I know the thoughts of horse showing can be overwhelming, so here is a concise guide that lays it all out! The first four things you should ask yourself are the following:
1. What are your child's goals? If they are happy with once per week lessons, that's fine! If they want something that challenges them, then showing might be the perfect opportunity to raise the bar.
2. What is the financial commitment? Do you want to do local C shows that cost under $300 or do you want to haul to a rated show where entry fees alone are going to cost $350? If you're child wants a future in the horse industry, then your end goal as they approach teenage years is to work on rated shows that will build their equine resume.
3. Do you have your own horse? If you don't have a horse, are you planning to lease? If you can't afford a full-lease, is there a family that you can half-lease (meaning you share the ride time and half the expenses) the horse with? It is super important that you as the parent assess how serious your child is about horse showing. If you aren't looking for a long term commitment, my best suggestion is to find a family to half-lease with.
4. What kind of show parent do you want to be? Do you want your child to do ALL the work (clean the stall, clean the tack, get the horse ready, etc) or do you as the parent want to be a part of the process and help your child as much as possible? This is really important to discuss with your trainer ahead of time. For example, I grew up in Pony Club where parents were't allowed to help at all (you would get points off for unauthorized assistance), but I understand that outside the rigors of Pony Club moms and dads just want to help their child be successful - and more hands the better!
The first step to horse showing is to have a horse, or access to a horse, that you can show. Understand, if your child takes lessons at a facility where horses are used regularly in a lesson program, it's going to be difficult (or cost a good bit of money) to take those lesson horses off the "lesson horse roster" and send them out for a weekend for your child to show. Parents often fail to realize how hard horses work in a lesson program and that the most popular lesson day is often the same day as a show (Saturday). This is why it's important to have access to your own horse, or if you're not ready to purchase, a lease or half-lease. Realize that also factors into coaching and trailering fees. The more kids that attend a show, the more expenses can be shared. Sending off only one kid to a show with a trainer for the weekend can be quite costly.
Leasing a horse is typically done in a contract (6-12 month duration) in which there is a lease fee. The lessor is responsible for the lease fee, boarding, veterinary, farrier care, and tack. If it's a half-lease situation two families share the horse and these expenses. This can work out really well if kids want to go to the same show with the same horse and they ride in different divisions. Leasing is also a great way to introduce a child to the responsibility of horse ownership without the permanency of owning a horse. In order to show the horse will also have to be up to date on vaccinations and have a negative coggins test.
Shows are typically divided into different levels. There are rated shows that will require national memberships and not something I would recommend for a first outing. There are also lower-level B and C shows that are more flexible on show attire, have various classes, and a more relaxed atmosphere.
If your child is interested in showing but doesn't want to ride in their first show, presenting their horse in a showmanship or halter class gives them the opportunity to show off their horse and have the horse show experience without actually riding. This is a GREAT class to do for kids at the beginning of the show to help get their jitters out and let the horse see the arena while they are on foot.
There are hunter-jumper shows that have jumping, dressage shows that focus on dressage, combined test events that include dressage, jumping, and cross-country, and local shows with open classes (walk-trot-canter in a group on a rail). It's important to decide what type of show environment your child is seeking before determining what show you go to. There are also many opportunities locally in our area to haul to clinics and ride with a clinician. This is a great opportunity for kids that are nervous about showing because it takes off the pressure to win (and the first time going out) and replaces it with a positive learning experience to focus on. I would HIGHLY recommend going to a local clinic as a first outing because it will give your child and your horse and opportunity to settle and learn.
Typically horses are most settled when they haul to a show the night before and are allowed to settle in. However, there are also local shows in the area that are "day trips" that can be hauled to and back within the same day. Here are some expenses that you might expect with showing:
1. Trailer fee (it costs money for the truck, the gas, and the trailer to get you to the show)
2. Coaching fee (remember, it's not just the time the coach is with you at the show, think of all the lessons they are missing at home, and also the fees they have to pay for barn care while they are away from the barn). This coaching fee is also due for the travel days, so if you leave on Friday for a 2 day show the fee is due for all three days.
3. Entry fees - these vary widely from $10 per class to $350 a weekend depending on the type of show you are going to.
4. Show clothes - If you're planning to do multiple day shows, think multiple pairs of breeches and show shirts for the North Carolina heat.
5. Horse fee - if you are using a regular lesson horse from the barn. This fee typically runs $150 per horse per day.
6. Hotel fee
7. Grooming supplies and extra saddle pads (this is your tack cleaners, sponges, high gloss, hay nets, etc).
8. Braiding Fee (typically $40-$65 depending on the amount of work needed done and the venue)
9. Odds and ends like coolers, food, photos, etc.
10. Ulcerguard for the horse while they are traveling
If reading this article inspires you and motivates you to begin the horse searching process, please take my advice and HIRE a trainer to do the horse/lease shopping process. Yes, there is a fee to hiring a trainer which is typically $75 per hour plus expenses, 10% finders fee, or $20 per video evaluated, but it is worth it to find the perfect fit. When you find a horse that you like you should also do a pre-purchase exam with a veterinarian so you know what you are purchasing.
Horse showing can be a very rewarding process for a young child and teaches numerous life skills. The first step to horse showing is gaining access to a horse that you can show. Need help? Send me a message or comment below.
Fact: I ride my horse with more confidence when I know my core is strong and I am in shape.
Another fact: my most successful young students ages 5 to 10 also do martial arts, gymnastics, and play hard on the monkey bars. Many times people emphasize the physical component of being strong in your core to be a good dressage rider. I agree with this, but it's important to also note the mental component, that gaining strength increases your confidence as a rider.
"Play hard on the monkey bars!" That is the advice I tell all my students age five to ten. If you want to be a good rider, then be a monkey bar machine. I ask them before lessons all the time, "did you do the monkey bars at recess today?"
Truth, I can only do an assisted pull-up, and I sure couldn't do the monkey bars when I was a kid. However, as an instructor I notice a BIG difference in the riding skills of my students that can and can't do the monkey bars. I think it all boils down to core strength. I also see a big difference in my students that combine riding with martial arts and gymnastics versus ones that do not. The kids that do additional sports always make faster progress. In other words, to ride horses you have to be strong!
There are those people in life that can make riding look beautiful and effortless without working out every day, and then there are others like me that have to run 4-6 miles every night and go to a weight training class just to be strong enough to ride my horses (on top of normal daily barn chores and riding). But if you want to ride big fancy horses, you need to be strong. There is a HUGE physical different in riding horses 16.2 and bigger and those 15-16.2, and those BIG horses take a whole different level of core strength.
SIDENOTE: I can't repeat this enough. If you have a FEAR issue with your horse, becoming physically stronger will help grow your confidence!
On top of working out, I also take spirulina (I mix it up with Sprite Zero) every night for added energy. It also helps me sleep better at night. The following are my top 4 favorite exercises that help me with my riding. Enjoy!
1. Plank Dips
Because planks aren't fun until you twist your pelvis side to side while maintaining your position. I always feel the burn through my core when I do this exercise. Check it out on Youtube here:
2. Russian Twists
Order a medicine ball from Amazon for this exercise. I like doing these because I can really feel it in my core.
3. Glute Bridges
I find that glute bridges are most effective for myself when I do them weighted. I also feel like this exercise has strengthened my core the most. Sometimes when I ride my upper body gets "lost" or "disconnected" from my hips, especially during lengthenings. I find that after I do this exercise with weight that it's easier to keep my core "together" when I ask my horse for more power or bigger movement.
4. Weighted Squats
I don't really like doing squats, but I do them because they help!
Mad Mare! Three ulcer products that make my horses happy (and a few that haven't worked).
"You don't know what you don't know". I say those words often in the horse industry and if there is one thing that I could do over I would have aggressively treated my horses for ulcers.
I remember at the beginning of my horse career I ordered a box of omeprazole from Abler for a very difficult thoroughbred mare. I stopped treating her because it was cost prohibitive, took a long while to ship, and I had a bottle of ranitidine from another horse. Gosh, if I could do it all over I would have thrown sucralfate, alfalfa hay, and omeprazole at that particular horse for treatment. This is the combination that seems to work for me and keep my performance horses happy.
Before we dig into my top picks of ulcer products I want to briefly share the behavior that my mares display when they aren't on their "meds". Basically, they get extremely marish and cranky. They pin their ears when I tighten the girth and touch their belly and they also drink a lot of water. When they are on their meds they are happy and don't exhibit cranky mare behavior.
2. Sucralfate (vet script needed)
There is absolutely no way to sugar coat this, but my horses are demon ponies without their sucralfate. As soon as they are back on their meds they turn into angel ponies, but they need their 10-15 tabs of sucralfate 2-3 times per day to stay happy. This product has made the biggest and quickest improvement in all my horses.
Two products that didn't work.
Ulcer products are EXPENSIVE! There, I said it! They cost a lot of money so choosing which to purchase is always a big decision. Not to mention, there is a lot of research out there supporting what works and doesn't. These are two products that just didn't work for me.
The first, was Daily Gold, which comes HIGHLY recommended by many horse owners (including my friends that rave about it). Quite frankly, it just didn't work for me. My horses would not eat it and did not like the taste of it.
The second is called Ulc-R-Aid, and it was another product that came recommended. My horses didn't mind the taste and ate the product just fine, but I didn't see any results or changes in their behavior.
The next product I would like to try is Ulceraser from Equine Elixirs. I am very interested in trying this product because I have used the Equine Elixirs "Positude" formula on sale horses before with good results including noticeable changes in the horses behavior when they were on and off the product.
Eeeek! You know that really awkward feeling when you tear the crotch of your breeches during a lesson? I recently purchased a pair of breeches that tore just like that in under 30 days. They were on sale, but cost over $130, which led to my disappointment when they unraveled so quickly. I realize that I am hard on breeches, but for that much money I would expect them to hold up at least for six months, if not longer. This prompted a list of my top three favorite pairs of breeches and how they held up through time.
1. HORZE Grand Prix Breeches. Early in my riding career I had a pair of these super-awesome breeches. They lasted over three years, looked fantastic, and had a cloth-like feel to them which is important because I don't like breeches that cling to my skin tightly. I chose the pair very carefully; size 30, grey color, and black patches that were flattering on me. I am also really picky about the ankles on my breeches. I know this sounds weird, but I HATE breeches that cling to me or my ankles. It gets way too sweaty hot in a pair of tall boots with a bunch of elastic choking off your ankle at the end of the day, so I chose this pair specifically for the velcro ankles.
After my HORZE Grand Prix breeches met their time I decided to order a pair of HORZE spirit breeches. They were a pretty navy blue, with purple piping, and I thought wow, this will be a fantastic cute pair of breeches. WRONG!!! They came looking like a pair of glorified sweatpants with a very thick and suffocating feel to the material.
2. Kentucky Breeches
Love. These. Breeches.
After my pair of Horze Grand Prix breeches died I went on a quest for a high quality pair of breeches. Due to a great deal, I decided on a pair of full-seat Kentucky Breeches in size 32 long (learned the hard way that I have a wide twist and need to order the "long" on full-seats to make it work) in navy blue. I have tortured this pair of breeches for over a year with riding four to five horses per day five days per week. Earlier this year the stitching started to fray, but instead of purchasing a new pair I took them to a tailor and they fixed them up. These breeches have velcro ankles (Yessss!) and a really nice feel to the material. I will order from this company again. Did I mention they are super cute? You can order a pair here! www.healthyhorseboutique.com/kentucky-breeches/
3. Tropical Riders
I confess, I am the type of person that likes the feel of silky sheets or a fuzzy blanket. That's also why I LOVE the feel of these breeches. It feels like you are wearing silky pants on your legs. The downside is that the pair that I have is not flattering (beige, who wears beige in 2020?) and has a side zip, which makes taking the belt off to undo the side zip a PITA when I drink too much coffee before morning rides. If this pair didn't have a side zip I would probably wear them every day. Here's a link to order your pair for show season: www.tropicalrider.com/home.asp
Breeches that did not fit or last
3 Brands that I want to try!
Here are some stylish breeches that I want to try. The top two on my list are Goode Rider and HKM, and I'm pretty certain you haven't lived as a dressage trainer if you've never owned a pair of Pikeurs. Happy Shopping!
Ashley is a dressage trainer and instructor that loves to train dressage and teach lessons.