BY BRITTANY FRADE
When I was a teenager, I lived for showing. I signed up for every show I could afford. Each weekend I got off from my hosting job at a local restaurant, and checked to see if there was a show I could attend. I was hooked. The early mornings braiding and grooming, packing up the car and triple checking it for all the little things like hairnets and hoof picks gave me life.
Part of the reason I loved showing so much was because I was good at it. I worked hard, and it paid off.
After years of showing, a changing family dynamics and moving to a whole new city, my riding—especially showing—fell on the back burner. I ended up going 12 years without showing. Before everything, that would have seemed like a lifetime, but now doesn’t seem unusual at all.
When I eventually got back into riding, I became curious about showing again. What was it that I’d loved so much about it all those years ago? After lots of debate with my coach, I figured I’d give it a shot again. This time I was older, rustier, and poorer. I had virtually no confidence in my abilities compared to when I was a naive teen.
Last month I packed up my newly part-boarded horse (who I had not been riding long), borrowed a show jacket from a friend, picked up the $200 I had saved for the entry fees and made my way to the show. Show prep came back easily, but what I failed to consider was how much more nerve-wracking it was this time. I had 12 years of pressure built up on this one show.
Was I going to be as good as I was before? Is my horse going to stop at every jump like he does in the lessons? Am I going to go off course? So many questions went through my head. It had been so long since I’d shown that I forgot what a good round even looked like.
I did four classes that day—a flat class, and three hunter rounds at 2’6 (which felt more like 3’6 at the time). To my surprise, we had no stops during our judged round and I stayed on course the whole time. Those two things that seemed to consume my worry beforehand and made the whole day feel impossible, but we did it.
At the end my rounds, I stood at the side of the in gate waiting for the results. I felt much less nervous than I expected, because I realized getting around and trusting my skills meant much more than a ribbon. Setting the goal of not going off course and making it over every jump took all the pressure off of pinning. Regardless of how I placed, I did what I came to do.
I was pleasantly surprised to receive 3 firsts and a second, finishing champion in my division of my first show back. But more than anything, it was a learning experience for me.
If you’re nervous to get back in the ring like I was, set small goals for shows like hitting the correct number of strides in all your lines or getting all your lead changes. Pick things that you normally struggle with, and would be a huge win if you could do in a stressful setting. If and when you achieve those goals, I promise it’ll feel more like a win than any ribbon could!
Brittany teaches at a University but has a passion for writing and horsemanship. Having been riding for almost two decades and showing on the Trillium Circuit for many years she puts her knowledge and experiences to paper to help encourage other equestrians.