A Life Without Horse Shows

A Life Without Horse Shows

I’ve been competitive my entire life. I’m not sure if the figure skating started it, or if I was drawn to figure skating because of it but I’ve never known a period of time where I didn’t want to be the absolute best at something.

First it was double sow-cows and flying camels. Then it was riding horses with 4H shows and much later, IHSA equitation. When I took a break from riding during my time in MA, I turned to plastic horses instead and showed those (which yes, is a thing). Then when I moved to Texas, I eventually found Simon and spent countless hours and dollars turning him into the best show horse I could. I can’t think of the last time I’ve had a horse, or really any hobby, without a directly competitive goal.

But now? I haven’t shown since the hunter derby in April. Most of that was due to the fact that I knew I’d be going to school, and needed to re-allocate funds to other areas to prepare for my big move. That’s what I told people at least, but honestly — I haven’t really wanted to show.

I’ve taken lessons here or there, and I’ve worked on things with Simon at home at times… but typically we just putz around. I ride him for my enjoyment and the mental release I get from sitting on my horse. I’m so fortunate I have a horse like him in my life that can be my friend during this life transition, but it’s a little strange.

When I went to the horse show this weekend, I was struck with this odd mix of relaxation and regret. Watching the bobbles in the ring and stresses that come from showing, I was thrilled that my horse was happy munching hay at home and I was spectating in yoga pants with a cup of wine instead of boots and breeches (also probably with a cup of wine, because that’s how I roll). Later when I watched the hunter derby and a series of rounds that I knew we could beat, I felt myself wishing I was doing a hand gallop to the last oxer with my best friend.

The next day when I went to the barn to ride, I actually put on boots and put Simon’s jumper tack on. We warmed up with a proper trot, transitions and haunches in. I picked out a few loopy courses of singles, got a lead change and ended with a super fresh horse happily cantering up to a 2’6″ vertical and launching over it like it was 3’3″. Despite the heat and dusty ring, we both were smiling.

Simon is fitter and better trained than he’s ever been. Earlier this spring when I had the vet out for injecting hocks and a lameness check, he said Simon looks better than he’s ever seen him. This is his prime, and I’m about to whisk him off to California to be my pet during grad school.

Part of me feels a little sad about this, and I have some regrets. Ever since I got Simon, I wanted to point chase at our local circuit towards a year end award. It’d be a very attainable goal if life hadn’t bowled me over on my ass for the past two years. In the five years I’ve had him, this horse has made so many of my dreams come true, but now I’m chasing other dreams.

They’re worth chasing, but I’m a little tired of hearing myself tell people how I don’t miss showing. I guess that dialogue is sounding a little tired and dishonest, because this weekend I had a hard time believing it.

Right now I’m having to remind myself that horses can be a lifelong sport and commitment. Just because I’m not showing now, does not mean I won’t be in five or ten or who knows how many years. I’ve always done my best to keep Simon physically fit and take exceptional care of him, and I hope those efforts are rewarded with a long history of performance soundness for the both of us.

Who knows, maybe I can swing enough part time jobs and boarding luck to find a situation where we can show a little bit in the next few years. Stranger things have happened. Until then, I’m going to try my best to be thankful for my horse on his own and remember that riding is about so much more than the pursuit of satin.

17 thoughts on “A Life Without Horse Shows

  1. While I am at a different point in life, I am at the same stage of riding right now so this struck home with me. It is so important that showing comes and goes, but the riding and love of our ponies stays.

    1. This! And sometimes you find yourself horseless with two tiny babies and reading horse blogs to scratch the itch! Different life seasons require different levels of engagement and enjoyment.

  2. What L said. And definitely what Terise said too. But if it’s any consolation, I had a 10-year horse show hiatus due to a bunch of life changes (grad school, moving, moving again, etc.) and was able to pick right back up where I left off my my heart horse DC. He was a show horse through and through–not great on trail. He was very spooky, but knew when to pull it together in the show ring. We didn’t win any amazing ribbons upon our re-entry, but I have pictures of me with a Texas-sized smile that matter more than the satin. And a video somewhere of us leaving out strides in a hunter round. We were majestic!

  3. I miss showing. I finally have a horse, but funds always seem better used elsewhere. So I just remind myself showing is the icing, horses are the cake.

  4. I always tell myself that horses will always be there for me when I need them. This was true after a long post-college-poverty period of no riding. And it was true after things fell apart with Izzy and I was kinda out of the loop for a season. That doesn’t necessarily do much to make you feel better about taking advantage of Simon and his abilities *right now*, but then again I don’t know too many horses to seem to have strong ambitions one way or another. Wishing you luck that the move plays out in such a way that the opportunities are available to you should you wish for them!

  5. Horse showing in grad school is not impossible, but it isn’t easy, either. I wound up taking a really long break from showing because of grad school, and then being horseless a few years. But I think opportunities will present themselves when the time is right. And that you get to take Simon with you is pretty awesome!

    1. Yeah, that’s certainly the most important (and awesome) thing. I guess that’s one advantage of going later in life, because I wouldn’t have had my ducks in a row enough to bring him with me five years ago.

  6. Having kids rang the death knell for my competitive career — too little time, too much coordination and too much flack from my husband. For a brief few months I had an amazing groom/babysitter who managed to braid my horse and take care of my two year old, for some ungodly small sum . . . Then, many years of riding and schooling with the occasional dressage show (unlike hunter shows you have ride times and can plan your day around them). Luckily, I discovered foxhunting. I love riding cross country with friends. It’s the best part of eventing with none of the stress. You get a nice lunch when it’s all over and most of the time I was able to drop a kid at school and be home by pick up time.

  7. You definitely have time to go back to showing! I took a nearly 10 year hiatus and am now back in the ring. Settle and find your way. Simon loves you whether in or out of the ring.

  8. I know it sucks right now, but you will be able to find your way back to the ring when you are capable and have more time/funds. And as for Simon, I don’t think Nerd-horse will mind being “just a pet” 😉

  9. I miss showing. And ten times more when I go spectate at one. But I think that longing is what will bring me (and you too!) back to it when the time is right. I’m having so much fun doing what my horses can do right now. For Jampy, it might mean getting back in the ring a little bit in the fall (maybe…). For Rio, some days it’s putting the side pull on his face and sitting on him while he snacks in the yard.
    Showing will be there when you’re ready for it again. In the meantime, Simon is here for you now, however you spend the time with him.

  10. If you want it to happen you will make it happen, you are that type of woman! Follow your heart, maybe a break is what you need for now, and shows again soon. Also, fab photos.

  11. I’m currently experiencing the same thing, although not in grad school I’m in nursing school. Once I started school my horse decided he hated being in a stall and now lives outside 24/7 much to my dismay(I sometimes wish my horse had the diva gene but oh well). He gets ridden once maybe twice a week and gets body work done bi weekly which is about 35$ a session and keeps him happy and fit so I could probably get him back into show fit in about a month and he would be fine. Your horse reminds me of my unicorn very much! Just remember you’re not showing right now but it’s just a period of time, not forever. And trust me you may need to say it 3-4 times a day haha. But you will get back in the ring and your nerd horse will be ready❤️❤️

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