Horse shows are unusual environments for horses, and they can be a source of anxiety when your horse is new to the situation. It’s up to you to build your horse’s confidence at shows so that competition becomes less stressful and more enjoyable for you both.
Choose Your Shows Carefully
When building a horse’s confidence, it’s important to carefully choose the shows that you attend. It’s best to find a smaller schooling-type show where the atmosphere won’t be as overwhelming as it is at a larger show. Look for green horse classes where you can enter your horse, and where the focus is providing youngsters with a positive show experience.
Keep your expectations and plans for your horse’s initial shows small. You may drive to the show grounds, unload your horse, hand walk him around, load him up, and go home again. The speed at which you can introduce shows will depend on your horse, his temperament, and his comfort level with new experiences. You never want to overwhelm your horse, so keep your goals small.
Bring a Buddy
If your horse has a close buddy at home who has a steady demeanor, then it’s a good idea to bring the buddy along to the first show or two. The buddy’s presence can help your horse to relax during the trailer ride and once on the showgrounds. Just make sure that you bring a friend to help handle the second horse, too.
Be a Confident Rider
When your horse is at his first show, it’s important that his rider is confident. A rider’s confidence will transfer to the horse and can help to reassure him and keep him calm. If you cannot be that confident rider, then ask your trainer if he or she would be willing to ride your horse in his first few shows to provide a consistent, calm experience.
Keep the Experience Positive
Your goal in introducing your horse to shows should be to keep the experience a positive one. If your horse does well in the first two classes of the day, you may want to call it a day and leave the show on a positive note. If a horse show is a bad experience for your horse, it may build his fear or resentment towards future shows. Don’t push your horse too far, and reward him when he’s doing a great job handling the demands of the show environment.
How have you successfully built your horse’s confidence at horse shows?