Let’s start off the week with a little sizzle, shall we?? Because this is sure to be a heated conversation.
I may be a dog lover, but in many ways I wish most folks would leave man’s best friend at home. In my opinion, many of the dogs seen at horse shows really shouldn’t be there. Unless you as a responsible pet owner, and your perfect pooch can meet the following criteria, I say leave them at home.
We’ll start with the obvious: Is your dog acclimated to horses?
And not just well behaved, half-dead ponies. But does Pongo handle baby antics, horses spooking in their direction, galloping by their faces, or snorting/bucking/farting right in front of their eyeballs with quiet aplomb? If Fido shows any interest in joining the melee that is any Beginner Novice warm-up (much less a big event), he should stay behind.
Any dog that gets excited about giant animals running around, and may be inclined to bark at them or give chase is NOT an appropriate horse show dog. And personally, I don’t appreciate being part of your pet’s social experiment when I, and any other rider, has put goodness knows how many hours of work, and probably even more money, in getting ready for our outing. I paid for my right to be there, and I expect to be able to give my horse a safe and positive outing; despite what is often taken for granted, dogs do not have an inherent right to be at horse shows.
If you are working an event or horse show, please leave Fido at home. And if you are a jump judge on the cross country, seriously- why? The number of judges I have seen bring their pooch to sit with them on XC is staggering, and truthfully, completely inappropriate. For one, unless you can guarantee (and you can’t) that your dog will not be a distraction to either yourself (who is there to act as steward of the sport, making sure that each pair passes safely through and being on hand in case an accident happens- which how will you be able to react quickly should a rider fall at your fence when you have a dog to be responsible for? Do you let go of the leash? Or what?) OR a distraction to the horse (which is hopefully not dog-averse, totally focused on the job at hand and won’t notice the furry creature doing God knows what some feet from the fence)… Just don’t. And if you bring a dog that is known to bark at horses (or other dogs, or humans, or invisible pixies living in the woods), shame on you if you bring a dog to jump judge with you. Take a look at this video and tell me that doesn’t inflame your senses.
Now let’s look at you, responsible owner that you are. Can you hold a leash? Great. Assuming that you are the greatest leash-holder ever and will basically be cabled to Miss Princess the entire show, let’s go over a couple other requisite skills. Have you taught your dog sit/stay/shut up? Have you socialized your dog with other dogs before coming? Are you willing to make amends to your schedule should it not suit your pup’s abilities? Or will your dog be one of many that end up being mentioned over the loudspeaker at Rolex, because it got loose/got left in a hot car/got overheated because your bassett hound couldn’t keep up with Boyd Martin on the course walk.
There are those that are willing to meet all of these requirements, and have a full understanding of how their dog can be just another respectful spectator at a horse show competition. And for those folks, power to you. I’m glad that you will do what it takes to be a good horseperson and do what you can to keep the show as safe [as possible] for the rest of us. Horses and dogs can be together in a busy competition environment if approached responsibly, and I wouldn’t want to be the person to deny the better-behaving people [and dogs] that right.
How do you feel? Do dogs have a spot at horse shows? How should dog owners approach bringing their dogs to a competition, and what rules (or not) should be in place to keep everyone safe?