6 Tips to Make a Comeback After a Hiatus from the Show Pen

A hiatus from the show pen—or riding in general—doesn’t have to be the end of your saddle time. Here are six tips to get you inspired.

Amanda Kimes’ story is one familiar to most horsewomen: Grow up horseback, compete successfully into early adulthood, go to college, meet and marry, build a career, and start a family. But somewhere in the marriage/career/kids phase, your horse life gets phased out.

Amanda shares her best advice for getting your rear back in the saddle and hitting the show pen with confidence, no matter how long you’ve been sidelined. 2 Diamond Photography

But in 2021, after 16 years out of the show pen, Amanda found herself in the situation to return to competing when a special buckskin mare named Fiona came into her life. She could’ve second-guessed, doubted herself, become consumed with pressure or wondering if she still had “it,” but instead, she embraced the opportunity with open arms and gratitude.

Here, Amanda shares her best advice for getting your rear back in the saddle and hitting the show pen with confidence, no matter how long you’ve been sidelined.

Tip 1: Accept the Outlet

Family and a full-time career can make taking time for yourself seem impossible, but it doesn’t make it any less necessary. The first step to getting back in the saddle and pursuing your goals is to welcome the outlet into your life—and commit to making it work.

“For us, and I think a lot of parents, we were working nonstop and nearing burnout,” Amanda shares. “Sometimes it felt like we had no escape. We needed an outlet, and it laid itself out right in front of us as our kids gained interest in horses. We had to seize it while we could and find a way to fit it into our lives.”

Tip 2: Set a Goal

Once she got Finoa home, Amanda set her sights on competing at the AQHA World Championship Show. The removal of qualification in 2021 eliminated the obstacle of hauling to earn points to go to the show, so Amanda began plotting her path.

“We went to a few open shows,” she recalls, “and we did just well enough to build my confidence. After a Quarter Horse show here in September, I made a full commitment. I put myself into a 6-week boot camp to prepare to show in every class we could at the World Show.”

That meant seven events—no small commitment after an extended hiatus.

Tip 3: Expect to Sacrifice 

Amanda’s six-week boot camp was no joke. Aside from work and her kids’ activities, she completely focused on riding and prepping, with support from her parents and husband, Matt.

“There was a lot to give up,” she says. “No dinners with friends, no social life. I’d go do the kids’ activities, work, and ride. On the weekends, I’d ride twice a day. I’ve always worked hard, so that wasn’t new to me, but the physicality of it was. It was a lot of self-inflicted pain. I’m not a kid anymore, and on Sunday nights, my hips would hurt—I had years to make up for. But I knew I had to get all those rides under my belt and make other sacrifices.”

Tip 4: Squash the Pressure

Fear of pressure can keep you from taking a risk, putting yourself out there, and going for your goals. Amanda found that because this was her goal and her decision, feeling pressure to perform wasn’t an issue.

“You have to do it for yourself,” she shares. “This was my own doing and my decision to go. I did it for me. I found that everyone was so excited to see me back in the show pen and so supportive. No one has anything negative to say—they’re just excited to have you back and happy that you’re there.”

The only pressure she experienced came from the desire to show her kids that if you work really hard, you can achieve your goals.

Tip 5: Let Go of ‘Balance’

“There’s no real balance,” Amanda says with a laugh. “There’s no way to do it all. You have to choose what you do. For me, leading up to the World Show, it was all about riding. But once I got home, I didn’t ride for two months! I had to catch up on work and life. You have to make it work when you can.”

Compartmentalizing your time in this manner allows you to remove distractions when needed.

Tip 6: Realize You Belong There 

“I really want other moms to feel like they can go show again,” Amanda relates. “You pay your entry, you worked hard to be there, and you have every right to be there—just as much as anyone else. Take whatever horse you have in whatever class you can or want to enter. Even in this time of specialization, just go enjoy your horse.

“Once I got to the World Show, I realized it was just part of the journey,” she continues. “Maybe this was the only time I’ll do it. Maybe it’s just every few years, during times when I can make it work. What matters is the horses are back, and that does us all so much good.”