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We Ask The Industry: What does Your Barn do to Lighten the Mood at Horse Shows?

“Under Pressure,” the legendary song by David Bowie and Queen, comes to mind when thinking of the added stress riders put on themselves at the big shows. We all know horse showing is supposed to be fun but come showtime, sometimes that all goes out the window.

Equestrians are very competitive individuals. They want that grinding day-to-day practice to pay off in the show arena. Some intense riders often get tunnel-vision and lose sight of why they show horses in the first place.

With this in mind, we asked several competitors what their barn does to lighten the mood at the big shows. Next time you are stressed at a show, take to heart some of these ideas about how to have fun and keep everything in perspective.

Katy Jo Zuidema – It’s all about the tunes at our camp. In the morning, we typically vibe to older country music. About mid-afternoon, we switch it to something like classic rock. Then, after we’re done showing, we usually turn it up to something Nelly like. Our camp mostly laughs and tries not to take anything too seriously. We work hard, but this is how people choose to spend their vacation days. It has to be worth it to select horses over boats. Stay positive, keep the cooler stocked, laugh as much as possible, and keep trying to improve instead of win. Trying to win typically means you’re disappointed with the second and third. This is a very competitive sport, 2nd and 3rd are very good. Frankly, so is 4-10. So be positive. We’re all in this together. Our camaraderie is essential.

Vanessa Froman – If any of us is having a freakout moment, our team will make fun of and pick on each other for ample time to lighten the mood. Our barn has no mercy, and we keep each other in check. This works for us because we all know that it comes from love. We also have a motto, “We’re just showing horses here. We aren’t saving lives!” Some people may hear me saying this a lot in the warm-up pen. It always gives us perspective, even if it’s only for a minute. We need each other to provide reminders not to take this showing stuff too seriously.

Julie Petonak  – We have a lot of youth kids, so we always try to make sure to keep it fun. The girls usually have time between classes to meet up with friends, enjoy treats, and take good pictures, even if it wasn’t perfect in the show pen that day. We are fortunate to have a very supportive group, so if someone needs a pick-me-up, the others are quick to jump in and put on some music and remind them of all the great times and fun memories. The barn moms are also fantastic at ensuring everyone (including me) is fed and hydrated and help around the aisle to avoid exhaustion as much as possible!

Kathy Tobin – We try to keep it light, always. There’s usually something we can laugh at that one of us did that day. Sometimes, we have a beer at lunch, then later wine and cocktails. Then if possible, we go out for a lovely dinner and relax.




Deanna Rippeon – Our dogs are a significant source of fun for all of us and help keep the mood happy and light. The kids enjoy having them, and we have their separate areas with their beds. They go to the warm-up pen with us, ride on the golf carts and scooters and even go up to watch all of our teammates show. Everybody gets a real kick out of the dogs, and that’s a huge thing that helps in our barn. Shannon, Hannah, and Spencer bring their dogs, and then we have a few friends that have theirs along as well. Also, when it’s hot, you can count on our team taking a break for smoothies or ice cream.

Julian Harris – Play music listening to the golden oldies. Our mentality is to be as competitive as possible, but our goals are to improve the rides time-by-time.



Alyse Roberts
– I feel like everyone in our barn is very supportive of each other, and everyone has the same goals as to what they want to achieve. So, I feel like being open, talking about their feelings, and getting positive feedback and encouragement helps. I also feel like most of my ladies enjoy having a margarita, a beer, or a shot before a big class to calm those nerves.

Kristy McKechnie
– Our barn family enjoys cooking out and enjoying dinner time with each other. There is never a lack of laughs at dinner time.





Giorgia Medows – Our barn is really like a family. We are always joking around at the stalls, but ready to be up at the arena cheering on each other if possible. There will always be highs and lows with showing horses, so it’s great to have this camaraderie back at the stalls to lift you.



Miranda Sams-McIntosh
– We play Jenga and UNO. We try to make it fun. We do fun, non-horsey stuff at home, so everyone becomes a team and feels comfortable helping each other. We kayak etc. It’s been great for helping everyone feel welcome, included, and like a true team.

Scott Reinartz
– Some of us will buy lunch or treats for the group. Ice cream bars, popsicles, pizza, subs, tacos. Food always makes people feel better.


Miranda Mitten
– Drinks and music. Anything with vodka and whiskey keeps this barn happy. Sing along to country songs.




Abbey Sheftel Turner
– We eat together and are very supportive of each other. If possible, we watch each other’s classes to support. Recently, during a rain delay, we played the card game “Crimes Against Humanity.” It was hysterical. I have a portable corn hole game. I’ve brought that to world shows. That’s the only time we get to do fun things like that.



Katie Grossnickle – Our barn always has a good time, it seems. We have a great group right now that loves to talk, hang out, go to dinner, and have a drink or two. It seems we’re always up to something, and it’s usually completely random, so I can’t think of anything specific we do. We hang out and have fun. We also typically have meals planned for every day (at least lunch), so we’re around everyone in the barn, asking how they did in their classes, etc. Having a meal together brings us all closer.

Emma Brown– I would say when the tensions get high, we all have our own ways of decompressing to prepare to show. Personally, I like to spend time with my parents to ease my mind. Jennifer and Judd always remind me before I show to have fun, it may seem so simple but it’s the perfect line to hear right before going in because it creates a lighter mindset at a big show.



Grant Mastin – One thing that we do as a barn is maintain a schedule, so stress is limited throughout the horse show. A big component of this schedule is having music always playing – whether it be for 4 a.m. trail practice to getting ready to go into the finals at the world show, we can often find a song that makes those times a little more memorable.

Does your barn have anything they do fun together to lighten the mood at big shows? Let us know.