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We Ask the Industry: What is One Thing You Wish You Knew Before Showing at the Congress?

Congress is one of those special events where you will always remember your first time in Columbus, Ohio. For many, it is the food and stall fronts, others the unpredictable weather and circus-like atmosphere.

Regardless of what exhibitors remember, it is something that stays etched in their minds for years to come. We all know hindsight is 20/20, so we asked some veteran competitors what they wish they knew before showing at the largest all-breed show in the world for the very first time. What do you wish you knew before you showed at your first Congress? Let us know.

Kaleena Weakly – It’s so hard not to be overwhelmed by it all. I remember being so nervous and excited, which I still get, lol, but it was almost too much that first year. And all the “famous” people you look up to, getting to see them and show with them…don’t be scared, smile and enjoy every moment! It’s essential to ride and display like it’s just another horse show, and there will always be another.

Joetta Bell – The Congress is so legendary, from the Congress bronzes won to medals awarded for attendance. This show is the granddad of shows, and preparing for it is often never enough. The competition is gritty, and often, your best is not enough. But that’s when you begin to learn how far to push yourself and your horse as a team. To be here is a blessing in itself, and to take in the level of competition is unrivaled. What I wish I knew the first time I crossed the Congress doors as a young exhibitor was how to deal with nerves, but take in a deep breath, say a prayer, and try your best for your Congress dreams.

Paige Wacker – I wish I had known about why the different class calls meant (first call vs. second call) because otherwise, you’ll be up there way too early for your class. I also wish I knew how to pace myself at the Sweet Shop. I always eat too many cinnamon rolls when I’m there and get sick.



Ashley Bailey – I would have to say the traffic.  When I first get to Congress, I feel like it takes my horses and I a couple of rides to get acclimated to all the traffic when riding. I just take my time and try to ride smart so I can get their confidence up.



Abbey Zawisza – I wish I would have known that if you didn’t like any of the food options on the grounds you can always take your golf cart over to McDonald’s.




Madison Fussell – I wish I would’ve known about the number of people there, but also the amount of fun it is. Be thankful for every step, every ride, and every moment with your horse because you never know when the last time in the pen with that horse will be. If you are prepared, then you will be amazing, and you can’t let the nerves get to you. You have to think about it like it’s any other show.


Olivia Tordoff – I wish I knew how much fun the Congress events like the PBR and Freestyle reining are! It took me a few years to finally attended one, but once I did, I had the best time. I also wish I had discovered the Chinese food sooner! It really hits the spot after 1am practice.




Kassidy Lammers – I wish I knew how fast it would all go by. It seems like it’s going to last forever on day one, but it’s over before you know it. Showing at the Congress is such a unique experience, and it’s one that will stick with you forever if you make the most of the time you have there. Especially now that I’m in college and can’t show because of my school schedule, I definitely wish I would have known that and maybe cherished the time a little more. Also – let your mom take all of the pictures that she wants! You’ll look back on those in the future and be so glad that you have them. They’re memories you can’t replace.

Tali Terlizzi – The accurate weather to pack accordingly. (laughs)






Juliana Arora – I wish I knew before showing Congress that at the end of the day, it is just another horse show. Do the best you can and have a positive mindset.



Amanda Moore
– Get sleep when you can, bring a variety of cold and allergy medicine, but most importantly, get the backdrop picture, win or lose. You will want it a year later for memories. So often, when things don’t go well, it’s easy to storm back to the barn and not get the picture, but you will want it years later. So make sure to get it.

Katy Jo Zuidema – That it’s tough to win it. And it feels extraordinary to go in the Celeste and the stands be packed full of people who are actual spectators. They aren’t just filled with our people who compete as well. It’s real people who just come to watch. I appreciate that so much up there. It’s in the breadbasket of the USA, and the harvest is over, and people want to come to have fun and be a part of it. It’s like the part we all complain about (people everywhere) is the part that makes it the most special.

Rebekah Kazakevicius – There’s always next year!






Ali Hubbell – Bring sneakers! Your feet will die if you wear cowboy boots the whole time. It’s way too much walking for only being in boots.





Leigh Berryhill – I’m showing there for the first time in years. I wish I had known to savor. But, I enjoy the whole experience. I don’t think you can replicate this show experience.






Ceralena Gray – It’s okay to be a bit early getting ready. I don’t like the “oh no, they are calling for our class” feeling.  I want to be dressed and have the horse ready well in advance. Keep your horse’s body fresh. It’s a long show. Keep their legs wrapped, etc.



Mandie Berryhill – Don’t put too much pressure on yourself and your horse. Yes, you are up against the best of the best, but enjoy the atmosphere and have fun! Also, bring comfortable shoes because you’ll do a lot of walking.






Emily Ambrose – I wish I understood that it’s simply another horse show. Yes, there are many trophies, medals, checks, and neck ribbons, but it’s still a horse show. It helps to alleviate my nerves and reminds me to have fun showing my horse.





Meghan Tierney – To treat it like any other horse show. Please don’t overdo it or let nerves get in the way, have trust and faith in the homework you’ve done before arriving. Also, start taking immunity vitamins a few weeks before and throughout the show. Most likely won’t keep you from getting the crud, but it’ll help you get through it quicker.



Angie Reichert – I wish I had known how much I would test my CDL license parking, my 68’ rig in a sliver of a spot for RVs.






What do you wish you knew before you showed at Congress? Let us know in the comments.