View Full Version : What I Learned Today is... (sportsmanship)

May. 8, 2009, 01:31 AM
At the last show I went to, I placed rather poorly. I've become so competitive this year, that it really bothered me. I've tried to remind myself, I'm not at Devon doing the Big Eq. I'm at a local show doing long stirrup. Regardless of the level, competitiveness got the better of me. Today, I found the logical way of thinking about losing or winning. Showing can be about ribbons and points and prizes, but I'm going to make it about learning. Shows are pretty expensive, and learning seems to be the more valuable of the two options, ribbons are a nice extra. From now on, when someone asks how I placed, I'll simply smile and give a short description of what I learned while in the ring.

I thought it would be nice to have a thread for everyone to post, not what they placed at their last horse show, but what they learned while in the ring. It's like a support group, go around in the circle now...

The last thing I learned is that my pony is terrified of water, and if there is water in front of a jump, it's a good idea to push but still take the short spot. Pony is almost completely used to water since being home, side passing is an occasional step back.

May. 8, 2009, 07:42 AM
I enjoyed your post! I wish more folks thought this way.

Paint Hunter/Jumper
May. 8, 2009, 07:54 AM
This is a great idea :)

Let's see... last show I totally bombed. I got nervous so my horse did not want to go over any of the jumps. I learned that since he doesn't have the motivation to do it, I need to be the one with the confidence and motivation to get him over it. I need to stop getting scared and just do it with total confidence, because I know what I'm doing, I just get nervous. I don't know why I can do 3'6 at home but am still scared when it's a solid 2'6 at shows! I can do it when its not like the big and full 2'6! Like the past 2 weekends before that I did perfectly fine, even got champion at one! It frustrates me, but I know it's something I need to work on.

May. 8, 2009, 08:54 AM
That is about the only way to look at horsehowing, around here anyway. The shows are so biased around here, that they are 99.9% judged unfairly, that the only way my family can look at it is as a learning tool. It's pretty sad that we're judged on who we know instead of how well we ride.

May. 8, 2009, 09:04 AM
Thanks. I'll put in my two cents and keep it's theme in mind for the future. My horse will be happy since I'm focused and making horse shows really count for more than padding his resume.

At the last one (that was pretty good for us) I learned:

That my efforts to optimize his experience with little things like hand-grazing and a slow warm-up count.

That "pleasant" "broke" "consistent" total up to more value than "fancy."

That my job is to just get the best my horse has to offer on that given day.

That people who complemented me on him think it was all just given or natural and not systematically, slowly made. Also that they get bored when you try to explain otherwise! Finally, that their opinions don't matter if I have a plan that works for me and horseboy.

That if I make showing easy and fun for this horse-- complete with a roll in the indoor when we get home-- he'll come back for more.

Hunter Mom
May. 8, 2009, 10:46 AM
OP - What a mature attitude. I think that what you learned is among hte most important life lessons horses can teach us. No matter how hard you've worked, sometimes things don't go as we hope. We have two choices - lament the things that have gone wrong, or look for the things that went well and how to fix the things that didn't.

What I learned at my last show:
- Enjoying my horse and my horse friends is what it is REALLY about
- Sometimes, the last jump can be u-g-l-y no matter what you do
- Eyes and hands up really does make a difference when a short strided mare wants to run down a line and try to leave out a stride!

But most of all...
Watching a little girl (especially one who you birthed) win their first blue ribbon at a "big" show is worth more than anything.

Stall - $50
Entry fees - $40
Hauling - $25
DD's first blue ribbon - PRICELESS!

May. 8, 2009, 10:49 AM
Good for you!!
This is exactly what I tell my students when they go in the ring.... and when they come out!
I will try to tell them what they did RIGHT, and about the goofs.... "Let's see what the judge says about that."
Subjectivity is hell, and not always relative to the job you've done in the ring.
Horse shows are like Final Exams.
What have you learned in class?? Did it sink in?? Can you apply it??
No better place to find that out than at horse shows!!
A blue ribbon is not really an A+ every time. You need to have your own grading system.
What you've been learning at home may not be what your competitors have been working on, so you've got to compare yourself to yourself at Finals time.

Meanwhile, it's about you and your horse and comraderie.... If it's not fun, why do it!!

May. 8, 2009, 11:20 AM
I totally agree with the OP...I was a bit dissapointed with my placings at the last show, but my horse and I met all the goals that I had set for the show, and we really did have a lot of fun, which is what matters the most to me. I am so proud of my horse though; he is such a rockstar!

What I learned:

-When my horse is having a tough day and wants to run the best thing I can do for him is really focus on my riding and really sit up and back and wait for the fences, yet still be relaxed and giving for the jumps.

-When my horse is having a good day I can push him a bit more, but still, sitting back in the saddle more is something I need to work on.

-I need to be aware of my limits, such as, is that 6th jumper class going to just be too much for my head?

May. 8, 2009, 11:49 AM
Roanypony - you are my new horse show HERO!!! Your post gives me chills - and tears. Thank you.


May. 8, 2009, 11:51 AM
That a compliment from my trainer is worth more that the fact that we did not get a ribbon over fences:D
That riding strong into the first line really does set us up for a better round
That looking up really works & if you don't see a distance the horse will still jump & it will be OK

May. 8, 2009, 11:55 AM
2dapoint -

I used to have my students memorize - and internalize - the old proverb about wisdom, courage and serenity. I impressed upon them that if they didn't really "get it" that the show ring was not where they needed to be. Fortunately, we had lots of options: 2000+ acres to trail ride (with jumps and lakes to swim in, if desired); Pony Club; Camden & Aiken hunts in season. But to show, they HAD to accept the serenity part.


May. 8, 2009, 12:09 PM
Roanypony - you are my new horse show HERO!!! Your post gives me chills - and tears. Thank you.


Wow! I really didn't think it was going to have this much impact. I actually second guessed whether or not to post it, glad I did now! :)

May. 8, 2009, 12:54 PM
I had my first catchride. He stopped with me in the 2nd class that we did. I became extremely frustrated with myself and secluded myself in my car and wouldnt speak to anyone. I realized how stupid and bratty this was, that mistakes happen to everybody and that I could either keep crying about it or get up and learn from it.
We moved up 2 jumper levels and placed 8th out of 50 in the classic the next day. Funny thing is, if somebody asks me how I did, I dont tell them my ribbon, I tell them that we went around :D and that I learned NEVER to slice an oxer unless I'm in a jump off :D.

May. 8, 2009, 01:24 PM
What a great post! My daughter showed yesterday for the first time in the "big eq" at the Old Salem Farm Charity Horse Show. To some, not a big deal, but to her, huge, as she has never been "ready" for this caliber of competition.

She did her course, held her own, didn't look out of place, made a simple mistake, but jumped all her jumps, and made all her distances.

Afterwards, I asked her how she felt. Her exact words, Mom, it's always a good day when the horse isn't crashing into jumps, or stopping! I laughed, but then she preceded to say, I'm happy with my round, I made the mistake, not the horse, just something to work on for the next round!!

May. 8, 2009, 01:42 PM
This was a great post Roanypony! A perfect check back into reality.... especially after the crossrails post (not bashing the OP there, more myself for getting caught up in it). Horse showing is about having fun and learning with your horse - whether you're doing crossrails or the GP. It's so easy to get caught up in the "big-time" that you forget just how much that green ribbon from a big horse show meant to that little girl. It is good to see riders advance and do the big divisions, but it's just as heartwarming (if not more) to see a little girl(or boy for that matter, don't want any disclusions; actually while I'm at it... the re-riding adult whose horse went around amazingly and she had the time of her life) glowing after receiving her prize. Thanks for bringing me back down to earth.

At the last horse show I went to I brought my pony and had a girl show him for me. Their trips weren't very good and at first I was upset about it... but then I thought - Wow, this pony was rotting in a barn less than three months ago and now he looks beautiful and helped a little girl get around the large pony hunters. He may not have won a ribbon but he was a champion to me. It's amazing what these animals do for us.

May. 8, 2009, 01:49 PM
When we were showing in IHSA, I always told the girls that the main goal was to stay on the horse...anything else was just icing. :) (We had some really naughty horses.)

A trainer of mine had a student who was obsessed with winning - and would frequently come out of the arena and yell at the trainer for her own (the rider's) mistakes! In response, this very great and tactful trainer wrote a short piece and posted it at the barn. I wish I had the actual text but the gist of it was that if you focus on learning and compete against yourself, then the ribbons will be secondary. Strive to be your best and everything else will fall into place.

Having spent most of my time in the show ring on very green horses, I've learned to just be happy with progress. If you want ribbons to hang up in your house, you can buy them online. It's about the experience first and foremost. Showing is an excellent way to measure your progress and to learn where your training may have holes or gaps.

Great thread!

arbor hill
May. 8, 2009, 01:51 PM
This is one of the most uplifting posts I've read in a while. As a mom of kids that show (ages 12 & 15), I can only hope that my children take a maybe not so favorable situation and find the positive, like you did.

This is a very humbling sport and in a minute, you can go from hero to zero. Even the top professionals have off days. Keep up your great attitude because I'm sure you'll be winning lots of ribbons in the future!:)


May. 8, 2009, 01:58 PM
I learned my daughter is... only 9 years old and that though she rides well if she falls off at a show it may take the entire weekend to recover...and that is perfectly fine!

May. 8, 2009, 02:43 PM
This is great! I am not an experienced show-er, and neither is my horse. Lately, I have been thinking about why I want to go to shows, because even the local shows are expensive for me. But, I go because it is fun, and it is a good way to test myself and my horse on what we have been doing at home. If we can go into a strange place and perform our new skills, then we are a step closer to mastering that skill.

My trainer helps me set 1-2 specific goals for each show - and I go into each class with that goal in mind. As long as I meet the goal, both my trainer and I can be proud of me and my horse no matter what else happens. We try to pick things that we have been working on at home, that are reasonable goals. At our most recent show, my goal was to get correct amount of strides in each line, keep her straight and steady, and pick up the correct lead in my flat classes. We did all these things, so yay!

I also learned a few things:

1- My mare's performance is directly linked to my attitude. If I allow myself to feel tense and nervous, she will not move forward - she will trot before every fence and constantly suck back. If I make the effort to relax myself, she will be much happier and go forward in the ring.

2 - It is okay to bribe my horse with special treats - Uncle Jimmy's Hanging Balls in the stall - and little songs (probably the only creature in this world who not only tolerates my songs, but likes them!)

3 - Even though I may think that I am not nervous, I should always check that I have a loop in my reins and that I have my lower leg on my horse. Sometimes your body does weird things at a show without you realizing it.

4- Ride to each and every jump like your horse has already refused it 10 times. At a show, I can't assume that if a jump has not been a problem in a previous trip that it will not be a problem in a later trip. So, I need to be very clear going up to each jump that yes, we are going to jump over it.

May. 8, 2009, 03:00 PM
One of the best moments I've ever observed was at one of the shows where I volunteer.

We try to give really nice awards...stuff I'd love to win anyway. ;)

One time, a very experienced adult who brings her greenies to school was tied for Champion with a kid who will probably never go do rated shows (for a variety of reasons).

Because of an office snafu, the points were a little slow in being calculated, so they had both already stripped down their horses. We were going to do a hack off, but because it was late, the adult very graciously told us to just let the child have the Championship.

It completely made that kid's day and I'll never forget how kind that adult rider was.

May. 8, 2009, 03:00 PM
Great post, theroanypony. Such understanding escapes many people their whole lives!

At my last show, I learned:

--I can ride a jumper round. Speed is not scary when your horse trusts you to find the jump.

--Let the horse do his job. Show him the jump, support him, but don't try to control every moment.

--Trust your instincts. When your horse suddenly doesn't feel "right", listen to yourself, not to others who say, "he isn't off at all". Well, he's been off work for 6 weeks, so they were wrong and I was right, but I didn't trust myself enough to stand up and get off his back and quit.

May. 8, 2009, 04:32 PM
My last show that I rode at was my baby's first o/f show. I learned that he doesn't like to be in the ring without all of his friends when he's away from home. So when at my trainer's now everybody exits while LJ does his jumping. Now I think he kinda likes being alone! lol

May. 8, 2009, 07:45 PM
I'm learning that I should have more confidence in my abilities! There was one show where I drew a bit of a speedy ride (IHSA) and wasn't concentrating on my eq, just on not crashing. Imagine my surprise when I got 2nd!

I also learned to judge myself on how I rode, not on the ribbon I got. At another show I got a really tough draw (as in, no one else who drew her that day even got a ribbon). Dealing with her made it my most challenging flat class yet, and I got 4th. But I was damn proud of that white ribbon. The week before I had ridden like sh*t and won and didn't feel like I had deserved it. So I learned that I would rather EARN 4th than be GIVEN 1st.

May. 8, 2009, 08:01 PM
I realized after my last show that if I'm going to spend all that money I'd better go to have fun and not make everything about winning. The first show I went to I placed in every class I entered(big classes 20+) and won 3 out of 6. I guess I almost expected to win everything at my last show and when I didn't, I realized I had sucked the fun out of several of my classes(it also didn't help that my pony turned into a psycho spaz every time she saw a bird...). I think competition and wanting to win is great, but I noticed that the classes I had the most fun in, I did the best in, and even if I hadn't won them, I would still be happy I rode in them. I now definitely have a changed/better outlook on showing and the point of it.

May. 9, 2009, 12:36 PM
That when I believe in my horse she believes in me.

May. 9, 2009, 12:43 PM
I learned about my last show:

My left arm is too stiff.
I need to be quieter with my hands for the lead changes.
I need to stop overcompensating for a mistake I made in the last class.
My horse needs to pick up his feet and remember that the jumps are 3' haha...although he remembered by the end and was much better :)

May. 9, 2009, 12:56 PM
Chasing after ribbons will likely result in misery. It is much healthier to focus on the process of improving yourself and your horse. How did you and your horse do relative to past performances? Feel proud of improvement even if that doesn't equal a ribbon. And when you make mistakes, accept them and learn from them. Don't take things too seriously! The most important thing is to HAVE FUN! And finally, be grateful that you are able to go to shows. Many people can't afford to show. And many people who love horses don't have the finances to be involved with horses or have other circumstances that prevent them from riding. (This was my situation from age 17 to age 45!) We are VERY lucky people.

Against all Odds
May. 9, 2009, 09:18 PM
great timing on this thread, I had the exact same realization this weekend!

what I learned: I need to fix my bad riding habits before I will have the confidence to move up to 3'9, and until then I'll stick to 3'3-3'6 till I can do it right all the time, showing in the higher division isn't the important part of being there it's about me becoming a better rider.

make x it x so
May. 10, 2009, 10:16 AM
Last show I learned that you need to steer when going down a bending line. Especially when the horse already has a left drift installed and is tired and would rather not jump if given the choice.

I also learned that even when my horse is being an angel, I can find a way to mess up every one of my courses so that none of them are as spectacular as we are capable of.

Great post, and very timely as I've been starting to stress about whether I'll get enough good shows in to qualify for Zone Finals. Your post brought me back to where I need to be. My goal is still to qualify, but not at the expense of having fun! And if I don't, there's always next year!

May. 10, 2009, 12:05 PM
This post is awesome :lol:

My last show went horribly, but I learned that:
1) Not to anticipate the refusal/spook, because if you think it's going to happen, it will.

2) That just getting around the course well is the best reward I can get.

3) That I need to work on despooking my greenie more at home before asking him to do something new and different.

4) And that the end of the day, everyone is a winner :)

May. 10, 2009, 12:24 PM
I just showed at a decently big A show Friday and Saturday. Its my 4th time doing the A/Os so I know that im not the winner. I know that we have what it takes to be a winner, but not yet. I showed Friday and my horse was a complete ***. Drug me around the entire ring, went over everything, but still was NOT pretty at all. I felt like everyone was laughing at me. That night I said to myself, who cares what other people think, this is what i wanna do, i know im a good enough rider to do this, i know my horse is good enough, my trainer who is a very well known east coast recognized trainer who says we are both good enough for this. So i go back Saturday, forgot completely about Friday. Went in the ring and my horse was a star! I got good ribbons out of 13. I beat horses that are qualified for Devon, I beat horses that have been doing this for years. And I loved it! Yes I didnt win, but I learned alot. And i have so much more confidence now, and feel like im exactly where i belong. Cant wait for my next show.

All said, I learned to drop it when things dont always go your way, because it will only make it worse and just set goals for yourself to just do better than what you did the last time. Im happy with myself as long as i do better each show, not ribbon wise, riding wise.