One of my students Torrin, at a schooling show

One of my students Torrin, at a schooling show

We’re having a great discussion on “to show or not to show” and it’s my turn to sound off! Most of my adult “career” with horses has been with 4-H and kids who are taking their first big dive into horses. One thing my childhood instructor always said when we were all picking classes to show in was to pick the ones that set us up for success, and that has stuck with me forever. I set all my kids up for a positive experience.

So are you really ready to show? Let’s make a checklist…

First, do you have reliable way to transport your equine to the event? Rent, Borrow, Buy

An equine who will get on the trailer to go to and come home from the event?

An equine who can stand still on the side of the trailer while you prep them?

Appropriate tack suited for the event you’re choosing.

Are at the correct training level to show? Nothing peeves me more than shows with 6 adult and child walk only classes… Do we really need to show if all we can manage is a walk? Are we truly ready? (My kids have to at least be at the walk trot and know their diagonals and how to fix them! As well as handle a naughty horse before we talk showing).

Good help for the event? (Trainer, Coach, Best Friend, Mom)


Well, let’s show smart! What do I mean by show smart? I mean don’t show up at just the first show you see online or in the tack store and go head first with excitement! Pick out a reasonable show that SETS YOU UP FOR SUCCESS. After all…that’s why we show, right?

Pick your level: If you’ve never shown I don’t recommend a licensed dressage show or a USEF/USHJA “A” rated show. That’s a lot of money and really hard competition. Schooling, evening shows or anything local is a great start.

Pick your sport: Are you a Hunter? Let’s stick there then if you’re ready. You will have to learn this process with any horse as to their true discipline. You’ll see a variety at the schooling show level. Locally I see many “pleasure” classes which resemble AQHA but they are open shows and open classes whereas a rated show’s hunters look a little different. It took me a year to accept my horse wasn’t a local hunter and we discovered dressage from it!

Pick your classes: Jumping 2’3″ at home? Consider doing 2′ at your first show. Not that you can’t do 2’3″ but you want to pick a comfortable zone to show in and not push your boundaries. Your nerves will be bad enough.  Rocking First level at home? Talk to your instructor! You may need to do Training 3 your first trip out for some old time comfort and a good score!

Good luck - photo by Carrie

Breathe and good luck! – photo by Carrie

Now, before you pack up the trailer…

Take a human field trip… If there’s a show before yours (like a monthly series) go watch one, watch the show and determine if the people, the environment and the facilities are going to work for you. One local series is held at a equestrian public part nearby… Schooling level. However my horse will never step foot there again after I failed to set her up for success! Why? Because the park is next to the Richmond International Airport, so there are planes practically landing in the ring. Also it’s a multi discipline show and they have the hunters in one ring while the barrel racers are next to us… nothing screams pleasure horse like a horse ready to explode as she witnesses a kid down a barrel in the ring next to us at breakneck speeds. And we won’t talk about how the Mini division follows hunters, so kids lunging minis and don’t forget the carts of death really don’t help.

Things to remember to pack:

Several show outfits (you’ll inevitably wear your hotdog down your clean pants…)

Water buckets, hay, grooming kit

Equine first aid kit!

Extra halters and leads

Extra shoes (wet grass when you park!)

Now, breathe! Your nerves will mess your horse’s nerves up. So breathe. Your goal at your first show is to stay on the horse or as I tell my kids “4 hooves on the floor” anything after that like a great ride or a blue ribbon is just icing on the cake! As you keep showing you will conquer the nerves you will grow the show skills and you’ll be able to up those goals!

If you’re not ready it’s ok! If showing is your goal, keep working at it. Or take your horse to a show and don’t show them, just get them acclimated to the process.

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