Once you step into the show ring, it’s easy to feel alone, and like the weight of doing well is all on you. What we often forget is that even though rider and horse cross the start timers or enter a hunter ring alone, we all really enter the ring with a huge support team behind us.
Family, Friends, & Significant Others
Us equestrians are slightly insane (but at least we’re aware of it), and it takes a crew of very understanding non-horsey people to support us through our ups, downs, and way downs. Sure, they may never quite understand why we choose to spend literally all of our money on grooming, equine acupuncture, fancy horse shoes, and sky high show fees, but they smile and nod and congratulate us on a job well done. Spouses, parents, and significant other who show up day in day out at every horse show to watch side-diagonal-side rounds and pretend to understand why your hunter round was so great are worth their weight in gold. In reality, we all know that this sport takes an immense amount of time, money, energy, and mental strength and we owe a big thank you to those who may think it’s crazy, but love us for it anyway.
Finding the right barn is a make or break when it comes to not only your success, but your happiness and confidence, at home and in the show ring. A quality group of barn mates is a key part of that. Knowing you have cheerleaders at every single class who genuinely care about how you do, offer encouragement and constructive feedback, videotape your rounds, and actually understand what the heck you’re doing in there is huge. They are the people you can count on to check your class at the other ring, sprint to the office to add, and have a glass of wine waiting at the end….whether to console or celebrate.
Your trainer probably knows you even better than you do, at least when it comes to your riding and disposition at shows. While you might not see it, your trainer has painstakingly gone over you and your horse’s schedule and plan of action for each day of the show to get the best results. Behind the scenes, they schedule the farrier, organize vet appointments, hire the best care, is mentally riding with you every step the way – in every lesson and at every show. Trainers are there to help, so soak it up; when they hop on to school your horse, it’s not because they don’t have confidence in you – they do! They just want to ensure you have the best experience possible.
Listen to your trainers voice throughout your round….when you hear “ deep in the corner”, “shoulders back”, etc. it’s probably not your inner voice; it’s your trusty trainer.
Next is your grooms, who are the real superheros of any operation. They lunge, tack up, check your horse daily, turnout, travel with you horse, body clip, groom, feed, blanket, put your trainer on at 5 am, arrive at the show 4:30 in the morning to tack up, un tack, and repeat with a smile.
Most likely they’re also there with you at the back gate to polish your horses toes, say good luck, and hand you one last cup of water. They may be congratulating you on a good round, or heroically catching your horse if you fall off. They’re the first to jump in setting a jump in a dusty warmup ring, or making the 2 mile walk back to tent 31 at Thermal.
Farriers & Vets
As the old saying goes: no feet, no horse.
Sure, many of use dread that $200 plus bill from our farrier every 5 weeks, but he or she is a blessing in disguise and a lot of times passed over when we think about our critical support crew. A dedicated farrier loves hearing the horses are sound and not sore after a long show. They come in a heart beat to tack a lost shoe on the morning of a show, or come out as many times as it takes to fix a foot issue. As a trainer, I rely as much on my farrier as my vet and grooms to keep my horses happy.
You also have your vet who helps make your horse comfortable throughout the season if you have an older one showing, keeps an eye out for any problems, and makes sure your horse is well protected.
Stall cleaners and feeders might be looked over because they are usually at the barn way earlier than the rest of us, and are the last to leave. They show up morning and night to feed and water your horse, keep your horse’s living area clean and comfortable, and keep an eye out for colic and injuries – everyday, rain or shine, holiday or not.
Whenever you walk into the show ring, keep in mind that you have a huge team behind you and while you may be the only one on course, you’re definitely not alone. You win some, you lose some, but you’ll always have a full cheering squad behind you.
Remember: we walk through the in gate alone with our horse, but we are really doing it with the amazing people around us.