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Five Tips For Planning the 2020 Show Season


The new show season offers many opportunities for exhibitors to showcase the hard work and fine-tuning done during the offseason. However, with the endless possibilities, some equestrians may get overloaded.

It can seem like a daunting task to plan out an entire show season amid winter, but with a little forethought and extra effort early on, it can be an exciting time. Consider these five tips on how to make planning for the 2020 show season an easy and fun experience.

Set Your Goals

It’s crucial to figure out what you want to accomplish before showing. Deciding what you want to succeed at this season will make it easier for you to narrow your choices when looking at showbills and locations.

Do you want to qualify for the World Show? Do you want to complete a Youth ROM or Championship? Maybe you just want to get your green three-year-old out to see the sights.

For example, an APHA exhibitor looking to win their Zone should focus on attending shows in those specific states. Picking what you want to do with your horse early on gives you specific goals to work towards all season long.

Discuss with Your Trainer

It is going to be essential to make decisions with your trainer’s input. This is the person who knows you, your skill, and your horse best. Their advice can help steer you to horse shows where you’re more likely to succeed or accomplish your goals.

At the end of each season, AQHA Trainer Tim Gillespie (pictured right) discusses his clients’ upcoming seasons. “We try to sit down at the end of the year and work with our clients on their short-term and long-term goals. For example, if I have someone graduating from the novice, we will discuss what classes they want to specialize in for the amateur division going forward.”

Maintain a dialogue with your trainer so you can find success with your horse all season long.

Do Your Research

Exhibitors choosing to participate in breed competitions need to be members and pay dues. Unless you have a lifetime membership, this can be a recurring expense, so making sure you have it paid can minimize your headaches.

If you plan on chasing points, look up past show records to see class sizes to maximize your wins. The earlier you know which shows you plan to be at, the more money you can save. Shows have less expensive rates for stalls and classes before various deadlines and are almost always cheaper than registering at the show or night before.

Registering early may also help you to secure better stalling closer to arenas or better access to amenities like wash racks and trailer hookups.

Stay Organized

Maintain a “show binder” that stores your horse’s papers and vet records. You can also keep showbills, entry forms, back and saddle numbers, equine insurance, and your vet’s contact information in the binder.

Before the start of every season, APHA Trainer Tina Langness (pictured left) helps her clients focus by making a list of previous shows. “The first thing I do is create a list of our local, zone, and the larger shows we have shown in previous years. I email this list to everyone in January so they can start planning their calendars and requesting time off.”

Have a show calendar where you can keep track of the shows you plan to attend. Also, asking for time off or knowing you will be absent from school ahead of time, can make it easier to get a vacation or have class assignments early.

Stay in Shape

It may be tempting to slack off in the off-season, so staying in shape can be difficult. If you can’t ride and practice a few times a week, find an alternative way to keep fit. Cardio exercise and core strengthening should be maintained over the winter, so find another sport or activity to keep yourself ready when the show season starts up.

It can be beneficial to find another trainer local to you and ride a different discipline to maintain muscle memory and strength in the off-season. Find something consistent that pushes you to stay in shape so that when the show season rolls around, you can keep up with your horse throughout the weekend.

While it may not feel like the end of winter is in sight for some of us, the show season is right around the corner. Looking forward to warmer weather and reaching 2020’s goals can be motivation for many riders. Now is the time to practice and make a plan for success because the show season is just around the corner.

Photos courtesy of Terri Cage, Tina Langness, Aurora Martin.

About the Author – Caroline Sobeski is a writer and graphic designer living in Kansas, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in English at Kansas State University. She has been riding horses for over a decade, getting her start in hunter/jumpers before switching over to all-around classes. She currently has three Paint horses back home in Chicago but is looking forward to moving them closer to her in the future to start competing in the amateur division.

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