“Breed shows can be confusing and daunting at first, but committing to learning and taking baby steps instead of focusing on winning was my key to personal success," Reaghan Griffin states. Photo © Reaghan Griffin

Moving Up: Tips on Making the Move to Breed Shows

When people decide to run a marathon, they don’t just go out and run the full 26.2 miles the first day. They start slowly, one mile at a time until they finally reach their goals.

Horse showing is no different. Beginning in the horse world can be scary…really scary. There are many things to learn and no one starts at the world show for their very first competition, it all comes in baby steps.

For most competitors, they start at local open circuits or 4-H shows, always dreaming of the day they get to ride in the big leagues. But the leap it takes to go from a local show pen to trotting down the coveted world show arena is a large one.

So how can you make a move to breed shows easier?

GoHorseShow talked with Reaghan Griffin, an amateur competitor who also made a move from open shows to some of the largest AQHA shows in the nation. Reaghan and her gelding, Ironized, aka Diesel, compete in the English All-Around events all along the East Coast.

We also spoke with Aaron Shank (pictured right), an amateur competitor in the Pinto Horse Association, who recently made the transition on his home trained horse, Carry on the Cause, aka Jake. Aaron grew up on the Missouri 4-H circuit, until competing at the Pinto World Show and Color Breed Congress, under the guidance of Renee Garrison.

They shared tips and tricks that made their move up a successful one.

1) Focus on your improvement

Chances are, you have heard the saying, “Focus on being better than you were yesterday.” The same goes with horse showing. No matter the level of show you are competing at, the name of the game is still the same: improvement.

“When you are at a show, look out for an opportunity to get more exposure to different training methods, grooming techniques, or organization systems,” explains Shank. “Be a constant student; it is how you will stay up on the latest trends, techniques, and tools of the trade – always be absorbing new information.”

2) Sit back and watch

Your first breed show is going to be a rush of emotions and will most likely be extremely chaotic, but find the time to sit and watch everyone.

“Since I usually traveled by myself, I had a lot of time to sit back and observe,” Griffin recalls. “I learned a lot just by watching the top riders and trainers ride and by watching the way the show worked and so on.”

3) Be organized

At any level, organization is key to having a successful show, but it is especially helpful at your first breed shows. Plan out your classes and know exactly when you ride to avoid being rushed.

Shank advises, “Know when you are going to run patterns, feed, clean your horse’s stall, eat lunch, get dressed, tack your horse up, and then stick to your schedule. This will help minimize unplanned surprises.”

4) Find guidance

Moving to the breed show world is a scary one. Whether it is a friend you look up to or a trainer, find someone who knows the ins-and-outs of the shows. They will be able to explain show bills, give you riding advice, and help you find your way around different show grounds.

 “As I was catching the tail end of my youth career, I knew that if I wanted to be successful in this industry, I would have to seek guidance from people more experienced. I tried a couple of different trainers before I found one that I felt like I connected with and learned from. That’s how I ended up with Renee Garrison.”

5) You are enough

When you’re riding against some of the top competitors in the world, it’s easy to look down on yourself, but everyone starts somewhere.

“A common challenge people face going into breed shows is thinking that they aren’t good enough. My advice is to focus on your strengths and your confidence will follow,” Griffin says. “Breed shows can be confusing and daunting at first. However, committing to learning and taking baby steps, instead of focusing on winning, was my key to personal success. It led to many accomplishments in the show arena.”

About the Author – Taylor Riley is from the small town of Cole Camp, Missouri, where she currently attends college at State Fair Community College. This fall Taylor plans to transfer to Northwest Missouri State University to pursue a degree in Agriculture Education. Outside of class, Taylor enjoys competing in the APHA all-around events with her paint gelding, Masked N Marvelous aka Radar. As a DIY amateur, much of her free time is spent caring for and training her horses that reside on her family farm.