Then don't go to the show. Seriously.


Every now and then, it is a super feeling to get out of your own backyard, hit the road with your horse friend that you've been working with for so long, and get out to "play" with other like-minded people.

However, before you head off, set yourself some achievable goals for the day - both for your riding and for your horse - and be satisfied with your performances if you achieved your goals. Sometimes, you might achieve your personal best out there in the ring, but on that day, it just isn't good enough to receive a placing. And that should be as good an accomplishment as any.

DON'T go if:

- you aren't getting excellent rides at home, mentally and physically, both you and your horse.

- you haven't taken your horse off-property in many months (go somewhere lower-key first).

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- you haven't done your "homework": both you and your horse are fit, and riding AT LEAST one level (regardless of discipline of riding) higher than what you will be doing at the show.

- you are struggling with a component that you will need at the show.

- you absolutely HAVE TO take home the winning ribbon/prize/championship (well, ok, unless you are there to win thousands of dollars or the Olympics).

- you are unprepared in terms of tack/supplies.

"Green light" checklist for the show:

- you can thank your horse for just getting the two of you to the show

- you have it pretty good at home and your horse is producing "winning" rides on a regular basis.

- you want to go and soak in the atmosphere of hundreds of others of people dedicated to their horses and sport like you!

- you are prepared to put forth a strong attempt and receive feedback from the judge (and your horse!) with humility.

- you know deep down that there is a tomorrow and you take what you learn from this show and put it forward to the work you will do at home and at the next show.

- you know that even if you don't win the class, you have a chance to watch others and learn from their efforts and experiences.

- you will celebrate any ribbons (accomplishments) with the joy that comes with a deep sense of knowing that everything came together at the right place at the right time

Know that there is always the possibility that things don't come together, and you might end up with a sub-par performance that day. In this case, know that there will be other days ahead when things will go right together.

Most important - listen to your horse, and see if the show was beneficial for him as well as you.

Finally! The Ultimate Rider-Centered Program!

Ready for something completely different? If you liked what you read here, you might be interested in the new Horse Listening Practice Sessions. 

This is NOT a program where you watch other people's riding lessons. Start working with your horse from Day 1.

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3D book 2If you enjoyed this post, you might also like: 

Five Secrets to Winning at the Horse Show: The fun part about winning is that winning isn't everything!

Top 6 Ways to Ramp It Up For Show Season: Preparing for the show season may not be as easy as it looks. There are many aspects that go into getting to the show ring, and even more that need to be done before you even set your first trailer tires onto the road.

Be Productive With Your Nervous Energy at the Horse Show: The tension that builds in you during the warm-up ride can be very useful if you know what to do with it.

Do You Have the “X Factor” at the Horse Show? Finding your “X Factor” at the show is not an easy feat. So many things must fall together all at the same time.


  1. Great blog, fwdnrnd!
    Thanks for reminding us that the best “performance” is really the magic of the connection between one’s horse and yourself. That’s what makes a winner–not the ribbon.

  2. Wise words! I remember, years ago, I was waiting at the finish line for a student to come in from a training cross country course. Meanwhile there is a rider finishing and thanking her horse profusely for a great and safe ride. It was just so refreshing to see and liseten to. It showed great respect and partnership.

  3. I enjoyed this post and wonder if you would allow it to be used as a guest post on my website.

    No matter the discipline you have hit on some very important points! So much pressure is put on competitors to get the champion at the end of the day. I like where you say “you will celebrate any ribbons (accomplishments) with the joy that comes with a deep sense of knowing that everything came together at the right place at the right time”. Yes… you said it. Rather than being disappointed with not winning… be happy and thrilled with the performance that arrived on that day.
    Thank you.
    Please email me thistleridge at hotmaildotcom

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! I think showing is a very important part of horse ownership and the rider’s development, but it has its place and we have to keep the whole picture in perspective.