While planning my 2019 show calendar, and trying to figure out what events would be possible to attend, I’m reflecting on the types of horse shows and the people you encounter. There are rated shows, local shows, schooling shows, breed shows, and my personal favorite the open show. Open shows draw a unique mixture of competitors. They’re a step above schooling shows and local shows, but not quite as sophisticated or expensive as rated and breed shows. They allow breed show competitors to pick up points in a less formal environment, and are a great way to prepare for National, World, and Congress shows. For someone like me newly returning to the show world with unregistered rescue animals, and horses that are still a year or so away from a low level rated show, open shows offer the opportunity to get experience against some solid competitors and arena time for my horse. They are also a great people watching experience.
Here are just some of the characters I’ve encountered at various shows over the years.
The Someone Said Horses Spectators:
These people know absolutely nothing about horses or horse competitions. They happened to be in the area looking for some inexpensive entertainment and Voila! There is a horse show going on. They usually meander through the barn and exhibitor areas jumping every time a horse swings its head in their direction or stomps at a fly. They will tell everyone in their party that a drooping hind leg means cocked to kick, and will ask if your horse bites before tentatively reaching a hand toward its neck. They’re outraged that the really pretty horse didn’t win the class, despite crappy transitions and blowing it’s lead in both directions of the arena.
The Weekend Warrior Trainers:
These trainers are big time. Every aspect of their operation flows like a well-oiled machine. You can identify them by the matching stall curtains and color coordinated equipment advertising their business. They are at a different competition every week making sure their impeccably turned out horses and clients get the show mileage to bring home the year end awards. Usually very nice to all competitors (always hoping to gain new clients), their record speaks for itself. They don’t have anything to prove.
The Clueless Parents:
Usually found following the Weekend Warrior Trainers, they have no idea what’s going on, but little Suzie wants to show horses. They flinch every time an equine moves, snorts, and stomps. These parents are generally easy to spot, Mom with her over-sized designer purse, slacks, and flats. Dad in his polo and khakis, both camped out in the director chairs by the fancy stall curtains. Can be counted on to console Suzie when she doesn’t pin in her class because she ignored everything her trainer told her.
The Horse Show Parents:
May be a middle class family on a budget or originally started out as Clueless Parents, but now these campaigners know the drill. They sacrifice their entire weekend and alot of cash to support their child’s hobby. Usually covered in all manner of equine debris, carrying spare bridles, buckets, rags, hay nets, and yelling at their offspring during a tack change to hurry up before they miss their class. These parents loudly dole out criticism, tough love, and threats to get out of horses completely to sulky children for the rest of the barn to hear.
The Wannabe Trainer:
This low level trainer never quite made the transition to “professional”, and lacks the polish and demeanor to impress high paying clients. Usually this trainer had a few show wins during their early career, and is still fighting their own mediocrity. Typically drags three or four less than impressive horses and sloppily turned out clients to the event. The Wannabe commandeers the entire warm-up arena as their personal practice area threatening to run over any competitors that venture into their space. You can count on at least one of Wannabe’s horses to dump it’s rider in the warm-up which will be followed by an arm flapping, loud, discipline session ending with a heaving horse that barely has the energy to walk back to its stall let alone throw another rider.
The Wolf Pack:
These are the non-competing siblings and trainer offspring. They run around the show grounds like a pack of feral dogs, you will find them wrestling in arena dirt and climbing the barn structures like monkeys. Sometimes useful in a pinch, you can convince one to make a last minute run back to retrieve a forgotten item in the barn. They have a basic understanding of equines and are therefore more helpful than the Clueless Parents.
The Rated/Breed Show Snobs:
These competitors show breed shows exclusively, except when they failed to collect the necessary points to qualify for more prestigious events. They’re only slumming it with the Open show crowd to earn the points they could not win against stronger competition. Breed Show Snobs can be counted on to point out every way that the open show, management, and open show competitors are inferior to their preferred venues. Their catch phrase is “Well, this certainly isn’t a Breed Show!” to explain why an open show competitor on a horse of questionable breeding placed above them.
The Show Friends:
Horse shows are a social event for these ladies. They usually attend all of the same shows, and while they want to win, they’re really out to have fun. Drinks and jokes flow freely with this group and they’re always happy to add more within their ranks. You’ll find them happily chatting it up during the line-up or arena side cheering on their friends.
The One-Man Show Competitor:
This competitor enjoys getting out there with their horse. Usually showing on a budget, these people are the trainer, groom, competitor, and transport combined into a single package. They lack the financial and/or social support to have an entourage accompany them around the show world. This competitor is trying to avoid being run over by the Wannabe trainer, picking up show tips from the Weekend Warriors, and doing their best not to make a complete a$$ of themselves in front of the Breed Show snobs.
The Teenage Drama Princess:
Little Suzie grew up, and is riding the push button packer her Clueless Parents purchased from the Weekend Warriors. Her boyfriend is scared of horses and is hanging out with her BFF while she’s at the show. She’s checking social media incessantly, blocking the in gate, and rolling her eyes at everything. Suzie’s faithful mount knows the pattern by heart, so it doesn’t really matter whether her heart is in the competition today or not. They’ll still bring home the blue.
The Old Campaigner:
One of my personal favorites…The Old Campaigner has been there, brought home the trophies, and bought the T-shirt at all the prestigious shows, but their heart isn’t in the competition any longer. Travelling to horse shows is as essential as breathing to them. Old Campaigners have an amazingly talented automatic animal that is entered into exactly one class. They have the most expensive tack and clothes in the barn that may or may not see the arena this weekend. Drives living quarter trailer four hours to set-up full stall drapes, tack area, and fully stocked cooler by their stalls. May forget to show in that single class, but lives to drink, chat, and swap stories with all of the competitors that venture down their aisle way. Warning this person can be a time suck, they are so friendly it’s easy to lose track of time. Old Campaigners love being around and talking about horses more than they actually like competing.
The I Heart Horses Girl:
This competitor is transitioning from pre-teen to teen. While most of her horse friends, like Suzie, are more interested in maintaining a social life, this girl still loves horses more than anything. Awkward can often be a defining feature, and she probably relates to animals better than people. Her friends and family are hoping her horse obsession phase ends soon, but secretly I Heart Horses Girl is trying to figure out how to make this horse gig a career because this is a lifestyle not a hobby.
The Surrogate Parent Trainer:
Surrogate Parent Trainer is a master of herding cats. Clueless and Horse Show Parents that have finally tired of competition life send their children on a weekend long trip to the show with the trainer. These horse professionals show up with a hoard of teens that will sleep in a vacant stall by the horses. The Surrogate Parent Trainer will essentially play drill sergeant keeping troops, both human and animal, in line throughout the event with minimal casualties. They provide horse show and life advice in equal measure.
These are just a few of the sparkling personalities I’m looking forward to seeing this year. We currently have five shows identified for the 2019 season, if family and career permit me to attend them all!