We Ask The Industry: What’s One Thing You Wish You Knew Before You Started Showing Horses?
We’ve all had those ‘woulda, coulda, shoulda’ thoughts from time-to-time. Whether it’s regretting not taking more practical college classes, saving for retirement, or not stopping to smell the roses when you were younger, as they say…hindsight is 20/20.
No matter where we are on our life’s journey, we can all look back and say, ‘I wish I knew then what I know now.’ GoHorseShow was honored to speak with some of the top exhibitors in the industry and learn what their voices from the past are telling them now. Maybe some of their profound hindsight can help others in the future.
Miranda Mitten – The time and dedication it takes to get something right. I’ve now been showing for almost 15 years, and there are still things I’m learning up until this day, and I still have lightbulbs in my brain turning on. The more patient you’re willing to be through the process, the more intuitive you’ll become with your horse. It just depends on how badly you want to understand and how patient you are willing to be.
I didn’t know a thing about showing horses when I first started. My best friend growing up was showing locally at our neighborhood arena. I came home one day and told my mom I wanted to show, and she looked at me sideways and said, “alright well, go have fun!” I walked a horse a mile down the road and tied up to their trailer, and they were so generous to teach me the ropes. Her older sister was my first trainer, and my first horse was an absolute trouper for packing me around. My mom and I would ride him bareback back to our house at the end of a show day. If I had wanted to know anything about showing horses beforehand, it would have been how absolutely in love with it I would be.
Hannah LaPlace – One thing I wish I had known before starting to show horses was how much of an influence it would have on my future. I could not have foreseen how important this industry would become. My dad made sure my sister and I were riding before walking as a child. One of my favorite memories is photos of us displayed at the AQHA Hall of Fame with the two of us on a horse our father bred, raised, and showed. The images were used for several AQHA memberships ads run in the Journal.
As I got older, it was always a challenge to remember that school and a future career were supposed to be the priority and showing was the hobby. Ask anyone close to me. I’m still working on a good balance with that. In the spring of 2020, I came down to Atlanta to stay with my trainer Clint Ainsworth after New York City shut down because of COVID. My job quickly turned utterly virtual, and what was intended as a several-week stay, turned into several months. Shortly after that, Clint convinced me to move down here, and I haven’t looked back since. That decision was not made lightly because the rest of my family still lives in New York, but I couldn’t be more grateful for their support.
Kim Gutowski – In my career as a surgeon, we get ready and go into surgery at generally a particular time. I was not expecting horse shows to be like my car racing days when you get ready, then have what seems like an eternal wait until you perform. I’m not very good at sitting still.
Laina Banks – “When you lose – that is when you win. “- thank you to AQHA Hall of Fame member Bob Avila for this wisdom. I wish I had known this early on when I first started showing and savored the moments of losing and the value they had, even from the beginning. The most challenging show pen rides and losses are the ones I credit later for my most significant wins. We learn the most when we make mistakes, and we grow when those are in moments when we could have won something we thought was important to us. I wish I would have known to savor the loss as much as the win. I do that today. Every ride is essential for so many reasons, and I treasure each one for all the wonderful things it brings.
Ashley Hadlock – First of all, it’s so dang addictive. But the kind of addiction you don’t regret. I genuinely build a unique bond with each show partner with my love for the horse and sport. I fall in love with each horse, and it is harder than I would have ever imagined when something happens to them. Each horse I’ve ever had has a special place in my heart. So, when you start showing, you form an unbelievable relationship. Enjoy the ride and the ups and downs. The memories are priceless.
Kristy McKechnie – As a busy mom and owner of livestock and a horse ranch, it can become hard to show and care for my family and business. My number one recommendation is to reflect on the importance of having the right people around you when you start showing. From open shows with my boys when they were young to AQHA shows, I have learned the value of good people who care about the horse as much as the show. I have been blessed to have Jamie Dowdy, and her parents, Cliff and Mary Chris Hartman help guide me through some difficult times and keep me grounded in doing what is best for my family and me. Don’t let it go when you find this connection with a trainer. The horse show environment is like a family, and it has its ups and downs, but stay with those who genuinely care about you as a person and your success.
Kathryn deVries – The one thing I wish I knew is that everyone started somewhere. In the beginning, I was so star-struck and nervous that I wasn’t good enough, my horse wasn’t good enough, my saddle wasn’t good enough, etc. But I’ve learned if you stay humble and put in the time, you’ll get there.
Dale LaPlace – You never grow out of it. It only grows with you. When I first began riding and shortly after that, showing, I didn’t know life could ever be consumed with much else. It was all I needed and all I wanted. Some of my earliest memories are sitting in the saddle in my father’s lap. Fast forward a few years, and it was all about the leadline and then walk-trot events, where my twin sister Hannah and I learned how to win, how to lose, and how to be each other’s biggest cheerleaders. The addiction to horse showing has never faded, and thirty-something years later, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
There have been many tears over the years, both out of joy and out of frustration. But the growth, maturity, and grace of being an avid competitor through the good and the bad broadens your sensibility, problem-solving, and confidence in all facets of life. It brings perspective to what you may have once thought was your best. It pushes you. It drives you. It makes you figure out how to keep striving for more at every age.
Lauren Maupin – How much I would have to go to the gym. Like, you have to be fitter than I initially thought you needed to be. So that, no matter how good your horse is, if you can’t pilot it because you run out of leg, man, it’s so much work.
Robyn Garcia – The one thing I wish I knew before I started showing horses is how time-consuming it is. I delayed letting my daughter, Emma start riding until she was 11. I knew once she started riding, and subsequently showing, that it would be an obsession for her. What I didn’t count on is that, several years later, I began to ride and show how all-consuming it would be for me. It’s not just the time to go to shows…it’s practice time while at home, additional workouts, making travel arrangements, etc. Balancing a medical practice and showing horses has been a challenge, but showing has been one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve ever had.
Kim Guenther – Maybe someone told me this when I was a kid, but I never truly understood that “this could take a while… and that’s okay.” You should set those big goals, but please allow yourself time to achieve them. Your timeline for success and how you define that success is yours alone. And even if it takes you 20+ years to make it to Congress or Worlds, the thrill of achieving your goal will not be diminished by the time it took to get there. So take your time and enjoy the ride.
Lacey Armstrong – One thing I wish I knew before I started showing horses was how easily I would give up some of life’s milestone events, all to spend time with my horses and friends and family showing. For example, my senior prom, parties, vacations, weddings, etc. But, the best part is, if I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. Also, I never would have imagined the thousands of miles I’d drive in treacherous weather to ride my horse in 30-degree weather and for the smell of the barn.
What did you wish you knew before you started showing horses? Let us know.