School With Class

School­ing is one thing. Dis­re­spect­ing the judge and the spec­ta­tors is an­other.

Horse & Rider - - Practice Pen - By Bob Avila, With Jen­nifer Paul­son Pho­tos by Marc Lax­ineta, DVM

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.

School­ing at horse shows has in­creased dra­mat­i­cally—and that’s fine. But re­mem­ber to re­spect the judge, the spec­ta­tors, and your trainer’s pro­gram by keep­ing a pro­fes­sional ap­pear­ance.

I’d never walk into the show pen in front of a judge dressed this Our pre­sen­ta­tion is much bet­ter here. Chaps aren’t re­quired, but

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