Every year when the weather gets cooler and the leaves start turning I start to get nostalgic. Sure, I crave pumpkin everything and hoodies just like everyone else in New England, but seeing everyone getting ready for equitation finals and indoors makes me want to go too!

Here’s a list of my favorite parts of finals/indoors season:

1. Walking Courses.  Most of the finals I have been to have one course walk in the morning (unless the jumps move from division to division). The course walk, depending on how early/late the final is, can sometimes start while it’s still dark and chilly outside – down coats and/or vests are a must! The funny part about fall in New England is that even though it’s cold when the sun is down, during the day it can be 60-75. Come finals time I found myself walking courses all bundled up and bathing horses for the next day in a t-shirt!

2. Black Coats. If you’re showing in an equitation final, a black coat is a must. I’ve learned that a black coat doesn’t have to be quite as boring as it sounds! Look around the next time you’re hanging out near the equitation ring and you might see some pretty neat riding coats – buttons, linings, collars, and even monogrammed sleeves can add a personal and sometimes chic touch to an otherwise boring staple.

3. Fuzzy Front Boots. I know, I’m dating myself, but back in my day fuzzy lined front boots were “the thing”. I remember longing for a pair when I was just a mini-medaler. Though I rarely see them anymore, I always get excited when I see a pair cantering around the ring.

4. The “Scary Jump”. There’s one in every finals course – a jump with a funky filler or complicated approach that separates those that will be in the top ribbons from those who will not. I remember watching as many trips as possible to see how different horses and riders handled the scary jump and devising my own plan of action. Watching your peers problem solve and sometimes trouble shoot the course has always been valuable for me. I suppose I figure even if nothing goes right when I walk into the ring, at least I got to watch and learn.

5. Tail Braids. Most of the year my horse shows unbraided, so when he’s all braided up at a final I can full appreciate how full and lovely his tail is. The look on my face while admiring my horse’s tail braid is reminiscent of how a boy looks at his beautiful prom date coming down the stairs at her parents’ house – googly eyes galore.

6. Mums. Mums aren’t specifically a horse show thing, but I do love seeing red, yellow, and purple mums spread around a course. Throw in a cornstalk and a pumpkin or two and the course is even more appealing.

7. Last Junior Year Riders. Although I’m sure it’s sad for some riders, I always enjoy the farewells each organization does for it’s juniors competing in their last junior year. I love seeing the ads in the prize books from their parents or trainers, folks who are clearly so very proud of the young riders they have produced.

8. Winners Circles. Around here we have some pretty nice winners circles, packed with flowers and decorations – a perfect place to take a picture with the ribbon you and your horse worked so hard to earn. Any photo with a ribbon or smiling horse/rider team is smile worthy in my book, but it’s really nice to have a pretty backdrop to have a professional picture taken, should you be lucky enough to get a ribbon!

9. Ribbons and Victory Gallops. Speaking of ribbons, finals ribbons (specifically the rosettes) are another part of finals I miss. If you’re lucky, you can accumulate a fair number of small ribbons throughout the season… But getting to wear the big ribbon with the neck sash and canter around on your unicorn, ribbon tails blowing, like the princess you are has got to be one of the most amazing feelings an equestrian can have. Unless you have a horse that hates ribbons on it’s head (like mine). In that case you hang on and try not to live your moment of glory in the footing.

10. Caramel Apples. In New England, most of the finals that fall in September and October have the most amazing caramel apple vendors. Snickers, Heath Bar, M&Ms, or plain – there’s not better treat at the end of a long show day in the fall than a caramel apple.

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