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Four Lessons Learned During the Pandemic with Schooler, Cottingim, and Chapman

The pandemic has changed a lot for us fellow equestrians, but there are many lessons to be learned along the way. For some, this time bodes as a period of personal progress and growth, while others have come to appreciate all of the aspects of attending a horse show.

When showing horses, you must indeed be prepared to “expect the unexpected,” and persevering through these past several months has further strengthened that skill. The ability to use its lessons to your advantage will prove to be an asset.

Industry professionals Beckey Schooler, of Beckey’s Place, Ryan Cottingim of Ryan Cottingim Show Horses, and AQHA and APHA Judge Kelly Boles Chapman gave us some insight into what they have learned the past several months.

Downtime can be a good thing.

Spending more time with family in the evenings and on weekends was a positive coming out of an otherwise challenging year. With many shows canceled, including the Congress this month, people have had time to pursue other interests and appreciate the little things generally ignored during the busy show season.

Riding your horse just for the sake of riding your horse became more commonplace rather than just practicing for the next show. Chapman emphasizes that “breaks and downtime in our schedule can be a good thing. Breaks allow for more time at home and a chance to slow down.”

Beckey Schooler agrees, saying that the pandemic has taught her that “many of us miss out on the way too much family time.”

Many people in the industry were able to spend more time with their loved ones, try a new hobby like painting, or even trying a new event with their horse.

Your most significant competitor is yourself.

Not being able to compare yourself to others forces you to focus solely on your personal growth and progress – working only toward personal bests.

Schooler, who has been able to attend the AQHYA World Show and NSBA World Show, mentioned that she could see a lot of self-progress in her clients after consistent work during the early quarantine. “It was a nice time to just ride with no pressure.”

One of her clients, Janet Egolf was even able to come home with a personal best after winning the Select Trail at the NSBA World Show. Preparing a horse for the show pen can be difficult when there is not one available, but Beckey reminds us that hard work pays off, regardless of location.

Young horses get more attention.

Due to show cancelations, it was frustrating to not have the opportunity for more experience in the show pen, but these industry professionals found that it came with benefits. “Trainers, including myself, got to spend more time working on developing skills with the younger horses,” Schooler reveals.

Chapman also mentions that having to stay home allowed for time to work on and see results while “working on things with horses that might otherwise be pushed to the side when rushing to get ready for the next show.”

Cottingim adds, “The downtime this year will make for a powerful and competitive group of horses next year.”

Sometimes you just need some gratitude.

Newfound gratitude for the ability to ride outside of the home arena every day was a common theme among those interviewed. “The pandemic has taught us not to take the opportunity to attend shows for granted, as well as to appreciate the camaraderie and social atmosphere that they provide,” Cottingim reflects.

Chapman agrees, “if nothing else, the pandemic has taught us to be grateful for the opportunity to have shows to attend, a horse to ride, and for being able to do what we love.”

For Ryan, so far, the most positive aspect of the pandemic was his customers’ desire to return to horse shows and be a part of that community again. “As a business owner in a service industry, it is always worrisome to see what the effects of a situation like this will have on our businesses,” says Ryan. “It is so encouraging to see the passion that trainers and riders have for what we do.”

Ryan and his clients have since attended numerous shows, and he says that the best part, even with new guidelines in place, was seeing that “the first shows back were either sold out or bigger than ever before. “This passion and positivity is something that we need to embrace.”

About the Author: Ellen Schrotenboer was born and raised in Holland, Michigan. She attends Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where she is a junior this year. She shows her horse “Hoos That Lady” in the hunt-seat all-around events.