Over the weekend, I attended a “C” show put on by Triangle Farms with four young riders who have shown 1-3 times collectively in the Walk/Trot, all of whom have been riding for a year or less. I couldn’t sleep Friday night. My anxiety was through the roof and all I had to do was get ponies/kids ready for the Walk Trot, Walk Trot Canter and Crossrails on Saturday morning. As I evaluated why I felt this way, laying wide awake at 3AM, it occurred to me that I was nervous for a few reasons…

  • What if the kids didn’t get good ribbons?
  • What if they were disappointed in their performance?
  • What if they felt like all the work they had been doing at home wasn’t good enough?
  • What if the parents felt like they had wasted their money?
  • Worst of all, what if they didn’t have fun?

The next morning, before the first class even started, Joan Petty announced that every rider who got a ribbon in Ring 2 that morning would get free ice cream. My hero! Smiles immediately appeared on every face. Nobody had even won a ribbon yet! The day was already a success.

Yes, every kid came out of the ring with better ribbons than they had ever gotten before. Even a couple of tri-colors. But it wasn’t about the ribbons. It was about the pride in their performance, moving up to new divisions, jumping for the first time, and the free ice cream.

Later, as I watched them all laugh and run to get their ice cream together, I was reminded that THIS is why we horse show. This is why I believe so much in horse showing and the values that it instills in kids. Camaraderie, time spent together, the moments early in the morning before the show starts, late in the evening, long after the show is done, and every bit in between. The responsibility and amazing experience of caring for and performing on a living, breathing animal.

So, my message for parents (and a reminder to myself,) is this….

Let your kids horse show.

Let them celebrate being the winner.

Let them learn to be the loser.

Let them try again, either way.

Let them sweat to death and freeze together while cleaning stalls, hand walking ponies and cheering for their barn-mates.

Let them wrap the legs, clean the stalls and scrub the water buckets.

Teach them the value in everything OTHER than the ribbons that they come home with.

Riding is expensive and I know that it’s painful for parents to write the check at the end of the weekend for their child who may be disappointed, feeling down and lacking confidence after a bad day. Maybe the pony was naughty, maybe there were nicer horses, maybe the kid missed their diagonals or leads or couldn’t steer to the single oxer in every trip both days. There are a million things that could go wrong, but that’s life! You can make excuses, or you can go home, practice and try again.


There’s a quote by Charles Swindoll that says,

“Life is 1 percent what happens and 99 percent how you respond.”

That is horse showing. And I don’t know any other sport that teaches kids about life better than this one.

So, even if you leave the horse show with a $500 glorified ice cream cone, find something to be positive about and take your kid to the barn for their next lesson to work on fixing the other things. And then let them go to the next horse show and try again. Because the kids who can do that are the kids who are going to succeed in life.

– Written by Emma Fogler

Emma Fogler is a professional hunter/jumper rider and trainer. Emma and her husband, Nick Stewart, own and operate Across Town Farm out of Mebane, NC. They specialize in teaching riders of all ages and levels and attend local to “AA” shows throughout the Southeast. Emma graduated from The University of South Carolina with a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication and enjoys combining her love of horses and writing by working for equine-related media and publications.

Visit: www.acrosstownfarm.com