Sarah and Bella keep the competitive spirit between them in check by remembering that a huge part of this sport is to have fun.

How to Compete Against Your Friends and Stay Friends

Our horse show friends are like no other friends we have. Not only are they the people we connect to and get along with, but we are also able to share something we are passionate about – showing horses.

However, it is usually inevitable that the closest of friends will end up going head-to-head in the show pen. The good new is that competing against a best friend doesn’t have to hurt the friendship. In fact, it can be something that strengthens it.

Here are some tips from some of the closest horse show friends on how to stay friends in a competitive environment.

Sarah Finkel and Bella Rosa

This pair has been close friends for about four years, starting when Sarah began riding at Busick Quarters Horses. They each describe their friendship as unique due to their countless inside jokes, and the fact that they go to the same school, which means they see each other every day, several weekends and never seem to get sick of each other. Their initial bond came from their mutual feeling of post horse show depression. “After that, we were inseparable,” says Sarah.

Sarah and Bella keep the competitive spirit between them in check by remembering that a huge part of this sport is to have fun. “You can’t let the pressure of high-level competition interfere with the people who make this sport so enjoyable,” advises Bella. “I’ve shared some of my best and favorite moments with Sarah in the most competitive and stressful situations, and it has only made us closer.”

Sarah echoes Bella’s advice, wisely adding that she “does not view Bella as someone against whom I am competing. It’s not the hardware you take home; it’s the people you share it with.”

In the moments where jealousy might creep up, Sarah and Bella choose to lean on one another instead of creating distance and pushing one another away.

According to Sarah, jealousy evaporates when you believed the other person deserved the win. And she always thinks Bella deserves to win after seeing how hard she works.

“Of course I want to be successful and be rewarded for my efforts by the judges, but I also want that for my best friend.”

Bella agrees, adding, “We see each other’s weaknesses and strengths all the time…knowing and seeing how hard Sarah works makes jealousy go away because we are almost in it as a team.”

Emma Edwards and Cori Cansdale

This friendship started five years ago at the Silver Dollar Circuit in Las Vegas. They were both sitting on the black, comfy couch in the main arena watching the Western Pleasure. The two started talking and began a very goofy, but tight friendship. They don’t let the fact that they live in separate states affect them. In fact, Emma believes it makes their time together more fun. “We are always counting down the days until we are reunited,” she says, “so horse shows/visiting each other always gives us something to look forward to.”

Cori adds that not only is showing with Emma fun, but also extremely helpful. “When one of us has a bad go or is not in the greatest of moods, we know what to say to each other to make the situation better,” she says. They have each other’s schedules and routines down to a science so that they can support one another.

Their proven strategy for not letting the competition get to them is to make each show about themselves, meaning that they keep it personal goal-oriented rather than about the results. “The key is to not think of it as competing against each other, but to instead just trying to accomplish personal bests,” says Cori.

These two don’t think of it as a competition against one another, or even against the other riders in the pen, rather, for them it is a competition against themselves.

In regards to dealing with jealousy when one places higher than the other, they only try not to let those situations come about at all. “We know that our friendship is way more important than placing,” says Emma. “Both of us realize this is a horse show, and it can be anyone’s day, we hope if we aren’t at the top then the other is.”

Both Emma and Cori recognize that their friendship is once-in-a-lifetime, and therefore choose to be thankful for the opportunity to do something they love so much together.

Cori says, “We are so fortunate to have a close friendship at such a young age, and it is an awesome bonus to share our passion for horses with each other.”

Klay McDowall and Natalia DeVencenty

These two have been friends for about four years, ever since Natalia joined McDowall Quarter Horses. They both describe their relationship as more of a sibling rivalry than anything else. “We support each other and do a lot of practicing together,” Klay says, “but we are both very competitive.”

Klay continues, “I don’t like it when she beats me (especially in the horsemanship), and she doesn’t like it when I beat her. Not that we are sore losers, just that we are both very competitive. Having someone like this at the shows makes me work harder and be more focused, which is great.”

Natalia and Klay allow the competitive edge to their friendship to be something that motivates them, rather than something that drives a wedge between them. They use it as a way to help themselves get better and work harder. They have found it’s easy to keep the success of one separate from the struggles of the other when they practice together.

Klay says, “When you see how hard the other person works, it’s difficult to be anything but happy for them when they do well, even if you don’t.”

Natalia adds, “We always say, ‘if I have to be beaten by someone, I’d rather be beaten by you than someone else.’ Having this mentality always keeps us rooting for each other.”

They both agree that having your best friend at the shows comes with so many great things. Not only do they always have someone to talk to and practice with, but they also have someone that helps bring out the fun side of the long hours.

Natalie says, “Best of all; you have someone to laugh with at the end of the day.”


Each of these duos has mastered the art of keeping jealousy at bay and remaining each other’s biggest cheerleaders. They have proven methods for keeping the friendship first, even when the stakes are high, and the desire for success is strong. It just goes to show that our horse show friends are truly some of the best friends we will ever have.