Tuesday, May. 28, 2024

Just Have Fun

This past weekend I attended the HITS III Cavalier Classic Horse Show (Va.) to cheer on my barnmates and friends. Although I usually attend horse shows as a participant or cover them for the magazine, on this day I was simply a spectator.

I spoke to various trainers and competitors and walked from the grand prix ring to the main hunter ring to the pony ring to see the action. It was while I was at the adult amateur ring at the very end of the day, however, when I realized why some of my meanderings had bothered me.
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This past weekend I attended the HITS III Cavalier Classic Horse Show (Va.) to cheer on my barnmates and friends. Although I usually attend horse shows as a participant or cover them for the magazine, on this day I was simply a spectator.

I spoke to various trainers and competitors and walked from the grand prix ring to the main hunter ring to the pony ring to see the action. It was while I was at the adult amateur ring at the very end of the day, however, when I realized why some of my meanderings had bothered me.

My trainer was in the midst of coaching an adult amateur from our barn when, during a lull in the action, an older gentleman walked up and congratulated her. She was surprised and asked why. He said: “I’ve been here all day, and I’ve not seen a single trainer say ‘just have fun’ as their riders go into the ring.”

She replied, “The last thing I always tell my students is to have fun. Isn’t that why we’re here? If it’s not fun, we should be doing something else.”

That thought stuck in my mind as I drove home that evening. There were some instances during the day where I observed people who were most definitely not enjoying their day. I saw frustrated trainers, tearful riders and angry parents, some not even trying to hide their emotions, as their expectations went unfulfilled.

Unfortunately, everyone has a bad day now and then. With horses, especially, it’s just part of the package. During this same adult amateur division I heard a trainer make disparaging comments about another trainer’s rider who was having difficulty learning how to ride a new mount. These remarks, which were unnecessary and hurtful, were overheard by the rider’s friends. It’s disappointing that some people are so unsupportive of their fellow horsemen. Exercising patience and understanding is vital in working with horses, so shouldn’t it follow suit with horse people too?

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Thankfully, those who’ve been in this business long enough understand that you can sweep the division one weekend and struggle just to find the distances at the following show. I understand that training requires a delicate balance of encouragement and criticism—and some students certainly require more of one than the other to thrive—but unprofessional or unsportsmanlike behavior, especially at public venues, is a detriment to the sport.

And it’s a sad testament to horse showing when someone’s grandfather makes a point to note how few people are having fun.  

I left Culpeper with more positive impressions than negatives, however.

A young trainer caught my attention at the children’s ring. Her student missed a few distances and a lead change in her first over fences class and was obviously disappointed. This trainer didn’t berate the child about her mistakes and instead focused on the positives. She said the child had made one of her best courtesy circles ever, establishing the perfect pace, but the missed lead change had discombobulated her.

The girl went into the ring confident for her second round and improved her performance enough for a ribbon. The smiles on their faces reflected that proper balance of hard work and fun, which is, regrettably, all too rare these days.

Tricia Booker, Editor

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