ship. I know we will never be able to win the poles or barrels, especially when up against some nimble little ponies that seem to fly around the arena. We make up for it in other areas. Ellie does not care about most spooky objects. When those ponies are spooking sideways during the ring and sword game, we canter around the arena picking up rings without a care in the world. She is also a pretty smooth ride and the egg and spoon game is our jam, although the gaited horses are fierce in this one too! Fun shows are great for highlighting your horse’s best qualities.
You can dial it up or down
The great thing about a fun show is you can adjust the game to you and your horse’s abilities. You might not win first place, but you can still participate and challenge the two of you.
As I mentioned above, we make some pretty wide canter turns. I usually choose to do the poles at a trot, as we can stay tighter to the line. I know we’re not going to win at that speed, but we are at least accurate and can still place better than those that knock a pole (we consider a knockdown an elimination in our shows).
Ease your horse into showing
Fun shows are a great test run for upcoming horse shows. Perhaps you have a new or green horse and you’re not really sure how they will handle a show. Will they flip out in the ring with 14 other horses? Will they be chill as a cucumber? Lol or will they run around with their head as high as a giraffe while you sit there praying they’ll slow down. Test that crap out at home at a fun show, where no one cares! You can simulate a lot of the same situations you might encounter, see how your horse reacts, and have a better plan for your future shows.
Rediscover your passion
Horse shows are a funny thing for me. When I’m away from it, I kind of forget what I like about showing and instead catch myself focusing on the negatives, such as how much it cost, my fear and nerves, scary warm up rings, early mornings, late nights, long trailer hauls, and exhaustion. I forget the excitement and the fun, hanging out with my horse show friends, the junk food, the adrenaline rush, the fun I have with my horse, and the competitive spirit. If you haven’t been showing for a while, sometimes a fun show is just enough to nudge you back into horse shows and help you remember what it is about them that you love.
Boredom buster – your horse will have fun
Is your horse a little tired of arena work? A fun show is a great break in routine. The first fun show I did with Ellie, I was amazed at how excited and tuned-in she was. We were having issues with her work ethic at the time and I was concerned I would have trouble just getting her to participate – even at a walk. From the minute she went into the arena that day, she was right there with me and we cantered right out of the gate. It was awesome and we were able to continue that work ethic and fun into future rides. We ended that show with a quick hack around the farm and I had never seen her that happy before. This left me feeling fantastic too and I now knew more about what keeps her motivated.
See how your horse reacts to new obstacles
These shows are perfect for setting your horse up to succeed when facing a new obstacle. If you are really struggling, play follow-the-leader with another rider to help show your horse how its done. It is also a nice chance to see what type of reaction you might get from your horse in these situations, while still being in a relatively calm environment at home. It’s satisfying to see your horse approach a new challenge with confidence and work through it and you can use fun shows as safe learning opportunities.
You can wear what you want
It’s one of the few horse show experiences where you can wear whatever you want. Don’t want to wear a jacket on a hot day? No problem! Sick of that stock tie or rat catcher? Take a break from it this time! Be comfortable and show in your own style. You can also bling out your horse any way you want.
Get great pics
Be sure to have a friend or relative on the side taking pictures, because this is a great opportunity to snap some pics of you and your four legged partner. These shows are perfect for taking action shots in situations you might not usually be in – such as barrels, poles, or the ribbon race with your partner. There are also plenty of opportunities for good portrait photos while you wait for your turn. The bonus here – you will likely be much more relaxed than at a typical show, resulting in a more natural pose.
The photos my husband, Joe, would take of Mario and me during our hunter shows were usually so awkward. I’d have a nervous tight smile that basically said, “Get that camera out of my face, even though I know I told you to take pictures”. Lol poor Joe – no wonder he had no fun at those shows.
Most of all – a fun show is exactly that – FUN. There are silly moments, accomplishments, and a lot of laughs. It is a great day spent with your horse and other riders!