I had never been one of those “horse show girls." I rode simply to learn and have fun; competing never cross my mind. I was always very reserved and timid, so naturally, horse shows were very out of my comfort zone. I did a couple of fun shows at home where I felt more secure on the property of the farm with people I knew, but the daunting idea of traveling to shows was never an endeavor I dared to pursue. Until last year.
Last year I went to a local 4-H show. Even though the fairgrounds were only about 15 minutes away from the barn, the thought of traveling with the horse I rode to another place where I’d be competing against strangers was terrifying. Looking back, I’m not sure what made me decide to go.
It was my first show off of the property, and the same for Cisco, the Anglo-Arabian I lease in the summer. Before going into the ring, I remember being a wreck. Cisco was very touchy and unsure about his surroundings, and wouldn’t even stand still long enough for me to throw the saddle on him. Sure enough though, with the help of my trainer, I was boosted up into the saddle, and surprisingly, all my worries faded. Yes, Cisco was not an easy ride that day, to say the least. We placed last in all three classes we were in. I wasn’t upset though. The fact that we had gotten the courage to go into that arena and came out in one piece was a huge accomplishment for both of us. Thus, my attitude towards showing got a little readjustment after that day.
Surely enough, once September rolled around, I joined my college’s equestrian team. The team was brand new and only a few people were on it, and everyone was welcome. To be part of a team was such a comfort, and a wonderful experience. We would be competing at other colleges together in the IHSA. Many of the other colleges we were up against specialized in equine studies, so everyone on those teams were serious riders. Most students at these schools rode at least 2 hours a day, 5 times a week. Needless to say, the competition was very tough, and it was a struggle to place at all, let alone hope for a blue ribbon. Still, we weren’t daunted.
I learned so much from watching my competitors and worked hard whenever I was able to fit riding time in to try and perfect my equitation. Then there’s the priceless experience of riding the horse you draw. Talk about scary! Getting on a horse you’ve never ridden before and going straight into the arena to show what you’ve got. These horses have taught me so much, and made me be flexible. All the horses were very well trained of course, but each had their own little quirks that you had to quickly access and work through. If there’s one thing that will help make you a better riding, that is it.
I've done a complete about face when it came to horse shows. Not to say that I don’t get butterflies from time to time before going into the arena, but I’ve come to appreciate the amazing learning experience that showing is. The hard work and dedication needed to do well has pushed me, and the experiences I’ve had are absolutely unforgettable. Showing is a privilege, and there is so much to be gained from it. It has had such a positive impact on my life, and I can’t begin to express how blessed I am to have the team and opportunities that I do.