Putting the Fun Back in Horse Shows
My lovely boss asked me (Cassie Hagey) one of the newer Professional's Choice employees to contribute to the blog, seeing as how horses are my favorite thing to talk or write about I am delighted to.
Reflecting over horse shows recent, long ago, and yet to come, more and more I realize the subtle but all-encompassing importance of being supportive and positive. A week ago, I was at a schooling jumper show, and it was an absolute blast. Everyone was cheering each other on, whether through a great round or in the determined face of a refusing horse. If a rider looked lost, we (on the side-lines) tried to point out the next jump. When a horse initially decided it would never go near (or ever consider going over) a certain jump, and the rider finally succeeded in coaxing the horse over, a spontaneous roar broke out as if they had just won the Olympic gold medal. Now, I realize that this little show was just a schooling event, and not officially rated, so (I admit it) the rules were lax. Yet in the moment, I imagined the power and changes that would result, if this supportive atmosphere could be created at every show. In our uber-competitive world, a focus on the sole apex position leaves in the dust essential elements of life's joys and lessons. I'm not asking individuals to plaster on fake smiles and to give false hopes, but if a competitor truly had a great round, let them know! Complements from a knowledgeable outsider can mean the most to riders, simply because they are offered free and unbiased. If a young rider is looking terrified and can not remember the pattern or course, either offer them a general run through, or brainstorm together the best route. Another simple but large part of creating a great show atmosphere occurs with a good dose of ring courtesy during warm-ups. While trying to get the jitters out of your own horse and heart, it is often difficult to remember that every rider and horse is on edge, so give them that extra space when passing, call your fence, and do your best with ring rules and manners. Everyone has encountered show parents, who live (as the greatest fans) and die (that was absolutely unfair) with their child's every move. When all are out exposed in the center of the arena, it is not that blue ribbon that matters as much as enjoying the little steps of accomplishment in a long journey between horse and rider. Learning to be both a gracious winner and loser is a big part of life. The pervasive focus on winning can make it so tough explaining to a young rider why they didn't get a ribbon, heck it's even hard for me to understand sometimes. Yesterday, for a brief afternoon, I felt and understood a force that melded all participants together with a joy that left competition irrelevant.
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