Put it to the Test

Horse showing is the ultimate test of horsemanship

There are more to horse shows than meet the eye. From the outside, it appears to simply be a place to show off your pretty horse while sporting matching outfits. It looks like a leisurely opportunity to hang out with friends and get a nice dinner at the end of the day. However, the core of horse showing impacts a person much deeper than that looks and fine dining. Horse showing is a venue to tap into our competitive side and challenge ourselves to perform a test on demand and see how well we have trained. Do you remember what attracted you to take your horse to your first horse show?


While horse showing revolves around competition, it isn’t an actual competition that pits riders against riders. Horse showing pits riders against themselves. We are competing against our own skill sets and expectations. When our name is called, and we step up to the cone we enter a competition against the rider we were just moments ago. Can we nail that lead departure? Can we complete our spin? Will we hold steady in that gallop? These are the questions we ask ourselves and allow the judges to determine if we passed or failed.

Pre-Run Goals

Before you enter into competition, sit down with your trainer to set goals for your show. These goals should be directly related to your performance. They can be as simple as being at the start cone on time or as advanced as making sure your lead departure happens three strides before the pole. Make sure your goals are slightly above what you have done in previous competitions, but something you have attained during practice. This will give you a chance to push yourself to put what you have practiced into real world application. Determine what will be your litmus test on whether you reached your goal. Your trainer may be the litmus test, or the judges might, that is for you to determine. Now you are ready to go out and put it to the test!

Passing the Test

If you passed the test that you have set forth for yourself, it is vital to take time to appreciate what you’ve done to get there. An internal pat on the back and storing of this memory into a mental cookie jar of successes will help you when things get tough in the future. You will have this victory, no matter how small, to look to when you think something can’t be done. Allow your successes to give you self confidence so that when you walk into the ring the next time you can believe in yourself and the training you have put in.

Failing the Test

As much as we would like for failure to not be a part of the equation, it is an inevitable obstacle that we are going to encounter. You may pass half the test while failing the rest. Be honest with yourself in these failures. Do not look for someone or something to blame. The only way you can overcome a failure is with honesty and a plan to conquer it next time. Failures should excite you almost as much as passing the test does. When you fail, you are given an opportunity to grow. How incredible is that?

Post-Run Assessment

A post-run assessment is an often overlooked element of competition. You can provide yourself with a roadmap towards your next test based off of your post-run assessment. It can be hard when you have multiple classes in a day to take time to really break down your run with your trainer, but it is important that you do. Even if you have to wait until after your horse show, sit down and go over each maneuver to see what you liked and did not like. If you liked something, think about what it took for you to accomplish that so that you can remember to do it the same way in the future. If there was an element that you did not like, dissect how to fix it and try to improve it on the next round.

Get Back Out There

The beauty of horse shows is that is always another one to go to. There are endless opportunities to put your skills to the test and to improve upon where you are at. There is always something to work towards. Take your cookie jar of victories with you as you set out towards bigger goals. You can do this! And if you fail, there is always next time.

By Lauren Stanley