WRITTEN BY: Madison Durchslag
Whether you are experienced in the show ring or have just started showing, looking for a good horse show can be difficult. Different shows offer different experiences, and it can be hard to know what to prioritize. Think of this list as a template to judge each show on your personal needs. A disclaimer for this is that I understand that some people, for various reasons, may not have many options for different shows to attend. If that is the case, this list could also help evaluate what you may like and dislike about the show you are going to.
One thing to consider is the location of the horse show. If the whole family is going are there things to do in the area that they find it enjoyable? Are there good restaurants? or is it in a rural setting or closer to the city?. Those are just a few location-based questions to ask. There are more questions that will change based on you, your horses, and your barn's needs.
Quality of Competition
The quality of the competition is something to keep in mind. In my opinion, it isn't a deal-breaker, but it should be kept in mind. a competitive show will probably (depending on the class, week, etc.) have larger classes, but if you do well in a large, competitive class, for me at least, it feels way more rewarding. There isn't a right or wrong answer for this, but it is something to consider since it will have a significant impact on what your show experience is.
Quality of Showgrounds
The quality of the showgrounds is something to definitely keep in mind. It includes the stabling conditions, turnout, as well as how well the showgrounds are kept. Are the arena's dragged frequently? Is the footing good? Are the rings not too small?. Honestly, this category is HUGE, and I could spend hours writing questions pertaining to this topic. Again like other topics I'm mentioning, you will have to decide what you look for in the quality of the showgrounds.
To be honest, I am not the most knowledgeable on this topic as this is the part of the horse show that I experience the least, but I do know that this can make the difference between an enjoyable show experience and a nightmare. The part that I know the least about is the financial aspect of management, as I know for most people this is one of the most significant parts of showing to consider. I would consult with your parents/trainers in this part. The part I do have more experience it would be the organization of the show. For this part, you may need to talk to someone who has shown there previously if you haven't shown there before. Do the classes run according to their posted time? Is the "check-in/check-out" process unproblematic? And is it a generally well-run show? To reiterate what I have said before, there are more questions to ask that pertains to the show's management and this is a topic you should look into with help beyond this article.
Besides the actual horse show, what else does the horse show offer?. For example, I have been to some horse shows that had a volleyball match after the Grand Prix, another one had a carousel that ran on the weekend. Things like this are NOT a necessity, and some of the examples I gave were very extreme. But I find that when a show has a little something extra, or something outside of showing that is memorable it takes the show experience to a whole new level. I would not let this be a determining factor when deciding if a show is good or not and you can have the best experience without this. I only put it down because when I think of my top three favorite horse shows, they all have something that falls into this category.
I know that the topics on this list are very open-ended, and that was the intention. This isn't a definitive list of things a show must have, or else it is terrible, it is more of a jumping-off point to prompt you to consider the pros and cons of a show. If you think of more things for a show to have that is important to you and your needs, add it to your list!