Getting Started at Shows

The world of horse showing can be alternately glamorous and intimidating, thrilling and disconcerting. You ask yourself, “Should I or shouldn’t I?”, “I want to, but can I do it without making a fool of myself?” Well, the answer to both questions is “YES!”

There are a number of very good books written on the subject of showing that can be of help in your quest for knowledge. Tack shops are now carrying a line of videos for rental or purchase that can be of benefit. Join a club whose interests parallel yours. In this social atmosphere, you can gain support and confidence. Many clubs hold their own “fun” shows that are the ideal place to start. Class “C” shows are perfect for the beginner or try an unrated fun show. If you board out at an established stable, or know any one who shows, you are half way there. Ask to accompany the riders to a show. Watch, look, and listen! Offer to help out at every opportunity and pay attention.

Limited funds? An unregistered horse?

You still have options. Tack swaps are one path open to you to obtain the needed clothing and tack. Also investigate the “second hand” sections at many tack shops. A little hard work can revitalize more than 75% of the neglected tack found there. Pleasure, equitation, hunter, jumper and hack classes do not require a registered ani­mal to compete. The NHH&TA Rule Book lists the classes that are offered at affiliated shows and gives the specific rules gov­erning these classes. If you have a registered animal, look for those classes specifically tailored for your breed, or you can enter those classes that are “open”.A little time will be your most valuable “expenditure”. Go to a few shows and be a spectator. Better yet, offer to work at a few shows. A little hands on experience will go a long way to-ward making your entry into the show world a little easier.


Remember that the horse show world does not love the radical or unusual. All of the clothing and styles associated with the various classes are the products of years of tradition and cus­tom and are descriptive of the uses originally intended for the various breeds. The western disciplines allow a little more leeway in dress and tack with individualism showing in the choice of color and accessories. The English disciplines are more deeply seated in tradition and do not leave as much room for expression, but they are more elegant.

Just because a class is listed as “Open Trail” doesn’t mean that you can show in jeans, sneak­ers and baseball cap. Suitable tack for your horse doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be clean and in excellent condition. You and your horse must be clean and “well turned out”. Good horsemanship, sportsmanship and presentation mean a lot. It would not be possible to list all of the items of clothing and tack that you would need for a Western Equitation class or for a Green Working Hunter class. Tack and attire required for a Three Gaited Park Horse Class is functionally as well as cosmetically different from that required in an Open Hunter class. You can learn what you need to know through watching, listening, reading and by participating in a good lesson program Take stock of yourself and your horse and decide where you can best concentrate your efforts. Start small and work your way up. If you are truthfully critical of your abilities before you get to the show, you can use those abilities to their fullest poten­tial. Make an honest appraisal of what you are capable of and then pick the classes where you feel you will have the best chance.

Proper Preparation

Proper preparation for the day of the show includes doing your “homework” beforehand. Pre-Registration is the normal procedure. This should be done well in advance of the show date. This site contains a list of NHH&TA affiliated shows. Write or call the individual show secretaries. They will be happy to forward you a copy of their class list and an entry blank. This class list will give you a detailed picture of the show and what classes and amenities to expect. Make a decision as to what classes you want to enter. Fill out the entry and mail it in with the proper entry fees. Make sure that you have given the show secretary the correct information about your horse and yourself. Use full names, both for yourself and for your horse. (If appropriate, use his registered name !) Check and make sure that all of the tack and clothing that you will use in your classes is cleaned and packed in your trailer or vehicle. A missing girth or bridle can ruin your day. If your horse will not drink strange water, make sure that you bring plenty of your own from home. Pack an assortment of buckets and grooming tools and don’t forget to bring hay and a hay net. If your horse is unhappy, hungry or confused by a lack of the familiar, he will not perform well.

Plan on arriving early. This will allow you to get settled and properly prepared for your first class. Check in with the show secretary and get your num­ber. Check to make sure that the show is running on time and check out the arena or ring for anything that might upset you or your horse. Keep track of the classes and make sure that you are ready to go when your first class is called. Be courteous and helpful to those around you.

And remember, winning should not be your primary goal. If you don’t win your first class, it’s probably not your horse’s fault and might not be yours either. There are a lot of riders out there with the same goals as you. Use every victory and failure as a learning experience!

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