A Parent’s Guide to Horse Shows
When your child makes the leap from horse rider to horse show competitor, a whole new world opens up. At first, it’s a bit overwhelming trying to understand the ins and outs of competitions. To give you a quick snapshot of what to expect when your child starts competing, this brief horse show guide for parents will help.
Tap into Your Trainer’s Experience
As a newbie, you will have plenty of questions. Before your first competition, turn to your trainer for expert guidance. He can walk you through every detail of the competition and what your child needs to do to succeed in the ring. Also ask advice from been-there-done-that parents who can tell you some of the pitfalls to avoid, and share insider tips and resources to make the experience enjoyable.
Although the horse will be your biggest initial cost, you will soon discover that everything else adds up quickly. (That’s why it’s important to talk to others who can help you separate the true necessities from the nice-to-have luxuries.) From show outfits, saddles, bridles, class fees, hauling costs, and grounds fees, you need to understand your essential costs. That’s why you should set a budget and stick to it.
Attend Some Horse Shows
Before your child deals with the pressure of competing, go to a few horse shows to watch what takes place in the ring. This might help determine which class your child wants to show in, what tack her horse will need and what attire she’s expected to wear in competition. If she’s got a friend already competing, let her help with some behind-the-scenes tasks. This gives her a fun way to see the excitement of the sport without feeling the pressure of competing.
Practice Good Horse Show Etiquette
Your child sees everything you do, so behave appropriately with a great attitude so she will know how to be a good sport. On show day, make sure your child arrives on time, and is well-fed and well-rested. Calmly and lovingly offer your support and encouragement, but put your emotions aside and let the trainer handle any show day issues that pop up. Help when you can, but don’t nag or yell.
Don’t focus on whether your child walks home with a blue ribbon. It really isn’t about the “win.” It’s about your child having fun, doing her best, learning from each experience and having a winning attitude. And make sure that, win or lose, you tell your child how much you enjoyed watching her ride.
Ready to compete? Watch this great intro video from the U.S. Equestrian Federation.