If you are a new horse show parent, there is a lot to learn. It’s different than typical activities because you most likely are not familiar with horse shows. But if your kids play soccer or baseball or football, you understand the game at least. But being a horse show parent is an entirely different situation with a big learning curve. To help you get started, here are our twelve best tips.
1. Be Patient (with horse show timing).
Horse show timing is a little different at every show. And though understanding the math of horse show timing makes it a lot easier to gauge, it can often go off the rails. You may be told a certain time by your trainer or by the paddock master, and through no fault of their own, it may change.
The point here is to be ready to adapt and roll with it. Don’t schedule anything time-sensitive directly afterward. Prepare to set yourself up comfortably and enjoy your day at the horse show!
2. Model Good Sportsmanship
This is so crucial. Kids learn from watching their parents. And though we all want to win, nobody gets to win every class. And even if you have a horse show hot streak, or if your competition does, it could change at any time.
It’s super important to model good sportsmanship by being a class act at the horse show. Start with not talking down other riders or other teams. And do your best not to denigrate the judge if you don’t agree with their call. Many of these classes are judged subjectively, and we all know this when we sign up for the classes. All anyone can do is respect the sport and do their best to improve.
The other crucial component is to show good sportsmanship amongst your team. As much as possible, show up and cheer for your barnmates in other rings. It really makes the horse show experience so much more fun for everyone! If nothing else, you can leave your kids with the gang to bond. However, immersing yourself as a parent really makes the entire event a family experience- one your kids will remember.
Another great thing is to show them how you compliment and support others, even when you personally aren’t having the best day. Conversely, being supportive of those who are struggling when you are doing well is important too. It really teaches kids to think about others and their needs, which is a great life lesson.
3. Listen to & Trust your trainer
It can be hard to understand why your trainer may make a certain training decision on behalf of your horse or child. Plus, they may not have a lot of time in the moment to answer questions.
The truth is, your trainer wants the best for your child and your horse. They want you to perform well and feel good about your experience in the long run. They have seen a lot and they will use their experience to do the very best they can for you. They are working very hard to make sure the entire crew has a great horse show.
If you have questions, let them know you’d like to catch up with them when they have a moment, and then let them do their thing. Trust them to help you. If you are in a good program (like Horse Show Leases) you will be glad you did. If you are not in a good program, it will become evident.
4. Give your kid some space
It’s really tempting since you are putting forth so much effort, to expect your kids to be super receptive to all the love and attention you want to lavish on them. However, your kids are feeling nerves and pressure, and they may need to have a little space. They like to know you are there for them. They want to please you- whether they will admit it or not. So even if you just want to tell them you love them, good luck, have fun, before they walk in- it can really amp up the nerves for them.
Just knowing you are there for them, that you care enough to show up and watch, means everything.
5. But be their best cheerleader
Not to confuse the issue, but when they are done with their classes, that’s your moment to be their cheerleader. If they did well, let them know how proud you are! If they had a bad day, give them a hug and remind them how far they’ve come. Or tell them how much it pleased you to see them supporting their teammates or taking great care of their horse.
And if they need some quiet time to process, let that be ok. At least, for a little bit. Then it’s onward and upward!
6. Appreciate the grooms
If you are lucky enough to have professional grooms helping you at the horse show, realize how hard they are working. They are deeply invested in the care of your animal, and the success of the team.
It’s really important to show them you appreciate their long, hard days. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to show your children how important it is to appreciate people who support the team behind the scenes. You can show the grooms how great it is to have them around in a number of ways:
- new jacket/ boots/ gloves/ something they need
Tips are the easiest, and also the preferred way. Those people work a lot longer and harder than most people you tip. Show they it means something to you. Be as generous as you can- these people have devoted their lives to this.
7. Be ready with healthy snacks and drinks
Horse shows almost always have food. From concession stands to food trucks to full-on restaurants, there are options. However, buying from those is usually not your healthiest or most cost-effective option.
Having a cooler with ample water and healthy snacks can go a long way to enhancing performance and focus. We are all more clear-minded when not on a sugar high or carb coma. So make sure to pack some better options and so everyone can be feeling good.
8. Take photos and videos
Photos and videos can not only commemorate the event but can provide the opportunity for learning. Be sure to video each round, because sometimes it’s hard for riders to truly know how it looks, versus how it feels. It’s also an opportunity for you, as a horse show parent, to learn more about the class. Going over it the video with your child and trainer can really allow for understanding.
9. Tap into Horse Show Parent Superpowers
Whatever your thing is- your personal superpower- use it. Are you an organizational genius? Keep that trunk, clothes, and equipment sorted beautifully. Are you a great cook? Bring a fantastic dish to share. Are you a people person? Get everybody revved up to cheer the participants on! Are you a data junkie? Keep track of everyone’s points for them. Everyone has a thing, and you can find a place for that thing at the horse show!
10. Appreciate the horse
Remember that you are also “parent” to a horse! Take the opportunity to bond with the horse a little bit. Not only will your child appreciate your interest, but the horse will do. Bring them some special treats, give them some extra pats, and learn their personality! It might be fun!
To get the most out of your horse show experience, contact Alicia at Horse Show Leases!