Guest post by Sarah:
A couple conversations I’ve had with my husband about budgeting for this summer’s shows and with friends about why I ride recently got me thinking about why I approach riding and showing the way I do. Obviously, my personal enjoyment is one aspect. But would I be happy just plodding around, with no real objectives? Probably not. I like learning, I like improving, I like challenging myself. (And I love off track Thoroughbreds, and want to show others how awesome these horses are, but that’s a separate post.) For me, showing is an integral part of the experience, and is a way for me to benchmark my progress. That’s why I’ve sought professional help.
In this case, ‘professional help’ means a few things. It means, first and foremost, working with a trainer (in my case, Christy) on a regular basis. I take lessons twice a week, have her do training rides on my horse when 1) I’m out of town or 2) have really messed things up and need help. I also hire her services when I go to shows, paying her a trainer’s fee that equates roughly to the cost of three lessons. Over the years, I’ve learned how valuable this is, and it’s one expense I refuse to trim.
Having a trainer at your side at a show is, in my experience, invaluable. Standard practice with our show team is to arrive a day early, get set up, and school the horses and riders. We start with a “trail ride” around the show grounds, letting horses (and riders) check out all the scenery. We walk all over the place – by the concession stand, into and around all the warm up rings, into the competition rings, around the barns – all over the grounds. Everyone gains confidence and comfort from this first exercise.
Later that day, Christy gives us each a lesson, fine tuning us for the next day’s performance.
On show day, she oversees our warm up as we prepare to enter the ring for our tests. Her last minute reminders to her riders – delivered via slick long range walkie-talkies, ensure that we all go into the ring focused and ready to perform our best. After each ride, Christy reviews the scores and judge’s comments with each of us, discussing the ride and adjusting tactics and strategies for upcoming tests. She also maintains a schedule for everyone, mapping out ride times, and corresponding warm up time, and managing all the little things (broken zippers, equipment checks, rider nerves) and big things (horse melt downs, technical questions) for her team.
Showing with a trainer also means that I have someone helping look out for the welfare and care of my horse. Christy coordinates bringing the feed for the horses, muck buckets and pitchforks for cleaning stalls, and curtains for the tack stall, which gives us a nice, private place to change into and out of show gear (certainly better than trying toget into white breeches in a port-a-potty!) and a secure place to stow our trunks. Overall, being able to use her traveling equipment and sharing the well-outfitted tack stall contributes to my overall enjoyment of the show. And more practically, it would cost me more than the trainers fees I pay to buy all the gear we need on the road myself.
I think one reason why we have so much fun together is the fact that Christy is so well prepared, it makes it easy for us to enjoy the show. Instead of being freaked out about details, we’re able to actually relax, ride confidently, and enjoy showing. All totaled, she probably spends untold (and unpaid) hours consulting on bits, helping with show clothes, chasing down registration details and who knows what else to help us out. And at shows, she is organized, gives everyone the attention and support they need, and has the equipment needed to take a stable on the road. After shows, she celebrates our successes, and starts upping our game for the next outing.We’re happy, our horses are happy, and frankly, I think it shows in the results we have garnered.
There’s no question that a symbiotic partnership has formed. Christy runs a business, and any success I may achieve helps her grow her reputation. So, we both have a vested interest in my fledgling show career. It’s good to have a pro in your corner!