The world of horse shows can be a complex one to navigate as a newbie horse show parent. Stress can be as high as the bill that you're about to be handed by your child's trainer, and pushy parents can quickly turn a child's dream of Olympic (short stirrup) gold into a sour experience. If you want to win at horse show parenting, here are 3 horse show faux pas to avoid.
Don't Make it a Fashion Show.
Whether you're at the Winter Equestrian Festival or your local Hunter Jumper Association's schooling show, there will always be those horse show moms. You know who they are. They're the ones we love to hate because we're all secretly jealous of their general put-togetherness. They've got a full face of makeup on, long blonde hair cascading down their backs, some kind of fashionable, flowy top on and white pants.
You heard me. White pants. At a horse show.
Let's be clear. The only reason you should be wearing white pants at a horse show is if it's classic day and you're about to hop on your jumper for a go in the Low AOs.
Horse Show Dads are equally guilty of this kind of horse show fashion faux pas. Sandals at a horse show? Not a good idea. Not only is it downright dangerous - hello there, 1500 pounds of horse - but no one likes flip-flops full of sand. Skip the open toed shoes and go for a solid athletic shoe or boot instead. Your feet will thank you.
Unless your pony kid is showing at the Hampton Classic or you're taking them in leadline at Devon, nothing screams "I'm here for the Instagram photos that make my life look fancy" like turning your kid's horse show into a fashion show.
Don't Make it All About the Ribbons. Instead, Embrace the Experience.
Over the years, I've seen this happen time and time again, and it is so sad. A rider finishes their day at the horse show with a huge smile because they've met their goals, only to encounter their parent complaining to the trainer about their child not winning a ribbon. After all, they paid all this money, and they don't even get to take home a stinking ribbon?
Parents, please understand that equestrian sports are very different from many other sports. When we're competing at a horse show, riders are most often competing against themselves and trying to beat their personal best. While it might not make sense when looked at through the lens of other sports, equestrian sports have one element that no other sport has - the involvement of a living, breathing animal with a mind of its own and the capacity to be really dangerous without even trying.
Some of the best horse show experiences I've had are the shows where I've won the fewest ribbons because I've accomplished something I previously thought was out of reach - moving up a division, or getting through a jumper round without a time fault for example.
In the end, sometimes it's enough just to be able to have the experience of competing at the horse show at all. Don't lessen your child's enjoyment of the experience by shifting the focus to winning.
Don't Be a Coach. Be a Photographer Instead.
Ask any trainer anywhere what their biggest horse show parent pet peeve is and they will likely say the same thing. Parents who try to act as their child's coach on horse show day.
While parents who try to coach at a horse show often do so with the best of intentions or as a way to cope with their own nerves, your child's trainer is their trainer for a reason. You've done your research (hopefully) and your trainer and child have worked hard to get to this point. They have goals that have been set, and challenges to overcome to meet those goals. Respect that relationship. A rider relies on their coach for more than just tips and tricks, and while no one knows your child quite like you do, your trainer has learned how to interact and communicate with them in a way that works for both of them. Keeping your distance when your child is working with their coach is also important for their safety. Your child's trainer not only knows your child, but he or she knows your child's horse and how it might react. This is especially important in the exciting and unfamiliar environment of a horse show.
Step back, take lots and lots of pictures, help your rider stay hydrated, and try to enjoy the experience of watching your child do something they love!
Do you have other tips for first time horse show parents or any pet peeves that we missed? Tell us about them in the comments!
Happy horse showing!