Horse Shows are a unique event. In comparison to other sports, one could say it is similar to a soccer or basketball game. You practice as much as you can beforehand at your riding lessons, spend the entire day before getting ready with your human and horse teammates, and then the next day is “game time.” It is a great deal of work and is mentally and physically exhausting, but I have come to love it and would not give up the opportunity to compete!
People who play other sports use the end results of the game to determine how well they are doing respectively in their training. In horse showing, we do the same thing to determine if our lessons have been beneficial and what we need to work on in the future depending on how we place. There are many different disciplines and rules to how the horse shows of each discipline works. But no matter what is being judged, timed, or measured, like all sports, there is always a winner. In my particular discipline, Hunt Seat, I ride as an individual being judged on my equitation, which is my position. I am also riding as a teammate because a rider has to be a teammate with their horse to be successful, and I ride as a teammate when I am competing on West Chester University’s Equestrian Team.
A horse show day usually begins with 5 am alarms, sometimes even earlier. No matter the weather, rain, shine, snow, freezing weather, high winds, extreme heat, the show still goes on. We spend large amounts of money on expensive show clothes and boots only to get slobbered on or step in mud right before you show. Don’t even get me started on the hairnets! Never in my life did I think I would have to wear one or that it would be so difficult to put one on perfectly! But you still clean everything spotless and take better care of those clothes than anything else in your closet.
Even though you get to the show during the start time, there is a lot of “hurry up and wait,” as my one instructor, Carole, likes to say. You have to wait for your class to go, and it can take the whole day sometimes. But in that time, you get to prepare yourself and enjoy watching others compete, staring at the horses that you’d love to buy for yourself! I always take this time to try and mentally prepare myself, cheer my teammates on, and make sure I know my jump course like the back of my hand because I have forgotten it way too many times before!
One of the best parts about going to horse shows is the food. Since you are basically there from the crack of dawn until the late afternoon/evening, there is plenty of time for yummy food! The day starts with loading up on food and coffee at Wawa. When we arrive at the horse show, there is always a delicious aroma in the air of greasy, delicious food that just cannot be beat. So you end up eating double the amount of food that you normally would, but it can arguably be said that at the end of the day we deserve it!
Competing before I joined my school’s equestrian team, I felt more like an individual when competing. Yet when I joined this team, I finally felt like I was a place I belonged. It makes the long days so much more fun to be able to hangout with all of my teammates who share the same passion as me and cheer each other on. I feel supported and I love being able to show for myself, my school, and my team. I am glad that I can finally say I am on a team, and it is a team that I love. The days can be long and difficult, but I wouldn’t change it for anything!