How to Survive Your First Horse Show



Whether it was decades ago, last year, or coming up this season, any equestrian who shows has had to enter the ring for the first time. Some are overwhelmed with excitement to compete, but others are too nervous to even enjoy the experience. Either way, it’s beneficial to have some helpful tips for how to make the aspects you can control in your first show go smoothly as possible.

Plan ahead.

It’s always a good idea to get everything in order as early as you can to prevent last-minute rushing around. Packing your bags and trunk at least a day before the show, getting any forms or entries submitted early, checking that all of your show clothes and equipment are clean, and having your hotel room booked in advance (if needed) are all good habits to have for show preparation at any level. I can say from experience that frantically searching for a missing glove just minutes before your class time is really not ideal, and should be avoided at all costs.

This young rider clearly has their priorities straight: pony hugs come first! (Photo credit to TPH Intern Emy Lucibello)

Be prepared.

In the actual riding aspect of horse showing, you should be putting in extra effort in the time leading up to a show to ensure that you’re ready for the challenge. You can ask your trainer to practice more on the type of course you’ll be doing at the show, as there is no better way to prepare than repeated practice! Another beneficial exercise to consider before your first show is to ride in front of a lot of people. If you foresee yourself getting nervous in the show ring while being watched by judges and other viewers, invite some friends or family to watch your lesson at home to simulate that scenario. If you take the time to get properly prepared and confident, you will definitely be more confident at the show and probably perform better!

Emma Rieber, accompanied by her trainer Bethie Dayton, seems perfectly focused while preparing for her trip with Farnley’s Blew Kisses. (Photo credit to TPH Intern Izzy Feinstein)

Trust your trainer.

Believe it or not, your trainer has your best interests in mind. Your trainer’s job is to help you improve in order to reach your goals. So if you want to start showing, they will do everything in their power to make it a fun and memorable experience for you. We’ve all heard the saying, “Listen to your mom, she’s probably right.” Well, the same rule should apply for trainers! Remember, they do this for a living so, chances are, they know best.

Olivia Williams is all smiles while coming out of the ring at Sonoma Horse Park on her mount, Bee’s Knees. (Photo credit to TPH Intern Lauren Aubert)

Remember to have fun!

Showing really shouldn’t be a stressful experience, especially for your very first time! You’re probably the only person putting pressure on yourself, so you’ll be less anxious if you try to let that go. Sure, it’s nice to place well, but 50-cent ribbons are nothing to stress over. As long as you walk into the ring with confidence, try your best, and appreciate your horse, that’s really all that matters at the end of the day.