When things go wrong in the horse show ring Part 1

An article I wrote for Canadian Horse journals.

If you plan to step into the competition arena, expect the unexpected. Few sports have more variables than riding.  A 1,000-lb partner that doesn’t speak or think “human.” Judges with preferences. Fluctuating footing and weather conditions. Various competition venues. Required patterns, courses and tests change with each show.

When equestrians take their horses off-property, it’s not a matter of if, but when the unexpected and unplanned will happen. So let’s plan for it.

“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”. Inevitable enough that Murphy made it law.

What might you expect to go wrong in the show ring?  I’ll put on my judge’s hat and share common mistakes. So common, in fact, that every score sheet has a menu of these mishaps and space to record their numerical deductions.  These include minor miscalculations – a chip before a hunter fence, a slight overspin in reining or a not-quite-square dressage halt and major blunders – a refusal, buck or spook.  As a judge, I can only observe, record and occasionally excuse competitors when things go wrong. Such is judging’s downside, for someone with the heart of a teacher – little opportunity to explain and to coach.

Why do these things happen?  Here, I’ll wear my hat as a specialist in horse behaviour (and generally curious person with an inclination to ask Why?). Fixing WHAT happened depends on discovering WHY it happened.  Uncover the source and the symptom begins to fade away.

In the next posts,  I’ll  coach you through an action plan – WHEN things go wrong, WHAT do you  do?  How to manage in the moment, minimize the incident’s impact to your score, to the other competitors and to your longer term training goals.