The beginning of summer also marks the beginning of the horse show season for a great number of riders. The majority of fairs include a horse show among their rosters of entertainment options. Watching the riders compete for ribbons in the various classes can be a lot of fun, but it can also be confusing because it’s not always clear what the judge is looking for in each category. A standard horse show will typically feature competitions in showmanship, equitation, pleasure, command, trail, jumping, games, and even further categories. In order to get themselves and their horses ready for show season, riders put in a lot of time both in and out of the saddle over the course of several months. The culmination of all of that preparation is put to the test at the horse show, where onlookers get to see horse and rider performing to the best of their abilities in order to win ribbons in a variety of classes.
Riders begin preparing for the upcoming show season well in advance of the first competition. Pepsi is a nine-year-old Haflinger cross that belongs to Kelsey, who is sixteen years old and a member of the East Haddam Pawing Ponies Club. “Riding almost every day and pushing myself to do better each time,” is how Kelsey gets ready for show season. This summer, Kelsey intends to participate in approximately ten horse shows, and she says that she is “excited about the possibility of doing very well because my horse and I have been working very hard.” Kelsey has high hopes of bringing home some blue ribbons by the time the show season is over, but she emphasizes that her primary goal is for her horse to have a positive experience.
This is the first year that Avery Eriksson, who is 15 years old and a member of the Rough Riders 4-H club, has decided to compete in the Junior Western Division with her horse, Bar Room Legend. The preparations that Avery makes for the show season include riding and working on her showmanship. I examine, clean, and maintain my tack, as well as attend to any necessary repairs. I keep Legend’s mane and hair cut to a reasonable length. I gather all of the required documentation, such as membership forms, Coggins tests, and rabies certificates. I check that all of my show clothes are clean, pressed, and in the correct size before each performance. In order to get the trailer ready, I clean it out and repack it with things like buckets, chairs, rain gear, halters, leads, and bridles among other things.
The Colonial Hill 4-H member Brooke, who is now 17 years old and has been riding for the past 12 years, only recently purchased a new horse in March. Brooke is looking forward to seeing how well she and her horse do together during this show season, and she reports that she has a show scheduled either on the weekend or on a Sunday during the day every day of the summer. When asked about some of the difficulties associated with showing, Brooke replied, “It’s never good when my horse isn’t on that day or he’s acting up in the warm-up, I have learned not to fight with them because it’s just not worth it.” Brooke is referring to the times when her horse has been uncooperative during a competition. You have no choice but to look on the bright side of things and laugh off the aspects of the situation that you cannot alter. When you compete and do well, it is a reflection of how much effort you have put in, and it demonstrates that your efforts are paying off.
Showmanship and fitting competitions are typically held first thing in the morning at equestrian events, particularly 4-H horse shows. Riding is not a part of the fitting and showmanship class. Instead, the halter or bridle that the horse is wearing while being led into the class is used. The horse has to go through a comprehensive grooming and clipping process, and if necessary, it should also be braided. In order to highlight the hooves and coat, hoof dressing and other specialized coat conditioners and sprays are typically applied immediately before the class. The horse must be shown in good overall health, with the muscle tone, weight, coat, and hooves indicating that the horse has been properly cared for in the months leading up to the class. The horse must be presented in good overall health. The exhibitor is also responsible for dressing appropriately; the type of attire required changes depending on whether the horse will be ridden in the Saddle Seat, Western, or Hunt Seat classes later in the day.
In a class that focuses on fitting and showmanship, both the horse and its rider will need to individually perform a straightforward pattern. The pattern typically consists of walking in a straight line, pausing for one or two steps along the straight line, retracing several steps, making a tight turn, and finally pausing in a square. The final score takes into account a number of factors, including the grooming and conditioning of the horse, the appearance of the handler, the manner in which the pattern is performed, and general showmanship. Mikalya, who is nine years old, is looking forward to competing in Showmanship with Tex, her seven-year-old Quarter Horse, more than anything else this year. Mikalya’s response to the question of what she does the day before the showmanship class to prepare Tex for the class was as follows: “I help Mommy bathe and clip Tex because I am way too short to reach the top of him, even when he is a good boy.” Then, in order to maintain his cleanliness, we band him and put his jammys on him.
In most competitions, the equitation class comes immediately after the showmanship and fitting classes. To put it another way, equitation refers to the position of the rider and how they use that position to control the horse. To have good equitation, one must have the ability to maintain balance and the correct position on the horse at all gaits while using aids that are so subtle that they are almost invisible to the horse. In the sport of equitation, English riders are expected to be able to “post” the trot on the appropriate diagonal, whereas western riders are not permitted to “post” and are instead required to demonstrate a balanced and controlled jog in its place of the trot. In cantering and loping classes, you are required to take the correct leads. The riders may be asked to perform straightforward patterns like a serpentine or figure 8 if the judge decides to call for work without stirrups on occasion. The junior English division is being competed in by Nicole, who is 13 years old and riding her horse Digger. In the walk-trot-canter division, Nicole will be competing for the very first time this year. Equitation is Nicole’s favorite class, and she is thrilled to “show at the canter” for the first time this year. Her primary objective for this show year is to get her into a class that includes walk, trot, and canter.
The equitation classes are followed by the pleasure classes. Rideability, also known as “a pleasure to ride,” is one of the criteria used to evaluate horses in the pleasure discipline. When placing horses in this class, consideration is given to the horse’s manners as well as its gaits and performance. In most cases, the equine must be shown in the pleasure division with a more relaxed rein contact and a responsiveness to light aids.
The command class is run in a manner that is analogous to the popular children’s game Simon Says; the horse and rider are expected to carry out particular commands when the word “Now” is spoken. If the announcer were to say something like “all riders trot or jog now,” for instance, and all of the riders were already inside the arena, the riders would need to trot or jog as soon as possible or risk being called out. The winner of the competition is the rider who is eliminated from the competition last. Especially when there are only a few riders left in the class, it can be entertaining to watch the command, especially because it can get a little competitive! Horses are sometimes asked to perform more difficult maneuvers, such as cantering or loping on the wrong lead or stopping from a canter or lope in mid-movement.
Another type of class that can be found at many different shows is the trail class. The trail is a type of competition in which the rider is required to guide the horse through a predetermined course that contains a variety of obstacles, simulating the kinds of challenges that may be encountered while riding out on the trail. Going over a bridge, navigating around cones, backing through poles or cones, jumping a small jump or log, and opening or closing a gate are all examples of possible obstacles.
Jumping and/or games competitions are typically held as the final classes on the list of classes for a horse show. At open shows and 4-H competitions, jumping classes are typically judged from a hunter-style perspective rather than a jumper-style perspective. This means that the primary focus of the judging is on the rider’s equitation as well as the horse’s style and manner of going over the fences. Games classes can include (but are certainly not limited to) the following: sit a buck, in which the rider must ride without a saddle and keep a dollar bill in place under the upper thigh at all gaits; egg-in-spoon, in which the rider carries an egg on a spoon at all gaits; cloverleaf barrels, in which the horse and rider are timed running a specific pattern around three barrels; pole bending, in which the horse and
Therefore, if you plan on going to a county fair this summer, you should make a point of going to the horse show ring. Horse shows are a fun and informative way to spend a portion of your day, regardless of whether you attend as a rider, a spectator, a trainer, or a proud parent. Ribbons are not the only possible incentive to participate in a show. Angela, who is 13 years old and a member of the Windham County Mustangs 4-H club, says that her goals are simply to “do the best I can” while also having a good time with her friends and her horse. The most important thing to remember when competing in horse shows is to relax and enjoy yourself with your mount, regardless of whether or not you end up taking first place. The development of friendships is a significant benefit of participating in 4-H. Since I started going to 4-H meetings, I’ve met a lot of new people. Avery is in agreement that showing horses is an extremely enjoyable and gratifying experience. I get such a rush from overcoming obstacles and working hard to achieve my objectives. My participation in 4-H and showing horses have both contributed to my development of a greater sense of self-assurance. I have had the opportunity to talk to a lot of interesting people, and I have also made a lot of new friends. I have gained a lot of experience in leadership roles, which I am confident will serve me well in the future.