Tips for Show Success Without a Trainer at the In-Gate

Photo © Lauren Mauldin


As I trot around the ring for the under saddle, I can see trainers standing at the in gate and along the ring making small pointers and hand signals to their clients. Part of me misses having someone there to give me a thumbs up or to make a signal when I am doing something that is going to cost me the class. But after competing in two shows now without someone there, I’ve realized that it is possible to have success without a trainer at the in gate.

And the feeling I got from doing well because of my own success is like nothing else I can describe.

Many people cannot afford the trainer and show life style. I realized that if I wanted to show, I needed to do it alone to save money. It was scary starting out a young horse and doing all the training myself. There were many moments of doubt. Was I doing things correctly? Was I making mistakes that would cost me in the ring? For me personally, the biggest thing I missed was having someone’s constant eye giving new perspective and seeing where I could make changes.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Skubal

I wanted to take an APHA/PtHA yearling and make him into a World Champion hunter one day. Big dreams for someone with a single income and a just out of college budget that did not allow for an expensive trainer. But I made it happen, and here are a few tips I learned.

Use your resources! Always keep professional horse friends around. These are the people you know and trust that have experience in the horse world. Follow professionals you respect on social media and watch the things they post. Many times they will share videos of exercises or helpful hints. The internet can be your friend when it comes to research.

Don’t forget to use your camera. Every smart phone has a camera, so use it! Watching video is great to see what you were doing. It can show you the good and the bad, and don’t stop at your own video. Go watch clinics and horse shows, even if you’re not riding in them. These are good ways to learn, and I highly advise taking a notebook with you.

Photo © Beauty of Nature Photography

When it comes to the show itself, there are a few things that you can do to help yourself when you do not have the groom or the trainer.

The night before, I always sit down and make a list of things I want to work on and do correctly at the show or in the ring. One of the biggest things for me and my young horse is to make everything positive. I try not to rush around the show and get worked up, because it only makes things worse.

Packing is important when traveling alone. Use a list! I cannot say how many times this has saved me. Give yourself time, a list, and a plan. When I have been rushed and unprepared, it blew up in the show ring.

Don’t underestimate the important of your support team. Having friends around telling me what they see and how I can improve the next time really helps. The biggest thing is to focus on what you and your horse need, not what other riders and trainers are doing.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Skubal

The lows of feeling defeated, alone, and lost can be horrible. But nothing matches the feeling when you walk out of a large class with top 5 ribbons showing all the hard work you put in.

Jamie is a horse obsessed girl who is taking on the world with her youngster. Follow along with her on her journey in chasing the world show on Instagram.  

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