What to Look for in a Schooling Show

Photo: Bob Cromack/Flickr/CC Photo: Bob Cromack/Flickr/CC

You take a chance and get an entry in to a show that promises “good for green horses/riders.” Driving closer you see trailers everywhere and no real parking available; a manure pile right in front of the only warmup arena; and geese inhabiting a large pond across from the show ring, squawking and flapping their wings. The loudspeaker is popping and scratching, then some country music begins to blare from the speaker.

There are too many little ponies running about with pink-clad small humans clinging to them and, chasing after them, frazzled parents. The warmup arena has one loose horse per hour. The dust cloud rises from the show ring. Your green horse says, “Really?” And you are thinking this was a bad idea. Your once-broken collar bone begins to ache. You get that buzzing in your head that says warning, bad decision ahead….

While I haven’t listed ALL the bad things that could happen at an unrecognized schooling show, I’ve hit a lot of them. I don’t know how some shows manage to keep entries coming in, but I do know that as a rider and show manager myself, I agonize over things like parking, footing, distraction-free warmup and dust. I hate dust.

If you have a green horse and you’re looking for good shows as an introduction, it is hard to find quality opportunities without getting into looking at recognized events, which may be too-much-too-soon for a green horse. How do you find good warm-up shows?

Look in your local area first. Check the online stable listings, calendars, and Facebook calendar posts. Inquire — send an email to the organizer and ask questions! Stop by the facility to see if it’s got a decent arena, footing and jumps. Ask your friends if they’ve attended a show there in the past, and what they liked and disliked.

I haven’t even mentioned money yet, because it’s really about the horse first. From atmosphere to safety, keep at the forefront your horse’s well-being while he’s trying to perform for you.