5 sure fired ways to make it a success

Whether your horse is green or has been undersaddle for years, his first show and the manner in which he experiences that day can determine his attitude regarding any event for the rest of his life. Seeing this statement as either a promise or a threat can call an owner to action insuring his horse's best interest is kept foremost in a handler/rider's mind and the day will prove to be a valuable and positive life's lesson. If you think you're ready to take the plunge then you may want to look over the following suggestions.

1. Ask yourself; "have I done my homework?" Although if a rider waits till their horse is perfect, chances are they'll never get to a show nonetheless you don't want to go into the ring unprepared. Make sure the classes you enter are appropriate for the level to which your horse has been trained. Sounds simple enough, right? Yet almost every show I attend I see someone that is in way over their head and the most alarming are the children put into classes by well meaning trainers or parents that haven't either the expertise or the sense to know not only the physical dangers but the psychological ones as well. If the child has a bad experience it can turn them off to a wonderful lifestyle forever.

2. Who says you have to compete? If it's the very first time your horse is away from the barn why not plan on just hanging out? Take your horse for what we can call a "dress rehearsal" having him and you completely prepared to enter in the slight chance that he goes like a million bucks in the warm-up ring. (because of insurance many shows now must have you entered in at least one class to work on the show grounds but it's money well spent to give your horse an opportunity to be out and about without the added pressure of getting into a class)

3. Give yourself ample time! Again, this sounds like a given yet so often we cut our schedule far too close for a myriad of reasons, everything from having problems with trailering to forgetting equipment to waiting around for others to join you. The list is endless and believe me things will come up!

4. Try to come in early and stable there at least the night before. Having to secure a stall there at the showgrounds is a good deal more work and expense but doing so often proves to be a lifesaver. If this is your horse's first time away anywhere you will want to be sure to be on "standby" for as long as it takes to be certain he's happy and comfortable.

5. Keep it fun! Horses are living, breathing and easily influenced individuals capable of enjoying themselves just like you and I. If you are stressed, think you have something to prove, are a perfectionist and are nervous, chances are your poor horse will be also. If you want to stress about something, make a commitment to insure your horse has the time of his life, so much so that he'll refuse to go back into the trailer to go home. Seriously, it has been on many occasions that I've witnessed such behavior when a beloved mount has discovered the bliss of basking in the limelight of all the attention, the adoration and the company of new found friends.

Going to a show with your horse can be exciting and rewarding as well as the quickest way to cement valuable training concepts but remember it's not about the ribbons. It's about building your horse's self esteem and his feeling of self worth catapulting you both into broader and memorable experiences. It all starts with the first. If you make it pleasant, fun and relaxing it will lead to a lifetime of success!