Welcome to the world of horse showing, a sport like no other. Often, for parents, this is a hard world to venture into because it is not easily compared to other familiar sports. While there is a loose schedule, there are never set times. The list of necessary equipment is constantly changing. And inevitably, it seems like you’re always being asked to leave a check for someone! While the benefits are so great for the kids, (check out Parents, Let your kids horse show!) the unknowns for parents can be very confusing.
Prior to letting any of our riders attend a horse show, we give parents our Show Packet, which clearly explains general expectations as well as a general price list. These will differ depending on your barn and trainer.
What are the expectations?
It is extremely important for the trainer to make expectations of parents and riders very clear from the beginning. Every program is different and every trainer may have different requirements and expectations. As a parent, never be afraid to ask questions! It is important that you and your trainer have a clear line of communication so that there is no confusion about show weekends, schedules and a plan for your child’s success.
In our program, we simply ask that the parents get their riders to the horse show at an appropriate time and that they understand that horse showing may be an all-day event. We certainly encourage riders to spend as much time at the horse show as they can, soaking everything in, watching other riders, cheering on their barn mates and learning to properly care for their ponies in a show atmosphere. However, these expectations may differ depending on the rider’s age, experience and capabilities.
In some show programs, grooms or working students may be brought to the horse shows to assist in the care for the horses. It is our belief that every rider should be learning how to perform all the necessary tasks that must be done at horse shows. Stall cleaning, hand walking, leg wrapping, baths and morning hacks are all a part of this, but this is not something that kids can learn to do correctly overnight! For this reason, we start our young riders out with mandatory partial care, meaning that we have employees at the barn ensuring that the horses receive adequate care and prep to get them ready for their little riders. Often, the riders will accompany our staff to assist in these tasks, but as trainers, what is most important to us is that the horses get a high level of care and the riders have an opportunity to learn before they are expected to jump in with both feet.
As a parent, make sure you ask your trainer if your rider will be required to perform any care on their mount and if so, make sure your rider is capable of doing these tasks adequately. If a groom or working student is attending to assist, make sure you understanding the cost of these services, what they entail and the protocol for tipping grooms and assistants. While it may be more expensive, it is vital that parents understand the importance of horse care and preparation being done correctly to benefit the horses and riders.
What time do we show?
It is very uncommon that you will be given a time to show and actually show at their time. The famous horse show saying is “hurry up and wait,” referring to how riders seem to be constantly rushing to make their classes, only to wait another hour to actually show. A time schedule at a horse show is dependent on many factors that are constantly changing. Trainers often cause conflicts because they are held up at other rings, a fall or injury could cause a large pause during the day if a horse or rider is receiving medical attention, bad weather could cause a temporary pause in the horse show. When you plan to horse show, plan on it being an all-day event! There are circumstances where your rider may be in the first class on the schedule and will finish early, but horse showing is not a sport where you can plan on competing at a specific time.
Make sure you ask your trainer what time you should arrive. Often, trainers will leave with horses and have everything set up for riders to arrive to practice on Friday but some trainers/programs may want students traveling behind them as they transport the horses. Trainers should let parents know what time rings are open for schooling, what time they should arrive to practice, and give them ample notice of when they should be mounted prior to showing to give them time to warm up.
What do we bring?
Again, every program is different! Our only requirement of riders beginning their horse show endeavor is to have the necessary show clothing and equipment for themselves. We provide all tack and equipment for the horses. As riders advance and lease and purchase their own horses, we advise their parents on how to take the next steps to purchase more specific equipment such as tack, blankets and other items that must be specifically fitted to a horse. The trainer should bring any equipment needed to care for the horses such as feed, medications and training aids such as a lunge whip and lunge line. As your rider advances through the sport, your trainer will communicate additional items that need to be purchased. Start with the basics, but be prepared to add on to that list for many years to come!
Every barn/program should be able to provide and clear and concise price list. From lesson barns to the top show barns in the country, this is standard. Make sure you have an expectation of what to pay before you sign up to horse show! The horse show office will require a blank check prior to giving a rider their back number for the weekend. This check will be held with the entry in case classes are changed throughout the weekend so that no refund or additional payment is required on behalf of the horse show. Parents or trainers will go to the show office at the end of the weekend to “check out,” where they will be given an itemized bill breaking down the cost of the stall, shavings, classes and other fees like an office fee, association fee or non-showing fee (among others.) Typically, the barn or trainer will send an invoice for their services upon arrival home from the horse shows but there are some programs that require a prepayment. All of these expectations should be communicated to the parents well before leaving for the competition!
What is the common factor of all of these tidbits of advice? COMMUNICATION! Sometimes I hear parents saying that they tried to ask questions that were not necessarily answered with patience or care from their trainers. My only word of advice here is that the parent should NEVER feel uncomfortable asking questions and should never feel that they are imposing on their trainer by trying to learn and gain a better understanding of this sport. On the flip side, as a parent…please trust your trainer. If you find that you are having a hard time following your trainers suggestions or trusting in their guidance, it is time to find a new program. Communication and trust are key in trainers providing the best service possible and in riders learning and reaching their goals! This is a hard sport with many ups and downs, but the only way to be successful is to roll with the punches and to continue to work together in a program that works for you.
What to Wear at Hunter Jumper Horse Shows
Proper attire for riders 13 and Over or Riders 5’5 and Over
- Tan riding breeches
- Tall black boots
- Long sleeve show shirt
- Conservative colored Jacket
- Black helmet
- Black gloves
- Black Crop (recommend a shorter crop or “show bat.”)
- Heavy weight hair nets
Proper attire for Riders 12 and Under (and riders showing ponies)
- Tan riding pants (Jodhpurs) and garter straps
- Paddock boots – shined
- Long sleeve show shirt
- Conservative colored jacket
- Black helmet
- Black gloves
- Black crop (recommend a shorter crop or show “bat”.)
- Hair braided with bows or up in heavy-weight hair nets
- Boys wear a neck tie