In the early days of his career, legendary horseman Bill Steinkraus penned a regular column—Equitation and Horsemanship—for The Chronicle of the Horse under the pseudonym “Proctor Knott.” As we head into equitation finals season, we’ve unearthed one of his Chronicle columns that, nearly 80 years later, is still full of good advice for young riders.
Published in the March 21, 1941, issue of The Chronicle of the Horse
A woman who is quite a devotee of horse shows dropped in for a chat the other day and put this note on our desk. “If you are going to give some pointers on horsemanship,” she said, “Here are some do’s and don’ts which I think many of the younger generation can profit by. What do you think?”
Well, we read them over and can say we are in hearty accord, so herewith we pass them on to our gentle readers, young or old.
10 Commandments For The Young Show Rider
1. Don’t Brag. If you are really good, your friends will find it out for themselves.
2. Don’t Alibi. If you fail to win a ribbon, save your friends those boring explanations. Of course, talking things over with your instructor is quite a different matter.
3. If You Have A Spill, (and who doesn’t!), get up and go at it again. (A rule probably 1,000 years old, but still good.)
4. Be Polite. Have an adequate supply of “thank-yous” and “pleases” on hand, and with it a ready smile and friendly manner. Above all, don’t be so overawed or so thrilled over a trophy that you forget to say “Thank you” when you take it.
5. Don’t Annoy People, especially, the show officials, judges or the announcer. They are usually working like Trojans to keep the show moving, so don’t hang around and chatter away at them unless you really have something to say.
6. Keep Your Mother Or Fond Relatives Away From The Judges. It is really inexcusable that he be questioned or harangued on the subject of someone’s riding while the show is in session. Believe it or not, judging a show is hard work! After the ribbons are passed out, let the judge take a well-deserved rest.
7. Be Well-Groomed. That goes for yourself as well as your tack and your horse. Definitely, in the show ring it is not smart to be sloppy! Clothes need not be expensive but should be clean and workmanlike. Oddly enough, a friend of ours, who is often careless when riding himself, is most meticulous and critical on this point when judging others in the ring, so form your good habit while young.
8. Don’t Grouse. Riding in the show ring should be fun, otherwise why do it? Of course, judges are human and do make a mistake on rare occasions. But forget it. Remember perfection exists only in heaven!
9. Hang On To Your Own Belongings. If you can follow this simple advice, you will save yourself a vast amount of money in the course of a few seasons at the show ring. Don’t be a dropper and a loser. Riding is expensive enough as it is.
10. Be Kind To Your Mount. Show him if you are pleased with his performance, and if things don’t go just the way you want them to, never, never lose your temper at him.
But we would suggest that the last point be put first. On several occasions we have seen children lose their temper with horses and must admit we cannot think the same of these riders again. For after you lose your temper things go from bad to worse. Both you and your horse become excited, and nothing can be accomplished.
Centuries ago Xenophon, who aside from marching into Persia wrote some splendid essays on the care and training of horses, said, “Never do anything to your horse in anger, but endeavor to make him associate you as an organ of his pleasure, for in doing so you will find he advances more rapidly.”
In addition, he will reward you with that devotion which is one of the TRUE PLEASURES OF RIDING.
William C. “Bill” Steinkraus, the first U.S. show jumper to win an individual Olympic gold medal, died on Nov. 29 at the age of 92. The Chronicle published a tribute to him in the Jan. 29 & Feb. 5, 2018, Living Legends Issue of The Chronicle of the Horse.
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