5 Tips to Survive Your First Collegiate Horse Show

Rider and teammate Alexis Martin riding Apollo! Photo by Chelsea Koerper.


Being on a collegiate show team is exciting, but if it is your first show, the unknown may lead to some unwanted nerves. To help combat your concerns, remember to stick to the basics of showmanship and riding while keeping these five “S” (for Success) tips in mind!

Sleep: Pack your bags the night before and get a good night sleep.

Depending on how far the team is traveling for the horse show, you leave campus between 3am and 6am. Although (with permission from the coach) you can sleep on the bus if it is a long ride, getting a good night sleep is imperative. Organizing your gear the night before allows you the time to think about and include everything you need. Then when you wake up in the morning, it is easier to just pick up your bags and go, rather than trying to pack quickly that day. Also, with a sleeping roommate in the dorm, packing in the morning is more difficult as you have to be considerate about light and noise so early in the morning.

Schedule: Look at the schedule after the coaches’ and captains’ meeting.

After the meeting, all the edits and add-ins are on the schedule, which means the timing is set. Review the schedule, and determine your class number so you know when to get ready. Keep track of the competing class during the show, and be sure to give yourself enough time to prepare. Study and memorize your course early, so when it is your time to walk the course, you already know it.

My first IHSA show on Ralphie! Photo by Chelsea Koerper.

Schooling: Watch schooling for your class.

For most shows, there are nametags on all the horses, but if not, ask what the horses’ names are. The horse description does not always provide a complete picture, so watching someone ride the horse helps present a more accurate portrayal. Also, if possible, watching your horse compete with an IHSA rider is really valuable because that rider is in the same position as you are. Don’t be afraid to ask the horse holder about your horse, because he or she may have some helpful tips!

Support: Support your teammates.

Regardless of age, competing class, or graduating class, all members of the team appreciate seeing and hearing support from their teammates. Cheer loudly, and put your phone down. Encourage and support your teammates by telling them “good luck” or “have fun” or “you will do great” before they go into the ring. Don’t forget to talk to them afterwards too and ask them how they felt about their ride. Tell them they rode well if they did! If something went wrong in the ring, be there for them because we have all been in that position before.

Rider and teammate Millie Brooks jumping in the Intermediate Class! Photo by Chelsea Koerper.

Settle-in: Take a deep breath and relax.

Your first collegiate horse show may be nerve-racking because you want to do well for your team and for your coaches. If you get too nervous though, it can hinder your riding because nerves can make you tense. I know it may be difficult to completely relax, especially during your first show, but try to ease your tension by doing breathing exercises, walking around, or talking to your teammates – whatever routine works for you. When you walk into the ring, take a deep breath, relax your whole body, and settle into the moment. I remind myself of is “whatever happens, happens;” if something goes wrong in the ring, you and I, as riders, just have to react quickly to fix it. As you enter the ring, concentrate on the course and on handling each moment as it arrives, as worrying about the unknown distracts your focus and wastes your energy. Enjoy your ride!

About the Author: Dana, a sophomore at Delaware Valley University, rides on the IHSA team and holds the position of team Secretary. Dana has been riding for four years and loves meeting new people and horses!

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