Let’s Discuss: Why do you Show?

Even though we are miles away from being ready to compete at an event again, thoughts of planning our season pretty much dominate my brain.

CHP, October 2014

Novice @ CHP, October 2014 / PC: High Time Photography

I miss competing, and this dry spell combined with thoughts of moving up this year have caused a bit of self exploration- why do I show?

Personally, I treat competing as an opportunity to test our training. What I really look forward to at each event is the score- that quantitative (or in dressage, qualitative) feedback that shows how successfully we navigated a given challenge. I like to go to each competition with a number in my head, and at the end of it all comparing the actual score received helps me re-align my expectations or understand any gaps in our training. At the end of the day, I define success by how well we did compared to my original expectations for smaller goals- were our canter transitions as planned? Get an 8 on our free walk? Did we make time? Have runouts?

foster jump

Novice @ Running Start, Feb 2014 / PC: Brant Gamma

For me, ribbons are a secondary treat. If we get them it’s great, and I won’t lie by saying I don’t enjoy being at the top. But in this area at many of the schooling shows we compete against professionals, so it’s hard to judge how well we do by placings alone.


Novice @ CHP, Nov 2014 / PC: J

We all have our reasons for competing in equestrian disciplines. Maybe your competitive nature needs a place to shine. Maybe you have something to prove, or you just want to test your abilities. Maybe competing is just a part of a greater plan, or you have a die-hard passion for satin ribbons.

 Why do you show? Or if you don’t compete, why don’t you show?

28 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Why do you Show?

  1. Huh. I’ve shown for most of my life and weirdly enough I’ve never actually thought about this. I didn’t actually plan on showing when I got back into riding after some time off, but it seemed like the natural progression for me. We were getting too “comfortable” in our lessons and I wanted to stretch our boundaries a little. I also ride at a pretty competitive barn, so it seemed a waste of fantastic trainers to stay home!

    • Makes sense! I’ve never been at a barn where showing was part of the “culture” so I think it’s awesome that you have trainers that will travel with you!

  2. I’m super competitive, so if it wasn’t riding it would be something else (like when I took a break from riding and did triathlon). I like the day to day grind of constantly striving to get better, and seeing those efforts reflected in your results in competition. And, of course, there’s no greater feeling than bringing a horse along and get to feel them improve and develop, and see them succeed in competition.

    • ..”there’s no greater feeling than bringing a horse along and get to feel them improve and develop, and see them succeed in competition.”

      Yes- exactly.

  3. First of all, great topic! I guess I show because it is when I’m the happiest and the most comfortable. On a regular basis I tend to second guess and doubt myself while riding, I’m not as bold. At a show, I just feel that it is what it is and I might as well go for it, take risks. It usually works out and I tend to have breakthroughs. Also, I work seven days a week, so showing is like a vacation to me. I appreciate every thing about it.

  4. I no longer show for a few reason. For one, I don’t care for competition. Not that I enjoy losing or think that competing is bad by any means, but I try to never compare my life/journey to someone else’s. Showing makes it hard to keep that frame of mind. When I did show, I constantly was upset by people who had nicer horses or could afford more lessons and so on. Rather than enjoying my horse and everything I was so lucky to have, it tended to make me emphasize the things I didn’t have. Until I am positive I won’t fall into that frame of mind, I won’t show again.
    Another reason I chose not to show is because I want my horse to set the time and principles of what we accomplish. Charles de Kunffy talks a lot about it in the beginning of his Training Strategies book, but he says how haste is the enemy of art (dressage) and how competition involves ego and deadlines which encourage haste. I find that particularly true for me and was always rushing and cramming to do better before an upcoming show. That frame of mind will also not benefit my horse. And as far as principles, it really sucks that you can’t compete in dressage bitless. Whether or not I say bitless long term, for now I don’t see the need to introduce a bit only so I could show. Dressage in the US is lame!! 😉 And hope you don’t mind me answering the opposite ;).

  5. I show for very similar reasons as you: first of all, it’s FUN, second of all, it’s good to get out there into the general public and see where we stand in our training. I also like winning things, and it feels great to see all of the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears that I put into this on a daily basis come together on show day. I love getting my pony looking amazing on show day, I love cleaning tack and putting together our “outfit”, I love showing him off, and I love having a challenge to work towards and a way to track our journey and improvement over time. And ribbons and prizes are wonderful! Showing is just another way that I can enjoy my pony and deepen our partnership – nothing like trial by fire to really solidify a relationship!

  6. I show for many of the same reasons as you do. I love horses, but I have trouble just riding for the sake of riding. It makes me happy and challenged to have goals and to try and better myself. For me, shows are a way of telling me how I’m doing!

    • I’m with Lauren. I’m really bad about being lazy and not riding if I’m not working towards something. Since I’m taking this summer off from showing, I find myself not working with Copper (who I show) as often as I have been just toodling around on Paige (my QH mare that I don’t show because she and Copper go in the same classes and thus it is pointless to haul both of them…). I am enjoying learning about Paige and playing with things, but I’m definitely not achieving greatness or anything. 😉 If I were boarding somewhere where people were hauling out to shows, I would probably go (with or without horse) for the social aspects, but keeping horses at home is a little different.

      • Your words definitely ring true for me, and made me realize I’m much the same- having competition goals keeps me on track riding and working on new things. Otherwise I would probably just piddle around the arena W-T-C and be done. Ha! Thanks for chiming in!

  7. Where you seem to focus on numbers and specifics, I’m more of a big picture person. Probably in part because I don’t get a number in hunters. Overall, I want to feel like I rode well, did right by my horse and accomplished a specific goal or goals that I had when I entered.

    I also like shows because they seem to really highlight what I’m succeeding at and where I’m falling short. The things I need to work on and improve are always so clear after a horse show, and I love the pursuit of perfection!

    • It sounds like our goals are actually very similar, since really if I ride well and do well by my horse, the scores should reflect that- or I like to think so 😉 Getting scores just allows some of us (erm, like myself) to give in to our over-analyzing tendencies!

  8. For me showing is a fun thing to benchmark progress. I just signed up for a schooling show (which is at a big nice barn so I think it’s going to be a bit competitive) and you’d think I’m riding at Devon by the way my nerves have been hitting me just thinking about it. I haven’t been to a show in ten years. I’m viewing it as a “learning experience.” Just a rusty rider with her green OTTB. . .

    • We all start somewhere! I bet you guys will do great, and if nothing else it sounds like a positive experience! That’s what it’s all about 😀

  9. I do love ribbons, any color, any placing. But yes I love showing because it helps me assess where we are in our training, and since I too also compete against Professionals as well as Amateurs, if I can hold my own in a big group of Pros I feel pretty good at the end of the day.

  10. Wellllll, I’ll just throw this out there and say that I show because I’m a competitive braggart that likes ribbons and having things to blog about besides day to day training rides.

    And I am not ashamed.

    Though I probably should be.

  11. my reasons aren’t very different from yours or the others posted above. i’m not super competitive with respect to other riders – but like to see improvement and progress in my own skill set. i like setting goals and meeting them.

    but beyond that – i like to show for the sake of showing, even at little local schooling shows. it’s super fun to me (regardless of outcome), i like the atmosphere and anticipation and energy – and the rush of adrenalin while riding followed by the wash of euphoria when crossing the finish line or halting at x to salute. (obvi it’d be dishonest to say that disappointments don’t happen too – but that’s part of the balance of risk/reward i guess)

    perhaps part of this was bc i never actually showed until college so it’s like i’m making up for lost time? who knows but i love it 🙂

    • That’s a good point (regarding adrenaline, etc).. it’s really hard to replicate at home/in schoolings the rush you get crossing that cross country finish line!

  12. Great topic!!! I am in the middle of a draft of this very topic!

    I show because I want to see the progress Henry and I have made… and of course it’s fun! Get all fancy and go show off 🙂

    • There is definitely something to be said for getting all fancy schmancy! For one- it’s pretty much the only time Foster is ever truly clean 😛

  13. I show for many of the same you do- to see if our training is progressing. Also it does a secondary thing for me- if I have a show coming up I MAKE the time to ride not just ride when the conditions are right, I’m not tired, ect. The extra time in the saddle also makes for a better me 🙂

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