Give an Away Show a Try

Preparing for a competition begins at home and in the barn with feeding and grooming for success and conditioning and training both horse and rider. This takes months of hard work but it is only the beginning. Checking tack and bits and other equipment to ensure that it fits well, is just right for the horse, in good repair and legal is another challenge. Choosing our attire is fun but also takes time. Packing sheets, blankets, grooming equipment, buckets, stall cleaning equipment, feed, supplements, tack, clothing, and so much more can be overwhelming.

Before you tackle an “away” show or the WDAA World Championship Show, you might want to consider attending a small entry-level show. Attending a schooling show where there is less pressure on you and your horse is a great way to dip you toe in the competition pool. You will likely compete with other “new to the discipline and competition” horses and riders. You can make those inevitable mistakes with friends who will cheer for you and not have to worry about lots of rules other than those that pertain to Western Dressage.

You can cross off quite a bit of the “must take” list because you will likely be at the show for just a day or part of a day. You will still need to pack grooming equipment, buckets, feed, tack, and attire. The possibility of forgetting something other than you horse or your tack and attire will not be a disaster as it might be if you are going to a higher-level show.

This beginning level of competition gives you a chance to see how your horse loads, travels a short distance, and handles pressure at a competition. It will also help you to refine your packing list. Even more important, it gives you the opportunity to see how YOU handle the pressure of competition. You can see where you need more help and see how you work with your caller and your instructor or trainer. You can also assess how much warm up time you need and how your warm up routine needs to be structured. It also gives you the opportunity to find new friends to travel with and to support you at the show.

When you feel comfortable at this entry level, the next step is to look for a larger show, either local or away, that is USEF licensed. This adds a level of complexity for preparation, entering, and competing. The packing list that you have created and refined from your schooling show experience as well as loading, hauling, and preparation practice are ready for this new challenge. USEF-licensed shows have General Rules that apply to shows that govern how show management functions, often requiring USEF membership and have preventive health requirements and drug rules. You will need to do some research on health requirements and the USEF drug and medication rules as well as the General Rules. USEF is absolutely committed to horse health and welfare. Both the health requirements and the drug and medications rules are a central part of this commitment.

Showing a horse is a learning experience for both you and your horse. Be prepared to make mistakes, sometimes lots of them, and to learn from them. Be proud of what you and your horse did well and give your horse praise, pets, and treats. Your horse is your partner in this learning and growing experience. Most of all have fun with this great discipline, with old friends and new and especially your wonderful horse.

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