Thursday, Jul. 25, 2024

How Not To Be An Idiot At The Horse Show



Here in the Northeast, the show season is winding down.

However, the upcoming Florida season will be here before we know it, so I feel it is a great time to introduce the world to some of my more useful advice.

“What advice?” asks everyone, with bated breath!

While I certainly have done my share of idiot things at various competitions in the past, this year brought a few new and impressive moments. So here, in no particular order, is my list of pitfalls that most sane humans already know to avoid.

(And I shall bypass the more obvious problems that I *may* have encountered over the years. At this point I would like to think that I know enough to get my entry in on time, be well trained for the level I plan to ride, and arrive at the show ring prior to my ride time. We can only hope!)


1. Don’t leave your brush box at home. Especially if this box contains not only brushes, but also fly spray, detangler, purple shampoo for your chromey pony, all your spurs, extra bits, GastroGard and peppermints.

Jesus Christ. I thought Casey had packed the box. She thought I had. When we got to the show and found it missing (because we were going to share one box between two horses to save tack stall space! So smart!) we assumed my mom had packed it. She had NOT, and she WAS NOT impressed with us. (Because we are adults.) For a hot minute both Casey and I found the situation hysterical, but we were actually idiots.


Even the best of us forget a grooming box at home every now and again. All photos courtesy of Sara Bradley.

Luckily, my trainer Susanne Hamilton was stabled right next door and was happy to lend us everything we needed. (So… everything? What are we? 12? First show? Noobs? No, no we are not.) While it all turned out just fine, we now bring one box per horse to the show and triple check its presence in the trailer prior to departure. This might seem obvious, but we were idiots.

2. Don’t go into first level, test 1, with BOLD AND BLAZING confidence, only to ride the 4-year-old test, which is shockingly similar but (believe me) NOT the same. If you attempt this feat, you will go off course a number of times and end up feeling pretty ashamed and ill prepared. This *may* or *may not* have happened to me. Only the judge, the horse and the literal throng of people who came to watch me (or that particular rider) will ever know. This rider was a bit of an idiot (and shall not go off course again for years, out of pure shame). Oh, and the rider in question took a pic of the test and added comments, so you can see for yourself. #idiot


No bonus points for confidence then?

3.  I am well acquainted with the stabling at HITS Saugerties (New York) and think it is really above average. Very safe for horses. Maybe not as safe for idiot humans. At the September show, I reached through the window bars to close the sliding window AND GOT MY ARM STUCK. REALLY STUCK.


My first, slightly panicked thought was that I was going to be trapped forever and die. After realizing how entirely irrational that was, I prepared for the inevitable arm amputation that I would require. FYI, I am extremely claustrophobic and had basically bought myself a one-way ticket to panic town by getting trapped. “Hey guys,” I called out, pitifully, weeping slightly, “I AM STUCK!”

Luckily, my mother and husband came quickly to my rescue, and within two minutes (which felt like five hours) they freed me. I was extraordinarily relieved to be unstuck and even more relieved to have avoided the public humiliation of needing to be rescued by a brigade of hot, handsome firemen (hang on… would that have been bad?).  But I promptly told all my friends of my idiocy. And now the entire internet. So I must not care about public humiliation. So YOU GUYS, while at horse shows (or anywhere) don’t get yourself stuck in small places, or you WILL feel like an idiot!


Horse safe? Yes. Human safe? Less so.

4. When you get your email from the show secretary, confirming that you have entered the correct tests, paid your entry, and signed on all the dotted lines, actually READ the thing! I got myself into a pickle by simply skimming the document to make sure I had paid but later discovered that there had been a glitch, and I was entered in the wrong class. I knew it was my fault for not checking, so I groveled, shamefaced, to the secretary for forgiveness and reassignment into the correct class. Because she is great, she was able to take care of the issue, but it would have been FAR easier for her if I had done my part and actually read the entry confirmation. (I almost sucked it up and just rode the class that I was mistakenly put into to save face. But in the end, if you bring the secretary enough snacks/wine to make up for your idiocy, you will be forgiven. But perhaps regarded as an IDIOT.)

So there you have it, a concise plan for avoiding foolish missteps. My guess is that some of these issues may be limited to my own personal experience, but I believe that everyone has their moments. (And now, you can have fewer, thanks to me!)

I’m Sara Bradley, USDF bronze and silver medalist, young horse trainer extraordinaire (today anyway), and owner of Waterford Equestrian Center in Maine. When I am not wrangling 4-year-old horses, I am wrangling 4-year-old children and attempting to teach them to focus and ride ponies. (I also teach adults, who occasionally require less in the way of wrangling.) I also enjoy long walks (runs, let’s be real), my giant hairy dogs, horse showing with my mom Linda, whom everyone calls “Sara’s Mom,” and adventuring with my excellent horse husband, Eric.  

Read all of Sara’s COTH blogs.




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