Horse Reports and Show Results Don’t Tell The Full Story

Photo © The Plaid Horse


You are in the market for a new horse. You are sent countless videos of multiple candidates that fit your needs. You’ve whittled the pool down to your favorite. Time to go look up its show record.

Uh oh…

All of a sudden things aren’t looking so promising.


The USEF horse report or past show results might not be telling the true – or full – story.

Let’s start with what a horse report is. 

For all USEF-registered horses and ponies past and present, there is portal at under COMPETE > SEARCH where one can search past performance records and gather important information on a horse (USEF number, age, breed, breeder, pedigree, height, microchip number, owner information, measurement, current USEF status, etc.). What’s extremely helpful about a horse report, is that it provides more information than simply how a horse placed at USEF-recognized shows. In the horse report, one can learn how many entries were in the class; who was listed as rider; how many USEF points the horse received for its placings; and who the other competitors in the class were. HOWEVER, there might be a lot of information about how the horse performed that can’t be found in the horse report. 

Photo © ES Equine Photography

You notice that at a particular show the horse you are interested in was third out of three entries in a few of the over fences classes. But what if the scores of the three entries in one of the classes were 88-86-84 respectively? Or what if it was a conformation class and the horse was unceremoniously moved back? Or what if the horse you are interested in was having the trip of a lifetime and had a cheap rail? None of these examples should diminish your hopes of adding this horse to your family.  

Thankfully, there are many shows around the country that have their live streamed videos archived and you might just be able to review this horse’s trips and realize that your favorite future family member’s reputation is still passing muster. 

You notice at another show that there was a DNP in the second 3’3” Performance Hunter over fences class from a particular day, but only five entries in the class. Does that mean something unfavorable happened? Not necessarily! What if the first class went so well that the rider opted out of the second over fences round in order to save some jumps before the horse’s owner showed it on the weekend? That’s actually a great problem to have! 

Screenshot of a Horse Report with a DNP out of 122, probably not a red flag.

You have your heart set on a particular High Adult Jumper. You look at the individual class results on a show’s results platform and you see a VW (Voluntary Withdraw) or RT (Retired) next to the horse and rider’s name. That doesn’t always mean that the horse and rider combination was having such a rough go that they decided to call it a day. Perhaps like in the previous example, things were going so well that the professional rider was saving the horse for the owner’s weekend classes – OR – perhaps this was a class that the exhibitor simply needed to technically “compete” in in order to qualify for a classic on the weekend. 

Another factor that needs to be taken into consideration when reading a horse report or results online, is that information is often provided at the mercy of the ring starter or announcer. Goodness knows they have to multi-task at a rapid fire rate during the course of a show day. It’s perfectly possible that they may have inadvertently marked a horse as EL (Eliminated) when technically it was a RT or VW. An EL can be quite the red flag when reading horse show results – it can also mean that the rider forgot where they were going and unfortunately went off course. Certainly not a deal breaker when looking at a horse to purchase. 

We need to also look at the flip side of reading a horse report and show results. A particular hunter you are interested in appears to be the world beater based on its USEF show report: lots of blue ribbons, lots of championships, and standing quite high in zone and national rankings. What kind of competition is it showing against? Is it able to achieve all these accolades with average scores in the 70s? Is it from a part of the country that might not have a heavy concentration of quality hunters in this horse’s specific division? 

There’s more than meets the eye when reviewing a horse’s record on the USEF website or a horse show’s results platform. Reports and results should merely be a guiding tool when assessing the possible purchase of a horse. Unless you have access to its show videos, the report and results will only tell a very small part of the story of the horse’s show career.  

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