The Anxious Amateur’s Pre-Horse Show Checklist

I’ve been attending horse shows for more than half of my life, and yet I still shake like a leaf when it comes time to enter the ring. I’ve settled into a pretty decent pre-show routine, where I can get rid of my nerves enough to not completely collapse into a puddle of fear at the sight of a judge’s booth.

Disclaimer: I’m probably not as bad of a rider as described below—a lot of it is in my head (thanks, head!). I also love to show, despite the fear.

Choose what you’re going to wear. If I’m going to forget everything I’ve ever learned the second I walk into the ring and flop around like a lunatic, I may as well do it in style. I opt to lay my show clothes out a few nights before the show, and work myself up into a lather about which belt would match my boots better.

Buy wine. Lots of wine. You know how show hunters are descendants of foxhunters? I think we should be able to carry a flask, like in ye olden days, as we parade around a 2’ course in our perfectly-manicured-and-fenced-ring. Horse refuses? Whip out the flask. Missed a lead change? Take a swig.

Obsessively clean your tack. Break out the glycerin and toothbrush—it’s cleaning time. I’ve found over the years that if I don’t clean my tack in a rip-it-apart-and-obsess-over-every-square-inch manner before a show, I lose my cool. This is usually accompanied by a solid Law and Order: SVU marathon, as what better way to calm your nerves than the telltale, dun dun, of New York’s finest?

Watch every riding video ever taken of you. Ok, so not really every video, but at least from the past two years or so. Bonus points for the following: gasping at a scary distance to a jump; wondering if you actually know how to ask for a lead change; and looking up prices for rock climbing gear online, since you obviously need to pick up another sport.

Remember to breathe and have fun. So, your horse took a Hail Mary jump and scrambled through the corner. Did you die? If no, breathe, laugh about it, and fix it the next time around. If yes, well, ignore this advice (you are dead, after all). I’m an amateur through and through. I make mistakes—often silly ones—and showing is too darn expensive to not just have fun.

If I follow these tried-and-true rituals, showing can be a total blast. Sometimes I even get it together enough to pull a blue ribbon (as evidenced by the saintly Ozzy, above). While the satin is a great memento, the pre-show craziness and mid-show silliness are what really lead to post-show pride. 

Categories: The Anxious Amateur