What happens when you head to a horse show? Is it just a simple walk in, do your thing and walk out affair? Or does something more profound happen in the process?
Shows can be more valuable than you might think. Most people make progress as they accumulate the judges' feedback but there is so much more gained than just riding skills. Sure, improving your aids and becoming a quieter, more balanced rider could be a huge achievement in and of itself. But if you take a deeper look at the whole thing, you'll be surprised to discover what really happens during those horsey field trips.
*Although I use examples from showing (Dressage shows in particular), the following list applies to pretty much anything you can do with your horse - from shipping somewhere to go on a trail ride, to performing in a musical ride, to demonstrating tricks for a crowd, and everything in between.
One of the first things we learn from putting ourselves "out there" is how to become humble. This happens because no matter how much you prepare yourself and your horse, the unexpected occurs, or something doesn't go right.
The upside is that experience will make you much better able to overcome these less-than-perfect moments. You will learn that the world won't end when things don't go to plan and you will become a better person for it. Among other things, you'll learn to be more accepting of your own and others' weaknesses, put others' needs before your own, stay calm and generally become more confident.
There is much satisfaction in a job well done. A first place ribbon - or any ribbon, really - is a wonderful, concrete way to recognize your hard work and achievements. But it's not all about the ribbon.
Just taking your well groomed horse, doing your best on that day, and having achieved some of your riding goals should be cause for celebration. You may not get a ribbon every day, but every day that you can go out and expose yourself and your horse to new, more challenging situations, are accomplishments in and of themselves. And that is satisfying.
There is that element of pressure when you step into the show ring. The surge of energy you get from being put in the limelight can become a good thing. Just let it collect into laser-sharp focus and don't be too surprised if you discover that you can do things a little better than you usually do it at home.
With time and practice, you can learn to use your nerves to make you sharper and more accurate. Transitions come on the spot, your horse's impulsion flows easily, and you ride like a pro! Just the act of showing puts you in a position to try harder, be more accurate, reach for the next goal.
There's really only one way that I know of that will bring about true consistency: doing it again and again until it becomes commonplace. Being consistent applies to everything!
For your horse, it means becoming used to things like:
- leading in unfamiliar places,
- maybe sleeping overnight in a strange stall.
For you, it means:
- remembering everything you need,
- developing a pre-class routine,
- knowing when and how to complete a "just enough" warm-up,
- riding in the show ring often enough until it becomes familiar and expected.
Your attention to detail and consistency will show up in everything from having your tack and grooming supplies when needed, to the regularity of your horse's tempo at each gait. At the show ring - consistency rules!
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Related reading here:
Five Secrets to Winning at the Horse Show: The fun part about winning is that winning isn’t everything!
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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.