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The Most Common Horse Show Mistake-Changing Routines
Equine Training
Monday 8th of November 2010 04:54 PM

Article Credit-Lynn Baber

Consistency Reduces Resistance - iStockphoto
Consistency Reduces Resistance - iStockphoto

Showing horses successfully takes a great deal of time, commitment, expertise, and financial investment. But, whether from frustration or nerves, many riders get to the show and set themselves up to fail before they even walk into the arena.

The number one mistake exhibitors make is to keep training their horse once they arrive at the show. Horses go to shows to perform what they already reliably know how to do. If you are not getting consistently good rides at home, you probably aren’t going to luck into a winning performance at the show.


Different horses have different needs for pre-show preparation just like their riders. Each horse will have its own best type and length of warm-up before a competition. Some horses just need their muscles warmed up with a light trot and others need an extensive work-out before they are able to get focused on the job at hand. The owner or trainer needs to know when their horse hits that happy place between fresh and washed-out and keep the warm-up routine consistent and effective.

Many trainers work their horses too hard before the show and get a lackluster or poor performance because the horse’s best was left in the warm-up arena. Others don’t allow their horses adequate time to work the kinks out and get both mentally and physically ready to give their best.

Don’t Pick a Fight

In nearly every warm-up pen across the country horses with shined coats, polished hooves, and wearing spotless tack are confronted by finely attired riders who suddenly begin to pick on them just before they enter the class to compete. Such riders try to get one more little bit of training done by spurring a gleaming side or bumping a tender mouth with a correction bit, as they frantically try to train their horse in the few minutes that remain before their number is called.

Why pick a fight with your partner right before you go in to “dance” together? Riders who get after their horses (usually for no good reason except nerves and inexperience) with such behavior are like a bride who slaps the groom across the face right before she walks down the aisle to marry him. Sure doesn’t make much sense and does not produce great honeymoon results.

What would happen on “Dancing With the Stars” if the professional dancer stomped on the toes of their celebrity partner and yanked a delicate arm trying to make a final “adjustment” in their position right before taking the floor before the studio audience? Do you really think such an outburst will improve the score the two earn from the panel of judges?

Stick With What Works

Take the saddle and bridle you use at home along to the show. If your training tack is not the same as your show tack, spend the last week before your event riding in your show outfit at home. Don’t change bits, don’t change spurs, and don’t adjust your stirrups right before a show.

Maintain the feeding and riding programs you use at home at the show. Make as few adjustments as possible to the routine your horse relies upon.

BeHorse Expects the Partner

Your For every rider who gets to a show and wonders where the horse is that they ride at home, there is a horse who wonders who that stranger is who showed up to ride them as well. If you want your horse to perform the same way at the show as they do at home, then ride them the same way you do at home.

Show your horse at the show. Train your horse at home. Your horse cannot be consistent if you are not consistent. Pick a fight with your horse and you will get resistance. Respect your horse and he or she will return the favor.

Go show, but have fun!

Copyright Lynn Baber. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

Read more at Suite101: The Most Common Horse Show Mistake - Changing Routines

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