Showing and Competing: Why I Do It (Not for the Glory For Sure)!

remus pretty
I do it for this guy actually! What a champ!

Austen’s blog today  (if you aren’t following her you should be!) made me stop and think. After I wrote a long ass reply on her blog I was still thinking. And I was curious. Why do we do show? Especially if someone ends up not liking your horse (Happened to me many many times)!

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I started riding at 10 (I turn 51 this week you do the ‘maths’ LOL) Let’s just say it has been a very long time. I showed as a kid in local open shows both western and hunt seat (We were equal opportunity riders to say the least LOL). Sometimes I won (I rode the cutest gray Arab cross pony for a few years (Joker Mite Go was his name) and he could get some blues both Western and English) but sometimes I lost. One year I was going for high point (I was maybe about 13 at the time so a life-changing event in my mind) for the summer and I had to skip a show due to some family event. The girl who I was tied with (not a friend but a fellow competitor but still) agreed to NOT show the one weekend as well and we would meet up the next show and duke it out. Yeah I am pretty sure you see where this is going. That girl DID not show but she had her friend ride the pony and clean up so he was a good 15-20 pts ahead of me. I got Reserve Champion that year (Which was still a pretty bad ass ribbon and the banquets were killer back then). Live and learn right??


Back then we all looked at those hunter type horses going around the ring and drooled. Even back then they all were so cool with their gorgeous long necks and trots and canters to die for. Then we unloaded off our van with our appy ponies or arab ponies or whatever backyard thing we were riding and go into a ring full of 30 gorgeous freaking thoroughbreds or whatever they were(This was late 70’s) and not place. HA. But we loved it. Once in a while one of us would place and we would whoop and holler like no one’s business. (Yeah we were a bit rednecky too HA we came from the rural VA area) 🙂


And back then if it was a huge class we didn’t even care if we didn’t place. But somewhere along the line we started really caring and really wanting to compete. But we still were riding our backyard ponies and then my first real horse of my own ended up being a Morgan (Man I loved that horse even though he was a bit cray cray (umm guys don’t buy your daughter a yearling for her first horse, YEP that is me, thanks Mom and Dad.  I really did love him and was so appreciative that they got him for me!)

By the time he was ready to break I was like 14. Match made in heaven. NOT. Though he was an amazing horse but he put me in the hospital at least once, HA.

But I digress. If you think backyard ponies don’t place, try a cute cob-like Morgan solid bay gelding who was 14.3 if he was an inch. Yeah. We started showing Morgan shows and still didn’t place. But we had fun. We would show halter, then western, hunt seat and sometimes saddle seat, oh and drive our horses that same day (Not me, my friend and her mare did, my horse would have DIED if I had hooked him to a cart and pretty sure I would have died as well)! We did start placing more as we got better at our skills but a bad judge could sure ruin your day (especially back then with the hot “IT” trainers in the same class as you). Luckily the only thing judges did back then was pin you. So no ribbon no biggie at least you didn’t get comments like you do in dressage now.

I took the Morgan to college for the first year or so and ended up selling to a friend of mine when it was apparent I didn’t have time to ride that much. I did do a few baby events with him and if I think Remus has no engagement omg we were hilarious. But we liked to go jump and run around fields.  My friend kept Pasha till he died and he lived to a good age so he had a good life. But then I kind of bounced around horses for a while and didn’t show that much. I helped ride some Welsh ponies (I was short and trim back then (Still short now LOL) and showed them and got a few ribbons (THEY were nice Welsh ponies, mostly I just pointed and shoot but then once in a while one of those little stinkers would drop its shoulder and BAM down I would go (HA). (Since I was of age when I rode these I often had a beer chaser before going into the ring OH Yeah I was that kind of jumper).

obviously not me but this happened a few times LOL!

But I never have been mainstream, I am not built with long long legs and perfect body to look good in those hunt seat clothes. I just don’t fit in in traditional showing experiences, and pretty much never have!

I have a Quarter Horse now, but he would lap any Quarter Horse at a recognized show today because he doesn’t have the walk/shuffle/trot or the 4 beat canter most of them have (and I don’t want it!) Plus he is a solid 15 hands where most of them are 16 hands plus now (tiny little gaits, big ass bodies). But I do have fun and have always enjoyed showing. My stomach gets all knotted up before a show (WHATEVER the type). I almost always feel like vomiting (But don’t). But I can remember going to sleep to get up at 4 am for the shows as a kid and I still feel that way now. Excited. Optimistic. Ready to try try try again!

But somewhere along the line after moving back to DE (I need to write a whole blog post on my life in Texas sometime where I had a farm and a few horses but didn’t really show), I got into eventing after taking this big fat buckskin out of a field and deciding it would be fun to get him to canter and jump. Crazy right?? He literally could not canter the first six months I had him. Unable to carry himself enough to canter!

But now we get comments written down in our dressage scores or we get whistles blown (I am always in such a panic that I won’t be able to distinguish which judge is ringing what!!) or we get eliminated and we STILL continue to compete. WHY? I often giggle at how often the judge writes good pair or well matched pair in the comments (Ha short and stocky both of us)!


Any of us who show have to be a bit batshit crazy for sure, but after reading Austen’s blog today I realize something my instructor told me back when I was barely a teenager (and did not take it in at that young age, but she was a very wise woman who I still miss to this day) and crying my eyes out under the horse van after losing out to that cute dun pony for the year end award.


We are paying for ONE PERSON’s opinion of your horse for that day only for just a few minutes or whatever. That is what we’re paying for.  And what I do (and plan to do from now on) is read the scores and comments, and use what makes sense to improve upon our rides.  AND If what they wrote makes no SENSE at all. Well my cat’s litter box always needs more paper dumped in it! Am I right?

I know many of the bloggers I now follow have the same mindset usually. Do you have ways to get over disappointment when you don’t place (I don’t mind honestly not placing but I do mind if someone who blows leads both ways pins above me)? I am just curious on how you guys handle it. Sometimes I feel like I am the little kid still crying under the horse van! (Not really but you know what I mean).


I just think it is a great topic of conversation because my husband honestly wonders why I do all this!  HA I do know a huge part of it is the people who compete with me (I am still riding on fun fumes from the Fair Hill expedition from early July when we all competed together).


19 thoughts on “Showing and Competing: Why I Do It (Not for the Glory For Sure)!

  1. Ha! I’m the beer drinker before an event too LOLOL. And I’m with you. I’m perfectly okay with not placing, but I actually had that happen to me at a show. I’m not sure what the judge hated about me and Amber, but she consistently placed us as low as possible. In a pattern class, I literally nailed the pattern, and she placed people with mistakes over me. In another pattern class she only placed me above this one girl because the girl went off pattern. I was really quite pissed because hell I know we weren’t perfect but I know we did better than that! I went up to her afterwards to ask her what we could improve on (aka why the hell did you hate us), and she deliberately kept telling me she couldn’t remember me. It was just…yeah, really frustrating. That’s the only time I’ve been pissed about scoring, but this show was also ALL opinion (HUS and WP). Which is actually why I’ve switched to eventing. Tons of challenge – because I love challenging myself – and while you are subjecting yourself to someone’s opinion in the first phase, the others can more than make up for it, which I love. It is super difficult for me to not place because I can be really competitive, so I’ve really tried to turn that around with “give it your best shot, and if it’s not your best on that day, then it’s okay. Amber owes you nothing. She loves you, and wants to do this for you, so if it doesn’t happen, kiss her afterwards.” It’s been hard to turn my brain around to that way of thinking, but it’s still a work in progress. But I’ve found that by switching to this way of thinking, Amber and I have a lot more fun at shows, less stress, and while this line of thinking may not be the best to place, I think it’s worked for us :). BTW there’s a rider who literally vomits after every reining pattern she does. I can’t remember her name, but seriously if you watch the live feed or whatnot she finishes her pattern and throws up. I feel so bad for her lol. So you’re not alone!

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    1. Ha i don’t actually vomit. (Though I did as a kid once or twice before a show). I am glad I am not alone though…..Amber is adorable btw….i just love her little foxy ears when she is looking forward toward the poles 🙂

      I found in traditional showing (Open, hunter etc) it was very SUBJECTIVE and you could nail everything and the flavor of the month would win even after blowing his leads and/or literally turning inside out 🙂
      Thanks for sharing!


  2. aw i love this post tho! it’s awesome to read more about your riding history. i definitely feel similarly about competing for the love of it, if not necessarily for the glory. for me, a lot of it is circumstantial too.

    like right now with charlie, our purposes in showing are more about enjoying the experience, getting mileage, having fun, and showing the horse that it’s fun too. so ya know. finishing last place or getting eliminated or whatever doesn’t really mess with that too badly.

    eventually i will want to do better competitively – mostly bc i like seeing the payoff from all our hard work. but it has less to do with ‘winning’ or beating other ppl and more to do with riding each phase to the best of our ability and level of training. and yea – like you say, finding ways to incorporate the judge’s feedback (even if i don’t like it) into my work is part of that.

    mostly tho? yea it’s just fun. i love horse showing! esp with friends!! (and beer!!!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. i think you are so much more competitive than me for sure Emma but you are so conscious of Charlie and his needs it is wonderful to watch. And I know you will be a winner with him down the road. Hope i am sitting there with a beer watching when it i happens 🙂


  3. I have always been the person on the non trendy/unbroke/problem/cheap horse or pony. So, when it came time as an adult to buy whatever my heart desired, I bought…a super green chubby little welsh d, who although cute, would never place at even a breed show. I guess my expectations are low, because I have never expected to do particularly well at shows. I still show because it’s a good way to test our progress, and because I love cheering my barnmates on. Also, xc is fun. If a judge has something particularly unkind to say I do tend to take it to heart, but fingers crossed the vast majority of people and officials have been very positive and welcoming of us (possibly because they think I’m a kid on a pony, lol) Currently we event and do dressage at very low levels.

    Loved your background story, so similar to my own, right down to the horses.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. we do low levels too so welcome to the club. And true confessions I have always wanted a Welsh D. I had a friend in Texas who imported one from England. Loved him. (I got the next thing, a chubby Buckskin QH that everyone thinks is a Connemara (at times) cause of his coloring, it works).

      Glad I am not the only one who rode/rides ‘off brand’ types of horses 🙂 HA! thanks for replying!!

      and ponies rock!

      I do find most of the eventing people are SO WELCOMING even the judges are pretty nice. I think that is why I like doing it so much just for the people. I have had people comment to me on Remus who are on some pretty high-faluting horses, they don’t have to talk to me but they do in eventing 🙂


  4. Sometimes I wonder why I show at all because I get soooo stressed at shows. Not the entire time, but about 5 minutes prior to warmup I’m a mess. Once I get on, it disappears, but for those 5 minutes I’m all, “Why am I here? Why’d I pay for this? Never again!” I also compete in crossfit competitions and have found I get the same way at those as well. I think it’s because I’m super competitive and there’s a feeling of panic that all my training and preparation will be for nothing. And I’m not ashamed to admit that I love trophies and ribbons. Give me all the satin!

    And for sure, some of our dressage tests have ended up in my cat’s litter box 🙂

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  5. What a great post! I also spent the majority of my riding life riding not-fancy horses, showing in IHSA in college because that was the only way I could show, and generally never ever winning. I can be competitive, but since I was never very good at riding I learned to be competitive with myself instead of putting all my hopes and dreams on beating whoever else was at the show that day. A blue ribbon is awesome, but I am just as ecstatic if I put in a best-ever personal performance but pin closer to the bottom of the pack. I am also a total nervous wreck before shows, feel sick, wonder why I do this to myself, and then at the end of the day I can’t wait for the next one! I love showing as a barometer for how I’m improving, for goal setting, and for a concrete way to challenge myself and be a part of my local equestrian community. It’s just fun! I also LOVE eventing for the same reasons you do: much less subjective judging and the friendliest, kindest people EVER. After our epic fail this weekend on XC I got so, so many wonderful messages from fellow eventers with words of encouragement. That just never happened in hunterland!

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  6. This was such a great post (: I had to stop showing hunters because I absolutely hated it – I was taking horses that never even had a chance at winning and getting beat by little kids on fancy ‘ready-made’ horses, and every show ended with me feeling like complete shit about myself. I could have a beautiful round but I was riding the massive shire/morgan cross who had his ears pinned the entire time and certainly didn’t look like he was any sort of ‘pleasure’ to ride, so even though we did everything right we’d still come in last. The only show that I’ve truly enjoyed myself at was the Mini Event that I did last year, and I keep holding on to that memory because my current financial circumstances suggest that I won’t be eventing any time soon. I loved the event because it was so much more about personal bests and meeting goals, whereas with hunters it seems to be all about whether or not you win, and when you try your hardest time and time again but it doesn’t matter because the other horses are nicer, it really prevents showing from being fun (at least, that’s been my experience – and I’ve only gone to local schooling shows!). I have a feeling that the local jumper shows are more like eventing where you have fun and try to beat yourself rather than other people, but every time I sign up for one it gets rained out!

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  7. I show because it’s fun. If it’s not fun I won’t do it. Last year I went to a show where the judge clearly hated the mule and I had show managers directly comment/complain about the mule. That was NOT fun so I will be NOT going to that show again this year. I don’t need to win (we rarely win) but I do not want to lose blatant dislike. It just needs to be fair. I find there’s a lot less discrimination in dressage/eventing than H/J, but maybe that’s just me.

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    1. wahhhh who complains about a mule showing?? REALLY? I would have been incensed! I love that mule (and your other guys too)! Pfft…i wouldnt go back either! 🙂 there is def less discrimination in eventing I think for sure. Hunters are lovely but they are mostly of the black/brown/bay variety with little interchangeability 🙂


  8. Great topic! I think many of us compete because we are somewhat competitive… even if it’s not over a ribbon necessarily. Sure, I want to win, but I’m not going to always because I make mistakes — my goal is always to bring home ribbons or lessons learned. I tend to bring home many more lessons than ribbons, but for me, that’s the statement that keeps my inner 12 year old at bay (you know, the one crying in the horse van, LOL)

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