School With Class
Schooling is one thing. Disrespecting the judge and the spectators is another.
Just about every horse in my barn needs to be schooled at a show at one time or another, and amateur riders practice and school their horses, too. I’m guessing you’re part of this schooling trend whether or not you ride with a trainer, because the number of schooling runs I see at shows has dramatically increased lately. When you hear a bunch of “zero” scores in a row, you can bet we’ve all been in the arena fixing something, letting a horse relax in the show pen, or working on a problem.
And that’s fine. I’ve schooled horses at shows my entire career. But there must be an element of respect for the judge. Professionals, we must remember that potential new customers are watching us. Amateur riders also set a tone for their own show careers and their horses’ reputations. Whether spectators are newcomers to reining or are heavily involved, they base decisions about where to send their horses, take lessons, and bring their kids to ride based on what they see us do in the arena. Not to mention what horses they buy from whom.
Here I’ll offer six things to keep in mind when schooling a horse at a show.
Tip #1: The Judge Is Watching
Be mindful of overschooling, taking too much time, and going wildly off pattern. Your actions in the arena could leave a lasting bad taste in a judge’s mouth. Take no longer in the arena than you would running the designated pattern, and don’t make the judge’s already-long day stretch even farther. The judge will appreciate your respect of his time and letting him get on with his day.
Tip #2: So Are the Spectators
“What’s going on? Why is everyone getting zeroes?” People new to reining don’t understand that schooling a horse is necessary, so be mindful of the shows where you school your horses. For example, if you’re showing at a high-profile event or at an arena that draws public spectators, reconsider schooling your horse. The spectators came to watch reining and better understand the event—maybe even buy a reining horse and compete.
Know that new riders could be in the stands watching how you ride and what you do in the arena. And don’t forget the online audience. Thanks to live streaming, many of the big shows are broadcast around the world for anyone and everyone to watch.