Showing Up – A First-Timer’s Lessons From Her First Show

Deep breaths, you can do this is what I thought as my mouse cursor hovered over the send icon on my email. I looked over the entry form again and again, until finally squeezing my eyes shut I quickly pressed send before I could talk myself out of it.

And I was done. I was entered in my very first show – an in-hand show at a riding club an hour away.

Then, the rush began.

Clothes, tack, make-up, float, washing, cleaning, screaming – so much to do in so little time. Which leads me to my first tip that would be helpful…

  1. Don’t enter the show five days before hand completely unprepared! Or do, and enjoy the scramble to get organised.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of those more experienced or more knowledgeable than you. I bothered a couple of the girls at my agistment and their advice helped me understand what to expect.
  3. If it’s your first show, spoil yourself and get someone to plait for you. My plaiter was absolutely awesome and my horse looked 999% better than if I had tried to do it myself, plus it saved me a lot of headache and stress.
  4. If you’re just giving it a go, try to borrow or just buy basic things, that way if you don’t enjoy it you won’t be upset about spending lots of money and not enjoying it as well. If you do enjoy it, you can go all out next time – the first time’s just a trial!
  5. I’ll get this cheesy tip out of the way – try to enjoy yourself and smile, even in the ring. It will make you feel less nervous, and a more confident handler or rider is more attractive to the judge (I think…)
  6. What you borrow, return clean, promptly and with thanks.
  7. White socks are the devil’s work. No seriously. I completely failed with my white socks – every time they were clean, I looked away for a moment, and BAM the stains weren’t gone, they were back with vengeance!
  8. Say no to purple spray! Weeks before the show, my golden child decided to cut himself on the fence being a charming idiot. My go-to was of course purple spray. I didn’t think twice about it, but it turns out that purple spray is the WORST to get out of white socks. No amount of home remedies or Google searches could prevent that awkward look the judge gave that foot in the ring, purple spray peeking out from a heavy baby powder cover up.
  9. Murphy’s Law, when you don’t want your horse to hurt himself, he will. Somehow he got a cut on his front leg (I think from overzealous pawing) in the float. Now I know there’s a lot of pros and cons about float boots, but if he had been wearing them, he wouldn’t have that injury. Maybe next time I’ll go sport boots & bell boots?
  10. The internet is your friend (unless you need to get purple spray out of white socks…). There is so much free advice and examples of what to do, what to wear, etc for shows. Go forth and conquer!
  11. If you can, enlist some helpers. Even if it’s just a friend to help you stay hydrated and fed, or stay at the float with your horse while you jog off to the toilet, having a support crew can make your day go smooth! I couldn’t have done it without mine.

The show world is a very competitive one, but it seems to also be very rewarding, in different ways for different people – otherwise why on Earth would so many people voluntarily sign up for squashy parking and float jams!

For me, it was just good to get out there and challenge myself. I met some lovely ladies and gentleman who were so friendly and relaxed, and of course the other end of the spectrum – but the atmosphere can be a bit stressful for some people, and others may have their eye on the prize and that is all they care about!

My golden child and I came home safe, sound and happy that day, feeling like we had achieved something (despite how small it may seem), and it bolstered our confidence. We even got a couple of rosettes! A great bonus to the day, which we were already very happy with. And guess what? We will be back at it next year, for sure!

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Keeping four eyes on the judge!
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