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The real deal at A/AA shows?

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  • The real deal at A/AA shows?

    Perhaps my experiences are skewed or somewhat out of the norm - but I find the vast majority of riders at the shows I attend (mixture of A/AA both locally and out of state) are decent folks on well cared for horses who really want to do well at their sport.

    I'm sure the "uber-wealthy" spoiled kid/society woman who has a string of disposable imports in order to take up the slack for their lack of riding skills, exist - I'm not saying that it doesn't - but wondering what others here (who actually show at the A's) see and experience.

    For instance:
    I'm a (52 yr. old) AA jumper rider. Yes, I have a horse that was imported and is waaay more talented/scopey than I will ever use. No, he isn't a "packer" - and I didn't buy him as a short cut to "winning". I bought him because riding him makes me smile. I bought him because I work about 60 or 70 hours a week and am FINALLY able to afford a nice horse and A shows. I'm having to learn to ride better than I used to - and I'm having to work out at the gym 4 to 5 days a week in order to be in good enough physical shape to ride well. I'm also at the barn at least 4X's a week - sometimes it's at 9 o'clock at night - and I'm "toast" from a long day at work - but I'm there. I take his care and training very seriously - I educate myself about his shoes, supplements, feeding, etc. but rely on the professional advice and knowledge of my trainer, vet, farrier. Yes, I have a groom at shows. No, I can't braid. But I CAN wrap, bathe and clip.

    My competitive "goals" are not "high - level" - I will never compete in a Grand Prix, or be a highly ranked national rider - but I do want to do well (decent zone ranking) and am hoping to be competent at a 3'9" to 4' level.

    I'm not extremely "wealthy" - but am able to go to about 10 to 12 A shows a year - and afford a nice horse, lessons, etc. without eating Ramen noodles all the time.

    I clap for my friends rounds - even when they kick my butt - and I have no idea if their pants or TS or not. I'm going to clap for them even if they are only doing 2'-6" ....or crossrails. They deserve it.
    Sometimes I get sent back down to the hunter ring to get my act together before being back allowed in the jumpers - I need my friends to clap for me then, 'cause I'm usually needing some serious support!

    Most of the people I ride with are very much the same.

    What about everyone else? Feel free to commment, even if you are the uber wealthy woman who "buys" the packer/winner.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Rosie View Post
    I clap for my friends rounds - even when they kick my butt - and I have no idea if their pants or TS or not. I'm going to clap for them even if they are only doing 2'-6" ....or crossrails. They deserve it.
    And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what showing SHOULD be about.
    A proud friend of bar.ka.


    • #3
      This is quite an interesting topic....

      For the most part of what i'm around everyone is nice to each other. Everyone claps for one another. Everyone is just as proud as the person riding when they're happy and do well. However, that being said everyone has that little tinge of jealousy inside. If the trainer spends that much more time complimenting the other rider. If someone else gets to ride/show the sale horse. No matter how nice everyone is to everyone else, THEY always want to be the best. There are people who judge riding capabilities on whether or not their breeches are Tailored Sportsmans (or similar), they're jackets are grand prix with beautiful shirts underneath, their tallboots are custom or look it etc. There are also people out there that are purely in it for fun, couldn't care less what the other riders are wearing and just want their horse and them to end the day on a good note. You usually find that with the older riders who are perfectly content not being on the next Olympic team. There are people who take everything about it far too seriously and people that don't take it seriously enough. There's such a wide range. There are plenty of spoiled daddy's little girls but there are just as many who work really hard every single day to be able to attend such shows. Some people braid, groom, etc to be able to be there, some people scoff at those people. I'm pretty much in the middle with it all. I sometimes do get caught up in the snotty scene but i'm easily brought back down to earth. I braid all of my barns horses (for free) including my own. I groom and help out whenever I can. I definitely can get caught up in jealousy but I try really hard not to let it get the best of me and just use it as motivation to work harder. I love my horses more than anything and take care of them to the best of my ability. Their needs ALWAYS come first. I would never push a horse for a ribbon. The only people I scoff at are the people who do not put the well-being of the horse first because hey... without them we wouldn't be able to have beautiful experiences, ribbons, moments, etc. They don't ask why they have to jump over 8 stupid logs in the middle of the ring when they could just as easily go around them, they just humor us and do it. So moral of the story it's easy to get caught up in the "glam" of the A circuit and all of the pettiness that it entails, but the real horseperson can be brought back to reality very quickly.


      • #4
        I totally agree with the above. Thats what showing should be like. I feel the same way I feel like the majority of the people at the A shows and AA shows are hardworking individuals who appreciate their horses. I acknowledge the fact that there are the 'spoiled brats' and spoiled ammys, there at the shows but their not the majority. I have no interest in becoming a pro in my future at all. I love enjoying my horse. I ride because its the sport I love the most hands down. I do have high aspirations for my show year, but will not sacrifice my horses well being for them, or sacrafice the fun of the sport. I show around once a month durring the winter and do the AA circuit durring the summer all over the east coast. I hope to qualify for WIHS and NAL. But if i dont, its life, and Id rather let my horse be a horse and go on trail rides or hack in the polo field then be on the circuit showing every weekend (but fortunatley were still top 25 in both).

        We bought my horse not because he is the garunteed winner every time out, but because of his personality and the fact that he is an absolute saint. He happens to be cute to boot and jump very well but thats all just details. Coming from a life filled with learning and social disabilities along with eating disorders, and going to one of the hardest schools in the country while keeping high honors life is tough. And the best part of riding is leaving that all behind and showing up to the barn to see my horse waiting for me with his head in the aisle with a look of love on his face. Its also nice to feel like youve owned a course and mastered a technique with your horse.

        Horse shows are part of my favorite part. My old barn was all competition and no support for the few other riders. Id come out of a class in first beating the barns other riders and theyd complain about it the entire day. My new barn is all fun and support to all of the 30+ horse and rider pairs at the shows. I love coming out of the ring from the round of your life to a crowd of supporters clapping and congratulating you. Second best to that is coming out in last place and still having those supporters there laughing along with you and with the 1st grade walk trot rider telling you that your their idol even if you stunk. Another thing I love is cheering on everyone from my barn, seing the little short stirrup kids come out of the ring pleased with themselves. We have a few people that just show up for their class and offer no congratulations or praise to other riders, and blame their mistakes on their horse. But the A circuit gets a bad name from the handful of bad people, not from the horse loving individuals that makeup the majority.


        • #5
          Bless you Rosie

          You're the kind of people I like to see at shows and show with!!

          Petty bickering or griping about the ever-growing abundance of the 2'6" is just plain wrong and not what it should be about. Whining about the unfairness of the crappy rider on the uber-fancy packer is pointless. Enjoy your horse, enjoy the day and focus on yourself and striving for improvement together, the ribbons/coolers should be the added bonus, not the focus.

          The show scene would be a little more enjoyable if we all realized that it's possible to a graceful, compassionate competitor and horseperson and leave all the sorority-antics back where they belong.


          • #6
            Great post Rosie!

            The barn I am at now is the most supportive, positive environment I have ever been in. Two weeks ago at our local finals, my whole barn showed earlier than I did, dropped and hosed the horses off at home, and came back to come watch me ride. My entire barn. Even when I suck, they clap and give a "woot" for my rounds. It's a completely different, but refreshing, feeling than the other barns I've been to. My trainer is always saying riding should be fun, and when it's not, why even bother going to a show? If you are out to win, sure, go buy the packer who will get you around. Of course it's nice to win, but riding is not about competing and getting lots of ribbons, in my mind. It's about learning and making the best of yourself and your horse.

            There are some people who are in it to win in. There are some people who are in it for the fun. And then there are the people who make you want to get better and support everyone, be it crossrails or Grand Prix.



            • #7
              The most interesting thing I discovered at shows was that the one local "fancy schmancy" assumed-snobby everything matchy matchy expensive barn was the one with the NICEST kids who had to do EVERYTHING themselves- groom, tack, stalls.

              Meanwhile, the local redneck barn kids didn't do a thing.

              (Nothing against people who groom for themselves, or people who hire grooms, just a stereotype of the fancy barn that I was glad to see wasn't true)


              • #8
                What a refreshing thread, keep it going!


                • #9
                  I lease a large pony from my barn (can't afford to buy a horse, and with me going off to college soon enough--im a jr in HS right now--it wouldnt make sense to buy a horse) and will move up to a horse (a lease, of course) this fall.

                  My pony used to be a great jumper pony, but i am not really a jumper person, never really kept my interest (tried it two times, never really enjoyed it) and so i made him into a hunter. it's taken years for him to be real sucessful, but now we're winning in the children's hunters. we do very well at A shows (as long as i'm riding well...he's a great pony, he can get you around a course if you know what youre doing, but he definitely won't find the distances and set himself up all on his own, you have to be there every step of the way with him to put in a nice round). he's a wonderful teacher. ive definitely learned the most, by far, on this pony. i go to A shows during the spring/summer, and unrated locals during the winter. I probably go to about 10-12 shows per year, and half of them are generally A/AA shows. I am a working student, so it definitely makes it more affordable, but in 2008 i only went to 2 shows that yr because my dad lost his job, and my parents *do* help pay the bills, because i do so well in school--so showing wasnt really much of an option last year. But this year we can afford to go back to the 10 or so shows. Am I a spoiled princess because i have a nice pony and my parents help pay the bills? No, I don't consider myself one. I do all the work, i don't hand my pony off to the groom, i do everything. i work really hard at the barn, and so i get paid well for it. i work hard in school so i get good grades and if i were to work any more than i already do (at the barn) i probably wouldnt be able to balance that and school--so thats also why parents help with $$. then again, i'm 17, so i'm still in the house--it's not like im out of college or anything. once im off to college, i'll have to pay for everything myself, which i think is fair.

                  Just at Garden State 2 weeks ago, on wednesday i was in a hopeful hunter class, a warm up for the weekend. I had all nice rounds, all got claps, but my last one was particularly awesome. The only thing that kept me from winning is that the horse that won is a beautiful mover, and my pony is NOT a beautiful mover, and that i got a long spot. I'm perfectly happy with the 3rd place i got in that class, but what made me happier is seeing literally everyone around the ingate and in the bleachers clapping, and when i left the ring the ring steward complimented me and another trainer who was watching said "great round, i wish my kid rode that well!" and it makes you feel so good. Then you walk around afterwards, later in the day, or the next day, and random barn mates and friends of our trainer and people say "hey i saw your last round! you did so well!" or "i heard you rode awesome today, sebastian was so proud!" and i love the feeling of having my trainer be proud of me. The ribbons are a nice touch, a good way to remember your shows and stuff, but it's how well you ride that really determines it.

                  Blitz <3 & Leap of Faith <3


                  • #10
                    I've always had such nice experiences at A shows. I won a hunter classic and the girl who came in 2nd said, "Congratulations! You did fantastic and your horse is beautiful." And this is when I was 15! I returned the compliment. From the other competitors there was no sneering, nor talking about "Oh, well...her coat and breeches are Devon-Aire." or "She only won b/c her horse is push button!" which he was not. That's why I don't understand why people are so worried about certain things...it just seemed like everyone was happy to have the opportunity to show, not for the ribbon but because it's a great experience and because it's FUN.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Pirateer View Post
                      The most interesting thing I discovered at shows was that the one local "fancy schmancy" assumed-snobby everything matchy matchy expensive barn was the one with the NICEST kids who had to do EVERYTHING themselves- groom, tack, stalls.
                      Agreed. I've been pleasantly suprised at a number of "fancy schmancy" barns where I had pre-judged the clientele based on costs and outside appearances. Has taught me a lot.


                      • Original Poster

                        Pirateer, those types of stereotypes are what I was referring to. Not every "fancy" horse is owned by a spoiled, rich snobby hunter princess. Some of the best I've seen were "made up" by (better-than-average) ammies.

                        Brown Horse, you bring up a good point. I have NEVER had a person at an A show comment about someone else's lack of "designer" labels. I don't think anyone really notices ( ok, Pirateer does! )whether breeches are TS, Ariat, or something else. As long as the person looks neat, tidy and everything fits well - I don't believe anyone judges you based on it. I know my daughter HATED TS breeches and never wore them. Same for helmets, etc.
                        Last edited by Rosie; May. 8, 2009, 05:22 PM. Reason: Pirateer has a good point!


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Rosie View Post
                          Brown Horse, you bring up a good point. I have NEVER had a person at an A show comment about someone else's lack of "designer" labels. I don't think anyone really notices whether breeches are TS, Ariat, or something else. As long as the person looks neat, tidy and everything fits well - I don't believe anyone really notices.
                          Ok, this I don't see.

                          I'm sorry, but I can tell a pair of TS/Ariats from the bargain bin kind, regardless of how well they fit. I can TELL a nice coat from the kind chock full of polyester. I can tell an IRH from a GPA, or an IRH from a CO. I can tell a big $$ saddle from cardboard.

                          It doesn't mean I'll judge them for it, but I DO notice.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Pirateer View Post
                            Ok, this I don't see.

                            I'm sorry, but I can tell a pair of TS/Ariats from the bargain bin kind, regardless of how well they fit. I can TELL a nice coat from the kind chock full of polyester. I can tell an IRH from a GPA, or an IRH from a CO. I can tell a big $$ saddle from cardboard.

                            It doesn't mean I'll judge them for it, but I DO notice.
                            I admit, I do notice too But still, a good ride is a good ride and what you wear isnt being judged (as long as youre suitably dressed and its respectful and well-fitting)

                            Blitz <3 & Leap of Faith <3


                            • #15
                              Very interesting thread. My experience having spent my entire life in this world is that a majority of the stereotypes just aren't true. Most of the people I know - everyone from ubber rich to normal people like myself - love riding, horses, showing, etc., and seem to keep it all in perspective. I have come across a few that are just full of themselves, but thankfully they are the exception. One thing I have noticed over the years is that certain barns/trainers will dictate what kind of attitude their barn displays to the outside world. I know my trainer, who has been on the circuit for years, wouldn't put up with anyone that thought too highly of themselves. Another one of many reasons I ride w/ him.

                              I've also found that horses are humbling. Just because you have a $200K horse doesn't mean it won't completely misbehave and make a fool of its rider. After all, the horse doesn't know how much someone paid for it.

                              I love that there are so many people on this forum that don't look down their noses at others and just truly enjoy their sport - afterall, it is really all about a horse.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by Pirateer View Post
                                Ok, this I don't see.

                                I'm sorry, but I can tell a pair of TS/Ariats from the bargain bin kind, regardless of how well they fit. I can TELL a nice coat from the kind chock full of polyester. I can tell an IRH from a GPA, or an IRH from a CO. I can tell a big $$ saddle from cardboard.

                                It doesn't mean I'll judge them for it, but I DO notice.
                                I may notice only because I'm admiring the outfit. I am a clothes horse though - whether it's street clothes or riding clothes - I love great clothes! haha But, trust me, I'm paying far more attention to the horse they are riding. I love watching a nice horse go around.


                                • #17
                                  I show in the adult equitation in the New England area and have also shown at some top AA shows in the adult eq, like WEF, Lake Placid, Cap Challenge... and I have found there to be wonderful comraderie between the competitors. I've made great show friends from many different barns in New England and had pleasant experiences at out of state AA shows, too.

                                  In Zone I, part of this, I think, is a credit to the New England Equitation Championships. It brings the whole area together and I've never seen a show which promotes better sportsmanship that it does, at all levels- in the juniors and the adult/amateurs.

                                  The adult eq divisions are filled with people of all backgrounds, juniors fresh from the big eqs, amateurs learning to ride or reride after long absences from showing, wealthy amateurs with a string of horses for multiple divisions, ones who catch ride a different horse at every show... and on and on. It's a diverse group. Few, I'd imagine come from the highest tax bracket. Most are likely more in the middle. I've yet to meet a snob.

                                  I've never experienced any of the horror stories that every-so-often appear on the forums here involving poor sportsmanship or snobbiness. And though adult eq isn't a high level division, I've never seen a poor rider on a packer horse win a final. I've never bought into the whole 'that rider only wins cause they're rich and ride the fanciest packer horse thing," when pondering my participation in equitation. I've won and lost on both fancy/expensive and ugly/cheap horses... all it took was good riding and 8 or so good fences (or bad riding on the flip side).

                                  I also deal with a lot of people within the show community for my website, and I've found the vast majority to be quite pleasant to work with, whether they're listing a six-figure horse or a four-figure horse. There are some who can certainly be drama-queens, but what industry/sport/hobby/etc. doesn't have its due share of those? My only less good experiences came from a few interviews I did ages ago, when I used to write for various magazines. A couple of the "winners" I interviewed did come across as a bit snobby and really couldn't be bothered. But c'est la vie.

                                  I think we have a great sport going, and I love how participation is exploding at all levels- local, regional and national; AA or unrated. I hope, like my experiences have been, that most will find it an inviting and competitive, but not cutthroat sport.
                                  Bigeq.com First in Hunter/Jumper Sales Online


                                  • #18
                                    I just recently showed at a large A show and with my baby, who wasn't very expensive when we bought him, I won a class and was third out of 26 in the AAs. One trainer and several other adult riders came up and congratulated me and I definitely noticed a comradery where the adults were all very happy for one another! And I know that I certainly congratulated several riders who beat my butt in the other classes. And from our barn, everyone always comes down to the ring and supports each other. We all help tack up each other's horses when the rider is getting all of their show clothes on, we groom at the gate for each other, and of course we all clap for each other. I've had very positive experiences for the most part at the big shows

                                    And honestly, I don't look at other people's pants, jackets, etc and see a brand. That's the least of my worries at the big shows, I'm much more worried about making sure I ride well and my horse is ready!
                                    Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine - Class of 2014

                                    Chance Encounter
                                    RIP Tall Tales


                                    • #19
                                      So what's the problem?

                                      Of course there are good peeps with nice horses at the big shows! That's because graciousness, sportsmanship, concern for the horse and other people, a spectacular work ethic like the OP's-- all of these things are not perfectly correlated with wealth (or skin color, sexual preference, whatever). You can find admirable and dispicable people in every tax bracket. And the bankrolled rider still needs to ride without stirrups at home just like the one without the money.

                                      I don't think that's the source of the problem. The problem with the showing industry, it would appear to some, is that the best of attitudes and effort are not enough without the bankroll. That means that some "have-nots" will stay, try and perhaps get bitter. It also means that many, many more will leave, perhaps explaining their departure by cries of "they're all snobs, or even cheaters!" on the way out.

                                      Yes, yes-- Of course there will always be someone who has either an advantage or luck we might not bring on any given day. Of course "life is not fair" (though that adage is most often trotted out by those for whom life has generally been more than fair!).

                                      The point is to make showing seem both fair and accessible enough to the people who would like to play that they come, they stay, they try, they have fun, they get what they came for in a sport-- the chance to compete against others who are evenly matched. We don't pit bantam-weight boxers against heavy-weights, but you can watch a great match between two of either kind. We'd all like the chance to overcome some odds, Rocky Balboa style. But make those too long, the cost to people, to horses or retirement funds too great, it becomes something we'd hate to see in boxing-- the little guy getting systematically beaten to a pulp in a predictable way.

                                      So the whiners and nay-sayers ought to be a little more clear about what they'd like to see in horse showing rather than bad-mouthing the sport and the example bad apples we all can find. That having been said, everyone-- those at the top, not just those at the bottom-- ought to defend the goal of making the sport fair enough to be worthwhile and attractive.
                                      The armchair saddler
                                      Politically Pro-Cat


                                      • #20
                                        I do the A/AA show circuit and have met dozens of really awesome people! I do the High and Low Jr/AO jumpers. I am a 45 year old "re rider" - and there are times I have felt insecure about being the "old lady" in the warm up area with all 20 year old kids - but they have been incredibly nice and kind to me. I love to watch people ride....and appreciate everyone's stories, struggles and simply love the sport and competition.

                                        I'm like the OP - I work full time, have a family - but I ride 5-6x a week in the mornings and have several horses to keep fit and ready.

                                        I think there are plenty of great people and things going on at big shows. In fact, I have found that many of the people others assume are "stuck up" or "snobby" are simply shy and are wonderful when you get to know them. I'm sure there are some catty people around - but I seem to be missing them most of the time!