Showing can be nerve-wracking for sure, so having more friendly faces encouraging, helping, and offering luck is always welcome. Photo © Kirstie Marie Photography

Seven Ways to Make New Friends at a Horse Show

At first glance, a horse show is an overwhelming place filled with busy people riding, prepping, washing and longing their horses.

At times, some competitors are so focused on preparing to show that they may appear oblivious to everyone around them. Coupled with the fact that veteran competitors often stick together, it may be intimidating for shy and new competitors to try and make new friends.

Also, with the constant use of smartphones and social media, the desire to connect with people on a more personal level has become increasingly more difficult.

Despite these challenges, the horse community is known to be an incredibly supportive and welcoming place. You’ll be amazed that once you start speaking with people and making new connections that new friendships will easily fall into place.

Hopefully, before you know it, you’ll have new friends to look forward to seeing at your next event.

Here are a few tips on how to broaden your circle of friends at horse shows.

1. Just say “Hi!”

As simple as tips come – smile and say hello, good morning, or how are you today go a long way. If you can’t think of a thing to say, or can’t muster the courage to start a full conversation, hello is never a wrong place to start.

2. Congratulate a good ride

While it is easy to focus on your horse and performance, complimenting others for a good pattern, a win, or a great ride is always welcome. It feels nice to have someone offer congratulations or otherwise give credit where credit is due. Trainer Melissa Zanetti encourages her students to congratulate others in their class. “It shows good sportsmanship and makes you accessible,” she says.

3. Offer assistance and ask questions

This can be ranging from offering to hold someone’s horse while they take care of something, to sharing your copy of the pattern for an upcoming class. If you see something amiss or notice someone struggling – offer to help. It is simple; it is appreciated, and it is common to see exhibitors helping each other. Have something you need? Please don’t hesitate to ask.

Amateur Katie Fox of Chino Hills, California encourages newcomers to introduce themselves and ask questions. “There are people always willing to help if you reach out. And always remember to walk in the pen with confidence and your chin held high no matter what happens.”

4. Ask about the horse

A foolproof plan is to ask a rider about their horse. Sparking a conversation will be a sure thing. You can begin with a compliment, ask about the horse’s barn name, how long they’ve been competing together, or anything that you believe would get the conversation rolling.

Amateur Hilary Reinhard shares, “We’ve all felt intimidated at times, but virtually all of the people I’ve met at horse shows are amazingly friendly people once you meet them.”

Reinhard continues, “As an ice breaker, in the lineup, ask the person next to you how their ride was – it could be a good conversation starter.”

5. Be encouraging, offer good luck

Showing can be nerve-wracking for sure, so having more friendly faces encouraging, helping, and offering luck is always welcome. Adding to the positive atmosphere of a show, and being a good sport win or lose, is still an excellent way to be a valued member of the horse show community.

6. Show up to exhibitor events

From barn events within your trainer or boarding barn to horse show events like BBQs or mixers – show up. This is an excellent opportunity to mingle with folks while they aren’t handling their horses and can allow for some more in-depth conversations.

Katie Fox told us that she was once a shy youth exhibitor. “Don’t be afraid to try something new and participate in the extra activities that youth programs put on at the shows,” Fox shares. “Some of your best friends that you’ll have the rest of your life will come from horse shows. Many shows will have a get-together for kids with pizza and activities. Don’t be afraid to join in and meet new people.”

7. Follow up the next time

Each time you attend a show or event, you have friendships to build on. Continue to smile, chat with, and find both familiar and new-to-you faces. If you are active on social media, consider following or “friending” your new horse friends so that you can keep in touch between events. Being courteous and kind will always bring you good friends, so relax, be your best self, and enjoy the ride.

About the Author: May Flaum showed Quarter Horses for over thirteen years before hanging up her chaps as a young amateur rider, though she always planned to return. May currently lives in Northern California with her husband, two daughters, and three adopted dogs. She is enjoying this new chapter of her horse show life that she is sharing with her teenage daughter looks forward to seeing what 2019 will bring.