Photo by Julia Shelburne-Hitti“It’s never the horse’s fault.”
If you’ve never heard this phrase, you’ve probably never taken a riding lesson. It is the mantra of riding instructors everywhere – one of the first concepts new riders are taught as they learn to tack, mount, lead and ride their horses. But is this an over-correction to a world where excuses run rampant, or does it really mean what it says? Even at the highest levels of riding, is it really never the horse’s fault?
To answer this question you have to dig a bit deeper into what the statement means – and what it doesn’t.
We’ve all seen him. The five-year-old horse who, through no fault of his own, got a late start.
Maybe he was born long after the first foal of the season hit the ground, maybe he had to deal with an injury, or maybe he was just a late bloomer, but for whatever reason, when his junior year came around, he didn’t get the chance to travel the horse show circuit and get the valuable show ring experience most colts need before they’re ready to perform like a finished horse. Enter the Denver Junior class – a class that may become more important than ever in 2021.
Have you ever known a horse that performed well at home but whose behavior changed negatively at a show? What about a horse that lollygagged through its work sessions at home but suddenly became all show horse when trotting through the in-gate? Horses that perform one way at home or in practice often have a change in behavior and performance when competing at a show, and there may be a variety of reasons for this change.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, every business sector in the country is affected. This is an unprecedented era, and like everything else, the Saddlebred industry is taking a hit – at a time when everyone should be gearing up for show season. The early spring shows are the place for new teams to debut, junior horses to show off how they’ve grown since their three-year-old season, and seasoned veterans to shake off the winter dust and get back in show shape. Normally, these are important times for anyone who answers the gate call, but this year is going to be different.
Cities and states are becoming more cautious about large gatherings, including horse shows. As of Wednesday, April 1, 27 industry events all over the country have been shut down or closed to the public. There’s no telling how many more will need to be canceled to keep everyone safe. This is hard for all involved. Exhibitors might be disappointed at not getting to make their season debut, but trainers, instructors and barn staff face potential income cuts, and Saddlebred state and regional associations could be struggling to handle things like entry fee returns. What can the average exhibitor do? How can we plan for show season during a time when we are told to #CancelEverything? Is it even safe to go to the barn anymore? There are no easy answers, but some individuals are coming up with unique ideas on how to stay involved with and support the industry during these turbulent times.
Now that the New Year is in full swing, it is time to look ahead to the most wonderful time of the year … horse show season! It is likely that your horse is working hard to bring his best to the show ring for the new season, and you should be, too.
One important piece of preparing for the upcoming season is the mental aspect. While it may seem strange to non-equestrians, every rider knows that preparing mentally for show season is a critical component to success in the ring, and that attitude and planning are key to competition. Here are just a few strategies that can be used to set yourself up to achieve show ring success in 2020.