It seems like everyone who shows horses has a different motivation for being there. Some just love the sport—win or lose—but others only compete because they like to win. To be honest, I’ve never really thought much into the reason I horse show, other than I know that I enjoy it. I was recently at a show which offered huge prizes like saddles and belt buckles and seeing the exhibitors go crazy over the awards got me thinking: is this why they’re here?
I wasn’t competing at this show, and I was already bummed that I wouldn’t get the chance to win a saddle—I really wanted to win one. But after seeing the craze that came with winning the awards it made me realize that getting too caught up in the “win” can ruin the sport we all love.
[More on horse show goals: 4 Mindset Keys to Achieve our Goals]
I heard whispers between competitors and riders secretly keeping track of the point standings to see who was in the lead. There was a constant flood of participants in the show office ensuring they received every point they earned (or to double-check the office's calculations), and several competitors even went as far to enter every class they could to get ahead of the competition.
Looking back, I’m actually glad that I wasn’t able to show because I could easily see myself getting caught up in the race. Being able to observe riders from an outside perspective allowed me to really evaluate why I show.
I’ve always believed that horse showing is one of the best sports you can put a kid into because it teaches healthy competition, but it's also important that we teach young riders that winning isn't the end goal and that having the best relationship you can with your horse is. I don’t want the young kids that show in my barn to think the only reason they compete is to win big prizes. I want them to enjoy the weekend with their friends, strive for good rides, and recognize that just because you didn’t win your division overall, doesn’t mean you didn’t have a successful weekend.
[More about finding your own success: Find Your Focus]
With all of this heavy competition in the air, it was refreshing to see riders come out of their class ecstatic that they got their name called under one judge, or that their trail walkovers were much improved from the last show. If our only objective of the weekend is to win a prize, we'll miss all of the little moments and building blocks that happen along the way. I’ve always been told that your only competition is yourself and your only goal should be to have a better ride than the one before, and I suppose I thought I understood this, but now I know I do.
At my next horse show, I’m going to try and focus more on myself and my rides. It’s easy to get caught up in the competition atmosphere, and we all want to win. But at the end of a long horse show weekend, I want to look back at the memories I made with friends and the progress of each ride. When you’re only focusing on the end prize, you’ll miss everything that got you there.
After all, it’s just another horse show.