Now that many show riders have wrapped up their show season it might be a good time to reflect upon our time in the show ring. Do you feel that you progressed during the season, meaning did your performances improve as the year went on? How did your horse handle the shows? Did you and your horse enjoy it and have fun? Are you going to set some goals to improve and continue on next year? How do you improve?

I would recommend compiling the judge’s comments and pick the top three that showed up the most on your cards. These might be a good set of priorities to work on. I would also make a list of three minor things to work on as a way to break it up for you and your horse, especially if you are seeing real progress in the top three. Usually, a second or third set of eyes will help you make these corrections part of your skill set. This may involve spending a couple of training and riding sessions with a trainer or clinician you know and trust. Schedule up a few hours with them, then practice and ask for their opinion when you are either stuck or feel that you have it down pat. It will cost you a few dollars and some time, but it will be money and time well spent and you will more than likely learn something new about your riding or your horse and that is always valuable.

If the judge is in your hometown and you have the option of getting with them (or any dressage judge) for feedback, this would also be an excellent option. If your horse had some anxiety being at a show in a new place, go practice where you show.

While I encourage riders to continually assess their horsemanship, set goals and work on things, don’t wear it out. Now is the time to do something a bit different to give your horse and yourself a mental break. Go for a trail ride, offer to help the neighbor move their cows or go participate in a poker ride. Anything you can do to break the monotony of working in and on the show ring will go a long ways to ensuring a good work ethic and enjoyment of the task you ask of your horse. You could also take this time to work on other issues not necessarily related to the show ring, but you didn’t have time to deal with during the show season. Maybe your horse balks a bit when you ask him to enter the trailer, or he gets uncomfortable when you work on his right side. Work on plugging the holes and filling the gaps of your relationship with your horse. The only limit is your imagination. It is those little things that can help you get a change clear through.

Polish up what you do well in order to keep it good, but train the hardest to your weakness.

Thanks for reading.

Tom Kelner