Why do you horse show?

With USEF releasing their new horse show covid guidelines, there has been a bit of a stir across the interwebs. Some people seem ready and willing to get back to horse showing no matter how different it looks, but other people don’t want to participate until the guidelines are able to be loosened.


I admit that when it comes to the latter group at first I was kinda like “damn, y’all have spent months whining about not horse showing, and now you’re whining about not wanting to have to horse show like that“. But as I read their explanations a bit more and understood where they were coming from, their reasons made more sense.

To me, horse showing is not a social experience. I mean… it is, by it’s very nature, being a large gathering of like-minded people, but it’s not the reason why I horse show. I tend to be the reclusive one that disappears somewhere by myself for hours and rarely goes to a competitor party. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing all my friends (except Bobby, he’s a loser) but it’s not what draws me the most. For me, the biggest perk of horse shows is being able to spend focused one-on-one time alone with my horse, taking care of him myself, doing what we love to do, while enjoying time in our little bubble away from the real world. My favorite non-riding part of showing is getting up early and having some quiet time in the barn or hand-walking my horse in the quiet calm before the storm. None of the new covid restrictions would change that.

But not everyone is like me, obviously. There are a lot of people that really really love the social aspect of horse shows. Spending time with their friends, going to the parties, talking about horses 24/7, having their family come watch, etc. I am not a social person so that’s not me, but can still totally understand it. Especially those who don’t get a lot of “horse time” or “horse friend time” in their regular day to day lives. For them these new covid restrictions, while absolutely 110% valid and necessary and the right thing to do given what’s going on in the world right now, put a big damper on all the things they love so much about showing, so they’re opting to stay sidelined until things relax a bit.


There isn’t actually choice here for me to make anyway, about whether or not I want to start showing again. It’s summer now, already nearing triple digit temps in Texas, and my heat intolerant horse is unlikely to do much of anything until fall. Maybe a very local jumper show or a day trip for XC schooling, but definitely not any real horse showing. Our season was done before it started when he bruised his foot so badly in November, so this really isn’t even a debate for me personally. Seeing both sides of the fence though, I can see a lot of different reasons why someone would or wouldn’t want to get back to it – health reasons, economic reasons, social reasons, horse-specific reasons, you name it. It’s a strange new sea we’re living in, and not everyone is in the same boat.

I admit that I’m a little surprised USEA still says AEC (Championships) are a “go” for August in Kentucky, though. That seems like a Bad Idea to me for myriad reasons, but I sure won’t be judging anyone who wants to go as long as USEA is willing to make it available. Again, it’s not even on the table for me anyway due to the whole “August in Kentucky” part so it’s easy for me to not feel tempted.

I’m curious though, now that I’ve spent some time way overthinking all of this: why do you horse show? What are those little moments that keep you coming back for more? Are you eager to get back out there no matter what kind of covid restrictions are in place, or are you going to wait until things ease up a bit?

16 thoughts on “Why do you horse show?

  1. I’m with you. I might chat with a people I have become familiar with over several years showing on my GMO circuit, but overall one of the reasons I’ve always liked dressage showing is because I can show up a couple hours before my ride times, do my thing, then leave. I am not a lover of sitting around in the sun for hours and hours chatting it up with people.


  2. I show in part because I like being a part of the barn team and supporting each other. The other reason is I like getting out and about with my horse and feeling like I’ve accomplished something, even when I don’t end up with a ribbon. For me, it’s the out and about that is the accomplishment. And I love helping and cheering my barn team members (which include my husband) on. So I’m all good with the restrictions just to get out there again but would also be ok if the barn collectively decides not yet.


  3. I think I horse show as a way to test me and my horse’s abilities and apply what we’ve learned in a different setting. But I agree with other people, a large part of it for me is cheering on and helping my barn mates.


  4. My parents like to come with me to horse shows and help out. It’s fun to get to spend time with them and have them be around the horses, as they don’t get to do much of that on a day to day basis. I’m used to going to a schooling or one day show by myself, but I think I would really miss the help at a recognized event. I also like to walk the course with my trainer and we usually have a group that walks together, and I would definitely miss that. I’m not in a huge hurry to get out to recognized shows any time soon since my experienced horse got injured this spring (perfect timing buddy), but I’ll probably make an effort to take my young horse to some local one day shows and then see how things look in the fall.


  5. I like to go for a few reasons. One is the time to spend with my horse, as you said, taking care of them and building that bond in a way that’s different than what you can do at home. I also like going with my barn/teammates and having that tight-knit camaraderie. My husband does tend to come and watch to be supportive but he wouldn’t be terribly disappointed if he couldn’t for awhile.
    For me, I’m not going to be showing even if I had the opportunity with my leased horse, at least for now. I’m still struggling with even going to the barn, when I’m not sure what’s really changed at this point in terms of safety/spreading the virus. At this time, we’re still just trying to stay home as much as possible.


  6. I like horse shows because they give me something to work towards. While they aren’t the end all be all yardstick for progress, they do play an important part in it. A horse show that you go to where you feel prepared and confident is a huge confidence boost. One that doesn’t go well is a good measure for where the holes are. Part of me, though, is debating if structured horse shows, like eventing, will continue to be the part of the sport I pursue. Either way though, I love the sport and am willing to give it a try, even in this new format.


  7. I’ve never had a barn team or group of friends to show with, so I’m already used to attending schooling shows and recognized events totally solo. It’s really nice when my husband or parents stop by to watch and chat, but I’m there ultimately to test myself and my horse, not to socialize. Shows for me are a “pulse gauge” to give me a goal to work towards and find out where we have holes in our training, as well as a place to put some pressure on and squeeze some “epic” out; which is much harder at home when I can quit any time! I love the challenge and thrill of doing our best under pressure and coming out closer as a team with my horse at the end. Ironically, I’m pregnant this show season anyway so it has kind of worked out in my favour that everything has slowed right down or postponed entirely, since I can’t be there to partake either way!


  8. I do endurance riding for the time spent in the saddle, the challenge of managing a horse for 50 miles (or more) and still having gas in the tank at the end, seeing new places, being outdoors and the feeling of accomplishment when I finally fall face first on my bed at the end of it all as my horse is chilling right out my door. I don’t have a social aspect of it, but some do. I get it. Some folks have such elaborate setups its amazing to see. Its just not my thing. I much prefer sitting in my trailer reading (a horse book no doubt). But alas, all Texas rides are done until the fall – maybe. I will probably be fine with whatever they decided is the new normal because chances are it will mean less human interaction for me:)


  9. I’m with you. While I do enjoy the social part, and I do love to just hang around watching beautiful horses compete, I’m truly there for my own horses.
    I feel like some of the complaints are pretty whiny though honestly. If you want to spend time at the horse show, then be your own groom. That would permit you to be there for more hours and spend the time at the stalls that people seem to want. Maybe set up a zoom call at the end of the day to have your horsey time with your friends after the show day. Or meet someplace outside other than the horse show and stay safely distanced. I just think if you really want to show there are ways to make it work and still get what you need out of it.
    I’m like you in that none of it applies to me anyway. Eros is still unsound and Pammon only tack walking at the moment. Shiny hadn’t started jumping yet after her splinter incident anyway, so she’s basically rehabbing too. Just my two cents.


  10. I’m also a distance trail rider (though I prefer competitive trail to endurance). I do that mostly to see trails with my horse, for as long as possible. I have a lot of friends I’ve made through it, and I am a bit sad not to see them this summer (we’re not governed by the USEF, and our governing body (NATRC) has said, “Ride managers, it’s up to you, but to be sanctioned and insured you must follow local regulations for your ride”), our first event this year is looking to be in September (maybe). However, our socializing at these rides looks a lot like sitting in camp chairs in front of someone’s LQ trailer, drinking a beverage. We’re generally 6+ feet apart anyway, unless it’s raining and we need the protection of the awning! A couple of my friends and I have talked about maybe meeting in Kansas (this is the problem when you make friends that live far away…Kansas is “central” but still 4+hours for everyone!), but it’s unlikely that will happen just because we all have different work schedules.

    I do go to the occasional dressage show. Usually to support my mom, who’s also showing, but I’ll bring my horse too for a “may as well” moment. I have ZERO friends that ride and show dressage, because I just don’t do it that often. All my friends are on the trail, and most of them live 8+ hours away anyway, so we’re very used to connecting virtually and only seeing one another in person a couple of times a year.


  11. I got excited to see one of the Ohio horse trials in July got the OK. It sounded fun for a minute. I’m not sure I’ll be ready as far as showing in a pandemic or my riding mindset, though, so.

    I like to show to see where I’m at in things I’m working on and there is a social aspect. I realized the stress/anxiety it brings me (something I work on constantly) isn’t always worth it though so I’ve scaled way, way back.


  12. I will be showing at my club’s first show June 13-14 (April & May were cancelled) and I can’t wait. For me it will be the chance to finally test all the things my trainer and I have been working on since last October, and to immerse myself in the horse world for a whole weekend again. The social aspect is fun, and I will be glad to see people I haven’t seen since last year, but it’s certainly not the most important thing to me. I’ve still been able to catch up with barn friends when I’ve seen them there.

    I wish I could enjoy more “private time” with my horse during shows but alas, he’s just a half-lease, so I have to share him with another rider (actually her family, too, since she’s only seven years old). I do love every minute that I get to spoil him, groom him, clean his stall and generally look after him, though.

    Our show facility (the National Equestrian Center in Lake St. Louis, MO) did a “test event” last weekend which my trainer attended and all seemed to go fairly well with the restrictions imposed. I will deal with whatever they throw our way next month – to me it will be worth it. I don’t think I’ll be able to have my BF come with to help, unfortunately, which isn’t my favorite thing but again – I’ll make it work. I showed unassisted last year one weekend and while I missed the help it wasn’t impossible.

    I don’t know how much longer my horse will be available to lease after this year. He’s older and needs quite a bit of maintenance. This also is the first time in my life I’ve ever even been able to lease, so I’m making the most of it. Going to the show is a no-brainer – I will be there with bells on!


  13. I’m going to just give this year a pass, probably just submit some dressage tests online. I’m just not sure there’s a way to do it well with all the travel and shared space and overnight stays we need to get anywhere from here, let alone the show grounds logistics.

    I actually show because I get nervous and feel so out of my comfort zone that it’s a HUGE sense of accomplishment to be there and meet our goals. I might not enjoy it in the moment but it gives me a ton of confidence in my riding after the fact. I don’t know why but I tend to chalk up good work and progress at home to just being happy in our bubble…if I can reproduce it at a show I know it’s ‘real’ and we’re on the right track. If not, it’s so cheesy but I always feel like I’ve won just by getting out there and pushing my comfort zone.


  14. I’ve always shown for the fun aspect. I personally don’t know if the rules will take away from that- we will just have to wait and see how closely show organizers will and more importantly are able to, adhere to the new rules. Personally, I am putting showing on the shelf for now because my horse is coming back from some mystery lameness, and also the state of the economy and my job are still so up in the air. I am trying to be as conservative as possible until the outlook is a little more positive.


  15. I definitely support the new rules and restrictions they’re putting out there – it’s basic common sense to take certain precautions to keep people safe. That being said, I probably won’t be showing for a while. A huge reason I like showing is because it’s an escape from my day-to-day, I get to spend the time with my friends, and having a glass of wine while chatting with my trainer and fellow riders at the end of a long show day is my idea of the Good Place. If there are restrictions that mean I can’t do that, then in my own value system I don’t want to spend all that money for a very different type of experience. But that’s personal preference! I may do some smaller local shows because I do like the adventure, but the bigger shows are too expensive for me to spend money on unless I’m going to really enjoy the full experience. I can 100% understand why people do and I’m glad the new rules are there to keep them safe, and I can’t wait to join back in once we get a handle on things.


  16. I love the bit of pressure, the “game on” mentality, the goal you’ve set and a measuring stick. It’s not about where I place, but more how do I perform after all the practice I’ve put in? Much like I think the way a competitive, but not elite runner feels about going out and doing a 5K or a half marathon or such. But, I also love the social aspect, the camaraderie of being in the barns, helping each other out, cheering others on… it’s the entire experience for me. We’ve got a tentative HT for August, but we’ll see if it’s weather feasible because I’m admittedly nervous for that – otherwise maybe some stuff in KY in Sept/Oct, but that’s a long ways away and who knows the state of the world by then. I’m enjoying still getting to know a new horse and I’m lucky we’ve still got clinics going at our home barn so I can get some of the feel without leaving.


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