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Making the Best of a Bad Show

Having a lousy horse show is bound to happen sooner or later. If you show a few times per year or every weekend, it will happen either way.

Whether it be bad placings, an injury, lameness, or something entirely different, it often seems like a miracle to go an entire week or weekend of showing without any issues.

Sometimes, the worst part of the show isn’t the show itself, but the company we keep. Times can go from very happy to horrible very quickly if you don’t have the right people in your corner.

Here are some tips to avoid negativity when things go wrong.

1) Watch and Cheer for Your Teammates

There is no such thing as a bad horse show. However, it is understandable that there can be less than ideal situations at a show. If there is a reason that you cannot show, you always have the chance to be the best supporter and cheerleader for your barn family.

Some of the highest satisfaction you can earn at a show is knowing that you were there to support the ones you care about, even if things didn’t go your way. If all exhibitors continue to make the best of it by watching and cheering for their teammates, everyone can still have a fantastic show.

2) Watch the Show and Study the Winners

Have a bad go in the show pen? No matter what level you are on, everyone is bound to make mistakes and have a learning opportunity. Some of the best tips and tricks are taught by watching experts in the arena.

If you went off pattern in a class, and are nervous about completing the next one, remember to take everything in steps. Focus on the task ahead. Take a deep breath and don’t doubt yourself. Everyone makes a mistake; you surely aren’t the only one who has forgotten their back in a showmanship pattern or has omitted an extension in horsemanship.

Watching a class before your turn, and seeing the skills and styles of the winning exhibitors is always a great way to prepare yourself for the rides to come. Newsflash: Nobody is perfect.

3) Help Ringside

Being gatekeeper may not be the most exciting job at a horse show, but seeing the smiles on the winners’ faces is one of the most rewarding feelings. There are always opportunities to help at a show if you are unable to compete.

Assisting as a trail-spotter, or helping during an EWD class can give an excellent opportunity to learn and even view a class from the judges’ point-of-view.  Not only does helping ringside put you in a better mood, but it also gives you experience and a new respect for those who do help out. Sometimes, the greatest gift is given by helping out the other exhibitors.

4) Avoid the Naysayers

Avoiding naysayers, and anyone who offers you nothing but negativity is crucial to having a good horse show. Having a team of riders who genuinely support your show endeavors can make all the difference, even when you are feeling inadequate, or there is no silver lining to your situation.

Whether it be that one snarky comment to your face, or that passive-aggressive “compliment” on your social media picture, always remember to rise above and be the bigger person. Nothing makes the haters more furious than killing them with kindness.


There are some situations you cannot avoid. But you can learn to focus on the good parts of the trip. From spending time with the “show family” to watching horses and riders you admire, there is never a “bad” horse show.

Too many times, people often get so caught up in competing that they forget what made them genuinely love the sport in the first place. When it comes down to it, they are all there for their mutual love of horses.

The show itself doesn’t make some of the best memories, but the places visited in between classes. One of the best tips is always to come back and tell your horse you love them; after all, that love is what matters most.

About the Author: Samantha Harvey is a dedicated equestrian who has been in the sport for eight years. She attends Hughesville High School. She plans to show her quarter horse, Icantakeagoodlook, in the 13 & Under All-Around this coming show season. When she is not showing, Samantha enjoys spending time with her fellow barn friends.