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Trainer Confessions: Horse Show Rants

This is an anonymous post from a guest writer. We asked Trainers what they would write if they could share whatever they wanted without worrying about social media backlash or stereotyping. This article does not (necessarily) represent the beliefs of Austin Eventing. Here are their thoughts. Thank you for the outpouring of support for this blog idea.

As show season approaches, I find myself looking forward to the busy weekends while at the same time dreading the inevitable moments where I will have to restrain myself from strangling my students.

Without a doubt, there will be one (or five) student(s) who will get to the show on Friday and try to cram months worth of training into the Friday ride in an effort to have a decent dressage test the next day. I will hear all about how the horse won’t work through the corners appropriately and/or won’t track straight down the long side. I will remind my student that for the past 3-6 months I have been stressing the need to ride accurate corners and focus on straightness through the horse’s body, only to have the student pout and go on to complain that she can’t do a decent canter transition, as if this is a new thing. If you can’t get a decent canter transition at home, what do you expect when you come to the show? Was the decent canter transition supposed to magically appear the day of your dressage test? While we are at it, haven’t I told you 52,000 times that riding around with your elbows out like a chicken doesn’t really facilitate elastic contact with a straight line from the elbow to the bit? Are you just NOW realizing that you actually can’t pull your horse’s head down? Did you sustain a head injury before the horse show and is that why you seem surprised by the fact that your horse is going around exactly as you have prepared him to perform? I could go on and on here about all of the things I will either say or want to say at the shows this season, so I decided to make a list:

  • Oh, you are surprised that you forgot your dressage test? Is it possibly because you tried to memorize it 10 minutes before your ride time?

  • You seem confused about why you can’t execute a straight path down center line with a decent halt. Let me clear it up for you. It is because you never actually practice tracking straight down center line and completing a correct halt. Working on this once a week in lessons isn’t enough. I guess riding around aimlessly when you ride on your own isn’t really helping, is it?

  • About the jump on cross country when your horse ran out to the right….no, he didn’t do that as a calculated move to piss you off, he did it because you were pulling him to the right and had no leg and you were leaning forward. So congratulations, he did as you asked.

  • I am sorry you are so tired after cross country because you spend most of your time on the couch when not riding, but seriously, take care of your damn horse and don’t even let me catch you handing the horse off to your mother.

  • You seem flustered because you didn’t get a good warm up. Can it possibly be because you seem to be incapable of waking up early and actually getting to the horse show at a decent time to prepare?

  • You forgot your show jumping course? I wonder if it is because you either a) couldn’t get up early enough to walk the course with the rest of our group, or b) were too tired after having ridden that you skipped out on the late afternoon/evening course walk. Go the gym, lazy teenager.

  • You are looking really swell with your unkempt hair flying about as you go into the dressage ring. I also really admire the unclipped tail and half ass braids. Did I also mention that I really liked the look you were sporting during the Friday schooling ride? Your untucked, ratty t-shirt and Dublin or Dubarry boots rather than appropriate riding boots really completed the presentation. I additionally enjoyed seeing bits of shavings in your horse’s tail.

  • You didn’t get a ribbon? That’s strange. I wonder if it is because you ride maybe twice a week at best?

  • Why did you get so many rails in stadium? It might be because you rode around with half of your body on your horse’s head while at the same time gunning your horse at every fence? I am just guessing here.

As I was writing the above words I started thinking about the rest of it all- like the time after the last ride on Saturday when everyone gathers together for happy hour (happy hour starts at 3:00, right?), or the cross country course walk at twilight on Friday, when the weekend still glitters with possibility and no one is throwing a fit after a bad test/cross country run/unfortunate stadium round. I am reminded that I will never cease to be taken aback when a student reaches down to hug her horse with a huge smile after completing a phase of competition. I am reminded of the time I was running like a maniac after a student on cross country, trying to watch every jump, tears streaming down my face because she finally finished her first double clear novice cross country course. I still remember how it felt to kneel down at the end of that course as she crossed the finish line, that quiet moment. Time pausing to give me a chance to shape the feeling to memory. I remember standing up again to jump up and down with my student’s mother, our faces smeared with dirt and tears. I remember what I said to my student: I am so proud of you. I am so proud of you

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