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We Ask The Industry – What Keeps You Coming Back to the Show Pen Year After Year?

On bad days, horse shows may seem like the movie Groundhog Day where it feels like the same day is happening over and over in a perpetual loop.

However, most times, horse shows are full of good times, friendly rivalries, and spending time with your horse. We wanted to take that notion a step further and ask exhibitors what brings them back year after year. Bragging rights? Socializing with friends? The challenge of competition? Teaching a young horse new events?

It’s certainly not the prize money, which is nice, but if you are lucky, it may help you break even with your expenses at maybe one show.

So, what keeps you coming back? We’d love to know your thoughts. Let’s find out what everyone else had to say.

Ashley Hadlock – The love for the horse and sport. Each time I go into the show pen, it’s a new challenge with personal goals and victories – big and small ones. Win or lose…I’m coming out of the pen having fun because of the love for the horse.





Anna Katherine Stone – Most of us do not do this to make money. It’s a hobby similar to golf or tennis. If you have a terrible round of golf, you don’t throw in the towel. It’s the same for showing horses for me. If I have a horrible ride or bomb a show, I go home, regroup, focus, work differently, and go back out to the next show. I’m a horse show junkie. I have horses to show, not pet or play around the barn. If you genuinely love the sport, you keep showing up. We pay money for people to judge us, and not everyone is going to like us. I’ve always set goals. My current plan is to level out of novice. Most people tell me not to do this, to stay another year in Level 1, but my motivation is to prove I’m better.  I never want to settle for less than I’m capable of, so I will keep going to horse shows week after week, chasing my personal goals. Remember, it’s a hobby defined as a regular activity for enjoyment, typically during leisure time. So enjoy the show.

Nicole Barnes – I am fortunate to be at a point in my show career in which I have found that my focus on the things that happen beyond the show pen are also what keeps me coming back to show pen. The accolades, trophies, and wins are indeed what we all work towards, but the small victories (and losses to learn from) along the way truly make me continue to come back. 

I, of course, want to win and would be lying if I said I don’t dream of gold trophies. I’m also at a stage where being a positive influence on a horse’s show career and increasing the horse’s value is almost more important than winning. Alongside my trainer, Brad Kearns, we work diligently to perfect the small details. Whether working on loping off in a straight line or being patient through a lead change, there is no substitute for teaching a young horse confidence and consistency. I’m lucky that I love the process it takes in building an all-around horse. From the first days of “colt loping” to teaching one how to turn around for the horsemanship or the repetition it takes to confidently find a spot for a lope over the pole for the trail, I love it all. 

And the days that I can let a novice rider hop on my horse to test it out and he knows his job through and through, well, those are the days in which I feel most proud. To know that we’ve put in countless hours and can put a smile on someone else’s face besides just mine. It makes it all worth it. I don’t see myself slowing down anytime soon. You’ll be sure to see me in the show pen still, regardless of the outcome.

Kathy Tobin – The great people and love for horses keep me coming back. It’s not all about the competition, even though it’s the challenge of trying to do our best, but the friends and fun we have.  We show for a few minutes a class, but the rest of the time, it’s great to be with horses and people who love them as I do.

Kelli Jo Hardy
– What keeps me coming back to the show pen is my love of seeing the hard work that I put in outside the show pen come to fruition. I love it when all the pieces that my trainer and I work on daily start to come together as a whole, and to be rewarded by the judges is just icing on the cake. My favorite is pattern classes such as showmanship and equitation, where rider ability can influence the scores as much as anything else. Working continually to improve me and be the best showman I can be is a passion that drives me forward with every show.

Jenna Tolson – Partly unfinished business. I have short-term and long-term goals set for myself and much still to accomplish. I subscribe to the practice of just “getting better” a little bit by a little bit, and the show pen is the ultimate test of whether or not you are making progress in the right direction. The other part of it is because horses genuinely are my passion. I love the barns early in the morning and late at night, the sleepless nights, the anxious nerves before your show, the challenge of it all, hanging out with friends that share a common interest, and spending time with animals because…animals are way cooler than people.  I honestly don’t know what else I would do to fill that void.

June Liston – The challenge of bettering my riding and showing. Also, the camaraderie; I love the people in my barn and have made lifelong friends in this industry in the 50+ years I’ve been showing.




Vanessa Froman – Honestly, I have no clue why I keep coming back some days. I’m at The Madness right now with Collin. It’s Mother’s Day weekend, and I’m missing one of Connor’s soccer games. I won’t see him for Mother’s Day. My mom is at an APHA show this weekend, and I won’t see her. I’m not sleeping, and I’m constantly working at something. I have to stretch/foam roll/Magnawave my 43-year-old body to do this. Oh, and I pay money to do this to myself. All of this for 90 seconds in the show pen praying all the pieces work perfectly. However, that feeling I get when it all goes as planned, and the sweat equity I have put in all pays, is what keeps me coming back to the show pen.

Rebecca Wills-Fussell – When it’s your passion, it doesn’t matter the outcome. Also, if you have young ones, they need time in the show pen and aren’t always going to do well.






Emma Garcia – For me, it’s not about winning or losing. It’s about accomplishing personal goals. I want to be a better rider, and even though it can be discouraging to lose, I love riding, and I have some great horses that I’m lucky enough to show. I also love getting to spend time with my mom and show family. The friends and community I’ve made through showing make it hard for me to step back from it.


Brister Shum – It’s truly a passion that’s just part of who I am. Not only do I enjoy developing a partnership with a horse, but I also enjoy continual learning. Need I mention how fun it is to gather with friends from all over the country? Most are like family. We, Selects, do enjoy our social time.




Hilary Reinhard
– In all honesty, I’ve asked myself this question many times over the years. Horse showing takes a lot of time, money, sweat, and tears. The highs are incredible. The lows can be a struggle. When it comes down to it, if you aren’t having fun, you need to make a change. It’s a passion for many of us. The highs, the friendships made, and the love of good horses keep me going through the lows.




Meredith Landy – For me, showing horses has been a lifelong evolution. Every year, I make goals about specific things I want to work on to improve my riding. If a show doesn’t go well, it inspires me to go home and work harder and get better. I am anxious to get back in the pen to redeem myself. If a show goes very well, I can’t wait to go back to experience that same feeling of happiness and pride, hopefully. Either way, it’s a constant feedback loop that keeps me coming back to the shows.

Madison Nirenstein – When I look at why I continue to compete, and what keeps me in the industry, first and foremost, it’s the love for the animal. There’s nothing more fulfilling in my life than the bonds created between myself and my horses.

Riding has shaped my life in so many ways, and I can’t imagine the person I’d be without it. That being said, I am a competitive person… but with myself. I keep coming back to better myself as a rider and push myself. With riding and competing, you are constantly learning. Some of my favorite moments are the “small wins” you set out to get over a roadblock or perfect a maneuver.

I’ve also met some of the most amazing people in the equine world, and the friendships and relationships I’ve established are lifelong and extremely special. It’s not always about the outcome, but the journey, which is a statement I hold very close.

Beckie Peskin – On the back of a horse, trying to improve/prepare to compete is the only time all week my brain isn’t constantly mining for all of the things I need to do. The outside world melts away as I focus on the process. For me, having a demanding career, trying to be a good mother and wife, and a small side business, I have edited my goals to be about the process of helping young horses become experienced all-arounders.

So, of course, I want trophies, but my drive is really about improving and trying to be patient enough to help them gain confidence. It’s about preparing them to be the right horse for someone who needs one more finished.

Joe Whitt – I love the competition and the bond between myself and the different horses that I’ve shown.  Showing a young horse or finished horse, I love the challenge of continually improving and making progress at each show and reaching milestones and goals.

I also love the camaraderie and friendships that I have developed through showing horses.  It is a great hobby, and I am happy to be able to have and show horses.


Juliana Arora – I love this question. No matter the ride, there will always be an opportunity to improve and grow the connection with your horse(s). That is one of the thrills of competing to be better each time and continue learning. Also, aside from results, horses are so good for the soul and sanity, especially coming off of a tough year like 2020.

Ginger Baxter – Just the love of showing horses keeps me coming back, and being able to do it with friends and family makes it a bonus.




Sherri Hennis – I show horses for three reasons. I love horses, I love socializing, and I love traveling. I have never been the exhibitor that has to win something to be happy. As long as I have a good ride, I am having a good time. When I do mess up, it is usually my fault. I am not a very serious competitor. I don’t particularly appreciate practicing, so it makes the trip even sweeter if I do win.



Rebekah Kazakevicius –
It’s always exciting to take a Futurity prospect year after year and see what they can accomplish. Always trying to find the next great one or great all-around prospect. It’s fun to watch them as yearlings grow into competitive show horses. That’s what keeps me coming back! In regards to the outcome – I don’t let it discourage me. Maybe I didn’t have my best ride, find the best spots, or have the best horse. I use it as a lesson to work harder and try to be better than the last time. There’s always room for improvement.

Why do you keep coming back year after year? Let us know in the comments.