Showing Offers Opportunity for Growth
By Kim Roe
I love horse shows. I love arriving on the grounds and seeing all the beautiful, excited horses and happy people. I love the anticipation, the drama, and great performances. I love picnics and peaceful behind-the-barn napping in the shade.
But showing involves competing which means winners and losers. Competing stresses out riders and, in turn, their horses. Winning seems ridiculously important sometimes. It says who’s “good” and who is, well, not good. There can only be one winner, meaning a lot of competitors go away tempted to take their losses personally.
Being judged is hard. Even though we sign-up and pay good money for it, once we’re in the midst of being judged some of humanity’s worst character flaws show up.
I’ve been there many times. Perhaps some snarling, evil rendition of your normally sweet and compliant horse emerges from the horse trailer. Or maybe you feel that the judge is blind or unethical. Or the unexpected happens—a mother with her baby stroller or a loose dog—and your test is ruined. I’ve had deer and coyotes run through the arena while I was riding my test.
Once, my two-year old daughter pulled away from the woman watching her and ran into the middle of the dressage ring yelling “Mama!” repeatedly at me. My horse nearly bucked me off as a result. Totally laughable now, but when these things happen the childish words this isn’t fair sneak into our thoughts.
But it is fair—it’s the horse showing game, and I do love it. Learning to lose (and win) with grace and humility is a great opportunity for personal growth. Laughing it off and focusing on the important stuff, like your relationship with your horse, is an important grown-up skill.
Separating out the difference between training and showing can make us better horsemen too. Just because we didn’t win, doesn’t mean our horse didn’t do well.
Showing horses sometimes seems crazy—it’s expensive, exhausting, and the risk of hauling them feels almost unbearable to me; but there are many benefits that outweigh the negatives. I find that after a show I always have a stronger bond with my horse and I know more about myself. Showing gives me the opportunity to test my abilities under pressure and discover how much my horse trusts me. I go home knowing how well I’ve trained my horse and what still needs work. All good reasons to keep on with the showing game.
May you enjoy whatever events you choose to participate in with your horse. Spring is here! firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kim Roe grew up riding on the family ranch and competed in Western rail classes, trail horse, reining, working cow, and hunter/jumper. She trained her first horse for money at 12 years old, starting a pony for a neighbor.
Kim has been a professional dressage instructor in Washington state for over 30 years, training hundreds of horses and students through the levels. In recent years Kim has become involved in Working Equitation and is a small ‘r’ Working Equitation judge with WE United.
Kim is the editor of the Northwest Horse Source Magazine, and also a writer, photographer, and poet. She owns and manages Blue Gate Farm in Deming, Washington where she continues to be passionate about helping horses and riders in many disciplines.