In order to have the best horse showing experiences, we have narrowed it down to the top four categories that truly “matter” when it comes to having a better horse show experience. Photo © Tiffany Anne Photo

What Matters Most: The Most Important Checklist For Horse Show Success

As riders, sometimes we can get so caught up in the glitz and the glamor of the horse show lifestyle that we make impulsive decisions without considering what really matters on the road to success. Sure, you need clothes and tack to win in the pen, but the emotions that come along the way can typically be determined by just a few small factors. To have the best horse showing experiences, we have narrowed it down to the top four categories that truly “matter” when it comes to having a better horse show experience.

Why Having the Right HORSE Matters

I think we all know that finding the right horse can be a daunting task. However, embarking on the search for the right one usually pays off in the long run. While there is no such thing as the “perfect” horse, confident riders have certain individualized needs. Riders vary in confidence levels, riding ability and even show ring smarts which horses can pick up on and sometimes take advantage of. Having a horse that is competitive, safe and enjoyable to work with can be hard to find, especially when budget plays a role in the search. However, having the right horse does not always mean it will be easy. The right horse can be challenging and complicated at times, but it will teach the rider how to become a better horseman and push them to reach their fullest potential. Finding the right horse for a particular rider may take time, but it’s important to have a mount that fits all of the desired criteria.

Why Having the Right TRAINER Matters

All training programs are different in how they are managed; what shows they go to and their coaching styles. Some instructors cater to training youth clients, some specialize in futurity horses and some focus on the all-around events. Finding the right training program to fit your needs is incredibly important to not only your success but also your happiness in the long run. Often, people will choose a trainer based off of the reputation of wins in the show pen instead of other important factors such as training style or coaching method. Just because an individual trainer wins a lot in the pleasure classes, does not always mean that they can turn your horse into a world-caliber western rider. Having a good relationship with your trainer can also make or break your horse show experience. Choosing the right coach matters because different coaches can take you down different routes to success where not all paths are equal.

Why BARN FAMILY Dynamics Matter

When considering a new trainer or group to show with, many people often base their choice off of factors like cost, location and reputation. However, one factor that many individuals do not consider is the barn family dynamics. The “barn family,” as we call it, is the group of workers, family and other clients that fill the barn. These are the people who we attend shows and likely spend most of our horse shows with. Barn family can be a make-it-or-break-it situation. A loving and supportive barn family will create a winning atmosphere that makes every rider feel like a crucial part of the team. On the other hand, a hostile and jealousy-ridden barn environment can make even the best trainer/client relationship feel strained. Surrounding yourself with a barn family full of positive vibes can set the standard when it comes to being in a healthy barn culture.

Why Setting GOALS Matters

I’ll admit it. The term, “setting-goals” used to make me cringe. When I used to think of setting goals, I would think of sitting in a classroom with a teacher breathing down my neck, asking me to write down three goals that I had for the school year. These types of situations provoked me to write down incredibly unrealistic or easily attainable goals that required little to no effort or made me challenge myself. Now, I see setting goals as a requirement in everyday life, but more specifically, the show pen. Setting goals matters because they remind us what we are working towards. Goals also give us an idea of the smaller steps that we need to take to get where we want to be. Sure, everyone intends to win at the big shows, but setting more specific goals will provide better results. Periodically sitting down with your trainer and discussing what your aims and plans are for the upcoming shows will not only help you focus, but it will show your coach what you need to work on to succeed.


After you add up all of these necessary factors and do your research on each, you will be more prepared to have a more active horse showing experience. No one wants to fight with their horse and no one intends to be in a hostile barn environment. Looking at all of these categories helps identify what actually matters in the horse industry and what we can all learn by choosing the right team to help us achieve our goals.

Photos © Tiffany Anne Photo