Sunday, June 8, 2008

Today's Discussion: Surviving the Show Ring!

I can't believe I haven't thought of doing this post earlier. I know a lot of us are heading out this season with green horses, or we are re-riders entering the show ring after a long hiatus. In my case, both. And you know, things change! Clothes have changed (I had rust breeches, apparently now they are a fashion faux pas on a level with white socks and black pants), how the horse is supposed to go has changed (I come from the era where seesawing the reins was fine because they didn't mind if your Quarter Horse had an arch in his neck, so long as his head was low. Now that would get me laughed out of the ring). It's like learning it all over again for a lot of us.

So let's have a discussion on this. If you currently show, pass out your best advice to the newbies and re-riders - whether it's about clothing, show ring tips and tricks, or whatever. If you don't and want to get back out there, feel free to ask questions.

Some advice I can give that I know is pretty much timeless - all stuff I used to harp to my lesson kids about back when I used to teach:

1. It's like driving on the freeway. Assume everybody else is an idiot. They are going to cut you off, bump you, etc. Sometimes deliberately! If you let them. You need to ride defensively. Look way ahead of you. Dont' get boxed in. Plan and be aware. If you see a horse having issues (bucking, kicking, etc.) it is your job to know where that horse is at all times and stay far, far away from him.

2. Do you have an old campaigner who anticipates and listens to the announcer instead of you? If you can hear the announcer clearly in the warm up ring, ask for different gaits than he's calling. Your horse will figure out that he doesn't know it all and has to listen to you.

3. Take your time on transitions! You do not have to canter the second you hear the announcer call it. Nobody ever got penalized for taking a few seconds to organize and do it in a controlled and planned manner. Take a bit of time and do it right and you'll be more likely to be in the ribbons. This also goes for trot diagonals. It looks much prettier to sit trot for a few steps and then begin posting on the proper diagonal from the start, than to switch. If you can't feel your diagonals and leads without looking, learn. Nothing looks worse than a rider hunching and leaning, staring at a shoulder, trying to figure out which diagonal/lead they are on. Ask a friend to help you practice identifying diagonals and leads without looking - trot or canter down the middle of the arena and see if you can identify what you've got without looking down. You'll get it. I have taught this to 8 year olds, so I know you teens and adults can get it!

4. If you're jumping, try to watch other exhibitors' rounds first. You will see where the problems/difficult spots are just by watching their mistakes, and then you can plan ahead to avoid them. I know you can't always choose, and sometimes you get stuck going first, but if that's not the case, you should be watching - not chatting with your friends and eating Cheetos.

All right, everybody - go for it! Share your tips and tricks and ask questions. It would help to mention what kind of horses/events you show in, and at what level. The picture, purely for comic relief, is me showing western in the late 80s. Just in case you all forgot how much tack and clothing has changed since those days. Yes, I am aware it now looks ridiculous, that's why I put it up! :-)