Recently, Athletux sat down with Shannon Riley of Infinity Sport Horse to learn more about her tips for showing young horses. With loads of experience riding horses from their first ride off the track all the way up to the FEI levels, she is the perfect person to help give advice about taking your green horse to his or her first show!
Do your homework before heading to the show
Make sure this isn’t your horse’s first time off the property and that they’ve seen “all the things” (ie water, ditches, banks, jumps with fillers) without the pressure of the show, or find a schooling show where you can school the day before.
Scout out the schooling options
Try to get out and about at less expensive schooling show venues so you don’t feel pressure to finish for the record or because of the budget. I often take a circle in show jumping on babies, or an extra circle in the dressage test because we’re not there to beat anyone, but to produce a better horse for next time!
Find a quiet place
So often I see people fight their horses for 30 minutes in the chaos of warm-up. Many venues offer other places to warm-up if you take a bit of time to look around, such as the jump area before jumping classes, or even behind trailer parking. I try to eliminate the stress of warm-up until I have my horse’s attention and a bit of relaxation, and even then I may never make it to the actual warm-up area. Even in the jumping portions, I may jump a couple of fences, but we’re not there to teach the horses how to jump, and the chaos of bad steering around you may cause more stress than a couple of extra jumps will help.
Remember this is for their education, not a ribbon
If you need to circle an extra time in your dressage so they actually take a breather, do it! If you need to circle in show jumping to get that good balance, do it! Don’t let all your good work and training go out the window just because there’s a score.
Timing is important
You probably don’t ride your 4-year-old at home for an hour. Don’t suddenly change that at the show. The show environment will take more out of them sooner. I love to get a good long walk in, but I’ve had that backfire when we never actually managed to walk, and I was on for an extra 10 mins of anxious jigging.
Don’t be afraid to try something like Nupafeed Magnesium Paste to give them a positive, focused experience
Better living through chemistry and proven formulas! The top riders utilize things like that all the time to get an edge on the competition and score an extra couple of points for relaxation, why wouldn’t you help your youngster take a few extra deep breaths!
Don’t bring your stopwatch on cross country
I am a stickler about this sort of thing. Too often I see riders get so consumed with the time that they forget to ride their horse. I believe you can start using the watch once you’ve developed proficiency at any level, but never for the first one. Focus on finding a good quality canter and focus on finding good easy lines. The time will be there.