Questions and Conundrums from a Horse Show Dad

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

BY GORDON BALLANTYNE

I have been immersed in the horse world for over a decade now with the enthusiasm of a reluctant participant dosed with an innate, heavy level of natural skepticism. My wife is a hunter and equitation rider, which only heightens my confusion due to the subjectivity of the events. I enjoy seeing my family doing something they love and are extremely passionate about; there is nothing they would rather be doing than riding and competing on the back of a horse.

But, I have some questions.

Why does it cost so much? 

A local two-day schooling show costs less than $1,000, whereas a four day rated “A” circuit show costs around $5,000. It can be the same horse stall, trainer, preparation and judging process. It follows the exact same format (although neither venue has a toilet that flushes). Are the blue ribbons at rated shows gold plated?

Does anybody own a watch? 

How can something scheduled at 10:00AM consistently happen after noon?  I could see it happening if there was an injury or an unforeseen happenstance but it is every…single…time.  Can they not just put a buffer in the schedule because “stuff” seems to happen every…single…time?

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

Why is the judging so subjective? 

Sitting ringside, I have zero inkling whether a given round was good or bad… and I’ve been watching for over a decade. I know what a “chip” is, what a missed lead change looks like and can count strides. But I also know that the price of little blue ribbons has gone up significantly based on the price of horses in the hunter ring. I can compete as an amateur in almost any sport because in things like golf, bowling or shooting, you have a handicap. You compete against your average. But in the hunters, it seems like little blue ribbons are for sale.

Why do amateur hunter and equitation divisions have to braid manes and tails while open divisions do not? 

Braiding is either important or it’s not. It is costly, but braiding allows many less privileged equestrians who braid to pay their show and training bills the opportunity to ride and compete. Should this not be encouraged in every division?

What actually determines a horse’s value? 

There doesn’t seem to be a blue book for horses, and values are inconsistent. You would do better with a dartboard. From how I see it, horse buying seems to be based on the greater fool theory. I do know that you need a top three in the hack horse to win a horse blanket that is only used to wrap furniture in for moving. The horse blanket you wanted win so badly does not seem to have any other practical uses. You still have to buy and clean other horse blankets that are actually used on the horse and not furniture.

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

Why is more than one horse required? 

Do they not make a horse that can compete in hunters, equitation, jumpers, dressage and be able to go on a fox hunt?  Should there not be an “all around” medal like in three-day eventing?

Why is a different jacket required in a hunter derby than is worn in the hunter ring? 

This seems to be a made up “rule” of convention since a hunter derby bears no resemblance a formal fox hunt; at least my wife gets dual purpose on the waiter coat.

Who invented breeches?

It seems like cruel and unusual punishment. I can attest to the fact that nobody would ever want to see me in breeches.

As my family and enter another summer of horse shows, I doubt any of these questions will be answered. But I’ll keep supporting them (and wondering) about the absurdity of it all.

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