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Staying Involved When Life Keeps You Out of the Show Pen

There is a famous saying that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

All too often, horses get injured or sick. Sometimes, it’s a quick sickness or lameness issue, but often times, it can ruin your horse show season plans.

Whether it is a temporary injury or a year of stall rest, having to take a break from the show pen can be heartbreaking. How can you continue going to horse shows and spending time with friends who feel more like family without feeling stuck in the stands envying others for just the chance to ride?

It’s okay to feel sad and upset, but it’s essential to look for the positive in bad situations. Instead of allowing this change in plans to separate you from your horse show friends and the arena, embrace the change and find new ways to get involved.


Running horse shows takes hard work and determined people to make the event successful. If you’d like to continue attending the shows, get in contact with show management. Are you proficient at computers? Assist with entering exhibitors into their classes. Are you a social butterfly? Greet everyone when they come to the show grounds and help them maneuver the facility.

Are you sincerely passionate about a particular event? Help manage and maintain the perfect layout of that difficult trail pattern. You may make connections with a whole group of influential people who have helped the shows you attended for years run smoothly. If you return to the show pen, you’ll have a new group of friends who will be sure to help you, but you’ll also know what happens behind the scenes and probably become an even more courteous exhibitor.

Lease a Horse

If you can’t stay away from the show pen, then maybe you need a new, temporary show partner. Get in contact with your local professional horsemen and find out if there are any horses available. Perhaps a youth exhibitor is leaving for college and can’t take their show partner with them, but would be open to a year-long lease.

There are plenty of opportunities to link up with another horse and reach goals like those you first intended or even to try completely different events. Many prestigious associations allow youth and amateurs to lease a horse they don’t legally own if they have the proper paperwork on file.

Try Something New

Now is the time to try all those different roles you’ve always wondered about, but could never do since you were showing. If you have a passion for judging and want to see what the judges are viewing, try going inside the ring by becoming a ring steward or scribe. This can help you realize what it takes to be number one in the show pen, as you see first-hand exactly what the judges like and don’t like.

Perhaps being that close to the officials doesn’t appeal to you? Maybe you’d like to be the voice of the show and announce the different class results. Soon, you would know everyone’s names that came to show. Maybe you want to be the one who sends in the exhibitors and keeps track of the show’s progression by carefully managing the in-gate at the show. By stepping out of your comfort zone, you can make new connections and also expand your horse show knowledge.

Help Others

Even if you can’t show, you don’t have to go too far from the show arena. They say it takes a village to get a shiny horse and clean rider in the arena. Lend your expertise to your friends who struggle to even get in the show pen with the correct numbers on their show pads by assisting with longing, grooming, or even pattern memorization. You will gain an appreciation for all the show moms, dads, and grandparents who’ve kept you in line for years. Plus you’ll be the best friend of the year.

Make Money

Automatically, you will save money with the change in your plans, but now you may even have the chance to make money. Show vendors may need someone to help manage their booth, horse trainers have horses that need to be longed, and if you’re handy with a pitchfork, not many people would say no to a daily stall cleaner.

If you’re close to where an event is being held, you can get there early and charge a fee to bed stalls. This allows exhibitors to move right in when they arrive and helps fund your next show season. You may also have time to learn how to braid or band horses. By improving your skills, you can start earning money by braiding and banding at different shows where you will also meet new people who you haven’t had the chance to interact with before.


There are many ways to stay connected with your horse show family even if you must create an alternative plan, try something new, or save up for next show season. Having a sick or lame horse can be incredibly frustrating. Fortunately, there is an extensive network of opportunities to take advantage of, so stay positive and keep transforming those sour lemons into lemonade.

About the Author- Anneleise Ritzi shows her mare, Man Im Sassy, in Western All-Around Events as an Amateur Exhibitor. Currently, she is a junior at the University of Findlay, majoring in Western Equestrian Studies and English with an emphasis on General Writing. She is a member of Findlay’s IHSA Western Equestrian team and competes in the Open Division.