The Horse Show Prizes Adult Amateurs Really Want

Photo © Lauren Mauldin


As a struggling adult amateur, it’s only been a somewhat recent development for me to have any opinion at all about horse show prizes. For the longest time, my idea of a prize was surviving the course of ten jumps. A purple ribbon or a good picture? Bonus!

But as things started to click for me in the show ring and I began to win some, I started to look at horse show prizes with more attention.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think any prize a horse show wants to give me is flippin’ fantastic. I will never turn down shampoo, and adore the logo-printed tote bag we won at my year-end show.

Still, I can’t help but think about the kind of horse show prizes that would really excite my fellow working adult amateurs. We’re an easy bunch to identify. Our bodies are broken from years in the saddle. We’ve got huge, dark circles under our eyes from working extra hours to afford the opportunity to bolster our confidence with the liquid courage that it takes for the jumps to look their appropriate height instead of the huge, bulging boulders we imagine them to be.

If we had a special prize table at the shows, protected from the starry eyed pony kids and superbly talented trainers, it might have some items like these:

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

Energy Drinks

Horse shows last forever. Aint nobody got time for a nap when you’re grooming your own horse and driving the hour plus commute from home to save money on a hotel. All the caffeine please!


I once saw a picture from an IEA show that awarded blue ribbon cookie cakes as prizes. Do you know what I would do for a cookie cake?!? Test without stirrups! Jump liverpools! Endure flat classes that last forever! The possibilities are endless.

Photo © Creekside IEA Team


Wine for the hunters, vodka for the jumpers perhaps (or heck, let’s not discriminate for the sake of day drinking). Some of us like a glass to celebrate after a great round, and some of us need a glass (or two) to make it into the ring at all.

Heat & Ice Packs

Ever see an adult amateur hop off their horse with a groan? It’s not because we had a bad ride, it’s because our joints are yelling, Screw you and this so called hobby! We’re falling apart. This is your future, junior riders and younger amateurs. We ice our horses’ legs, and we have to ice our own now too.

Horse Treats

Yes, I know these are often on prize tables at shows, but I cannot under estimate how much our horses need treats. I chip so much to the first fence that my horse is beginning to think that’s the point of a hunter round. There are no limitations to the rewards he earns for packing my butt around weekend after weekend. Instead of cute cupcakes or apples, can you just go ahead and print “I’m Sorry for My Bad Decisions” on the treats for this table? Plzkthx.


Because we know we’re going to hurt tonight (see poor joints above), and there’s always tomorrow’s hangover early morning to get through.

Coupon for an Extra Warm-Up/Training Class

If I made it to the prize table at all, chances are it was by the skin of my teeth and my horse’s benevolent nature. My trainer was potentially cursing under her breath by the in-gate, and I know she’s going to have to go behind me and fix some problems. Best to stock up on training classes to restore my horse’s faith in humanity and horse showing in general.

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

While any of these prizes would be a welcome addition to my horse show experience, I have to admit the critique is all in good fun. As much as I love ribbons and enjoy a good prize, I’d keep showing without any of that fanfare.

For me, it’s about devoting time and energy to my passion and tracking my progress over the years. Completing a good round on a good horse puts a giant smile on my face, no matter what award it may earn. In the end, that’s the real prize.

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About the Author: Lauren holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of California Riverside, and is a lifelong rider and writer. Beyond equestrian journalism, she explores body positivity, mental health and addiction through personal narrative. She enjoys showing on the local hunter/jumper circuit in Austin, Texas.

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