It’s Time to Ban Smoking at Horse Shows



Standing in the bleachers by the pony ring at The Devon Horse Show this year, I got a waft of an unwanted, familiar smell – cigarette smoke. I looked up to see a well-known trainer smoking between sending children on ponies into the show ring, and simultaneously observed the pile of butts littered on the ground near the in-gate.

Walking out of the exhibitors lounge later and past the in-gate to the Dixon Oval, I looked around. Person after person stood there, right in front of horses and children, smoking away. I have commented on this problem before. But in this small acreage, it was so much more confined and offensive. According to the Center for Disease Control, smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death.

It got me thinking…. Why is smoking allowed on the grounds at horse shows at all? Aren’t we around horses, athletes, and children all day long? Don’t we all agree that in today’s American society this is a horrible habit? Can’t we look back on the old times of everyone smoking as a black spot on our lungs we’ve moved on from?

The negatives of smoking at shows are easy to list:

  • Fire hazard. Cigarettes in and around the barns and buildings pose a completely unnecessary risk. Smoking is the leading cause of fire death and disaster worldwide.
  • Trash. Cigarettes are the most common individual item of littering.
  • Role Models. Smoking creates bad role models – both for young riders, but also for the sport. If we want to claim that we are all athletes, we need to act like athletes.  Parents interested in this sport for their children surround the big shows like Devon and can be turned away from the whole sport by witnessing behavior like this.
  • The environment. Many cancer causing chemicals in cigarettes are soluble in water, therefore get into runoff and wastewater from facilities.
  • Second-hand smoke. Secondhand smoke contains over 7,000 toxins and can trigger asthma, according to the CDC.
  • Legality. To smoke around minors and in public is not legal in some states and could open up the sport to lawsuits and negative publicity.

Some of the positives are… none. There are none. There is no positive to allowing people to smoke at the in-gate. There is only one side to this argument.

So, what do we do? I suggest we all start by speaking up to the USEF Competition Management Committee.

Here is a drafted letter to cut and paste and send to the Committee Chair, Ms. Stephanie Wheeler – Let’s see if we can get an immediate rule change passed with a place to report violators and end this antiquated practice once and for all.

Dear Member of the Competition Management Committee,

It is very important to me as a USEF Member (# XX) that smoking is banned immediately on all showgrounds hosting USEF sanctioned shows. Not only is it dangerous to our horses and children, smoking increases trash and littering at horse shows, and potentially violates state laws in a variety of locations, opening up our sport to lawsuits, negatively publicity, and sanctioning. Please make our children and horses the priority.  

Thank you,


About the Author: Piper began her tenure as the Publisher of The Plaid Horse Magazine in 2014. She received her B.S. with Honors in Chemistry from Trinity College [Hartford, CT] in 2009 and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2012. She is an active member of the hunter/jumper community, owning a fleet of lease ponies and showing in adult hunter divisions.
Read More from This Author »