So you've gained enough riding experience to stay on a horse and to get him to do what you want him to. You have found yourself a stable that participates in local shows and you want to take your riding to the next level.
Maybe you want to show off your skills to other riders outside of your barn, maybe you're naturally competitive or maybe you want to challenge yourself. In any way, you're probably seriously looking towards competition as your next riding focus.
Depending on your circumstances, what you do to prepare for a show will differ. If you are using a horse from the school, you might be able to get a staff member to help you with grooming your horse. If you own or lease a horse, you will probably be the one doing the grooming unless you can find (or hire) someone else to do it.
The goal is to make you and your horse the most beautiful looking pair in the class before you even step foot in the ring. To do this, you'll need to bathe, brush, clip and braid your horse. Most will also apply a hoof dressing and a coat shine spray to their horse to enhance the horse's cleanliness.
Don't let yourself be fooled into thinking that preparing for a show is a "morning of the show" routine because you'll quickly run out of time. Most riders will spend late nights at the barn cleaning their horse, braiding him, blanketing him and then praying that he will stay clean so you can do the finishing touches in the morning.
Once the horse is taken care of, you need some care too although it won't take as long to do. You want to make sure your that hair is neat and that your clothes are clean. You don't want to show up to your class in jeans and a shirt. Your boots should be clean and polished and your helmet should be as dust free as possible.
Make sure you are wearing the proper attire for your class. Sometimes paddock boots and half chaps are more acceptable than tall boots. Also, depending on the weather conditions, the judge may permit riders to compete in rain jackets to avoid ruining their show jackets. So always be prepared.
It's good to have someone by your side to help you out on show day. As expected, show day is more stressful than another day at the stable. There is just so much to think about and to do. By having someone there to help calm you down and get things done is really helpful. Also, it's helpful to have that person wipe your boots and your horse's coat right before you enter the ring so that you both look your best.
So you've groomed your horse, you know the course and it's now your turn to enter the ring. You might feel extremely nervous especially if it's your first show. Don't worry, everyone feels that way. The trick is to not let it show or influence your ride. Remind yourself that you know what you are doing and that you believe in you and your horse. Take a deep breath and enjoy the time you have in the ring. All of that time and effort was for that moment in the ring.
Once you're out of the ring, you may feel a mix of emotions. You will probably feel relieved that it is over, but (if you're anything like me) you'll probably start analysing your course and convincing yourself that it was a horrible ride and that you'll probably not get anywhere near first place. Waiting for the other riders to finish and for the results is probably the most nerve wracking out of the whole experience. Try to not be so hard on yourself and to be patient.
When the results are announced, be happy for whichever place you get. Remember that you were there for the challenge, not the ribbon itself. Take each class as a learning experience to see where you can improve your skills and take the time to learn from your competitors as well.
When the day is done and your horse is set comfortably in his stall or paddock. Go out and celebrate. No matter what place you received, you put a lot of hard work into preparing for that day. Enjoy its experience and everything involved with it.
So there you are. If you haven't participated in a competition yet, I hope I didn't discourage you. Yes, there is a lot of hard work and stress involved, but it's a really unique and wonderful experience if you let it be.
I wish you all a wonderful weekend with your horses and thank you for reading Pure Horse Sense.
Until next time, happy riding!