People have participated in and loved horseback riding and show jumping for over a millennium! Though the sport has changed over time, many people love it for the thrill, the class, and the relationship it can build between you and your horse.
But show jumping isn't easy, and entering the ring can be quite nerve-wracking.
If you've been taking English riding lessons and feel ready for your first show, this guide will get you prepared. Let's walk through all the things that you should know and do before participating in your first show.
Make the Most of Your Pre-Show Lesson
Before your first show, your final jumper and equitation training lesson is a paramount time to ask questions and get directions to ensure your success.
Ask your teacher for specific things that you should be aware of and pay extra attention to before and during your show ride. You can also ask for exercises to do at home and on your own time to strengthen any weak areas of your ride.
You may also take a group lesson or two (if you've been doing private lessons) to get used to being in the ring with other riders. During this time, ask your teacher about etiquette and what you should expect at the show.
Start Grooming Daily
Of course, you will groom your horse the day of the show to make sure that he looks his best, but it's also a good idea to start grooming your horse daily to prepare for horse shows. This way, you'll have a good base groom to work with, and you'll only need to add the finishing details on the day of the show.
Remove sweat, mud, and excess hair every day with a curry comb. You can also use a grooming mitt. Then, you can use a bucket of hot water and a cloth to wipe down your horse and remove anything you stirred up with the comb. Use the curry comb again and, with a dry towel, polish your horse's fur.
You can also do some regular trimming to prepare your horse for the big day. Trim the bridlepath, jawline, ears, whiskers, mane, tail, and legs to keep everything looking neat and clean. If you do it frequently, you won't have a big job to do the day before.
Dress for Success
Your horse isn't the only one who needs to look good. You should also look neat, clean, and proper, and you should be dressed in the right clothes for a beginner jumper.
Depending on the show and different English horseback riding disciplines, you may have different clothing requirements. Sometimes you'll need to wear a jacket and light breeches. Other times, you may be able to get away with navy breeches and a clean polo shirt. It's best to check with the rules of your individual event and ask your teacher.
However, there are some basic clothing rules that you should always follow when competing in riding events. Ensure that whatever you wear is tidy, spotless, and presentable. Keep your horse neat and clean. Check that all your safety gear fits properly, looks presentable, and is correctly placed.
Tack and Trim Your Horse
The day before the show and show day require special preparations for your horse outside of your daily grooming routine.
Wash his tail and apply a detangler the day before the show. The next morning, brush out the detangler, starting at the bottom of the tail and working your way up. Then, plait the mane and tail.
You can apply hoof oil to your horse to make his hooves shine, but make sure to do it right before you go into the ring. You don't want the oil to pick up too much dust and dirt.
Eat a Good Breakfast
Show jumping is a sport. You are an athlete. Everyone knows that to give a great athletic performance, you need to have lots of energy and fuel in your body.
The best way to start your show day is to eat a healthy breakfast. While there is often food available at the show, it may not be the healthiest choice, and you could be too nervous to eat.
Instead, eat first thing when you wake up. Make your breakfast the night before if possible. Include long-lasting complex carbohydrates and plenty of protein to fuel your muscles. You don't want to find yourself tired or hungry right before you compete.
Pack a Lunch
Again, you may be able to buy food at the show, but don't rely on the fact that they'll have something healthy that you will like. It's always a better idea to pack your lunch with things you can eat, even if you're nervous.
Bring snacks too for a quick pick-me-up. And, of course, you should have lots of water on hand in a reusable water bottle.
Rushing isn't good for your mind or your body. You should arrive at the show with plenty of time to complete everything you need to do. You need time to warm up, prepare and tack your horse, enjoy the other events, and even relax a little bit to calm your nerves.
None of that can happen if you don't have ample time to do it. Throwing on tack and immediately competing is bad for you and your performance, and ultimately it can be quite dangerous for your horse. This is new for him too.
The best-case scenario is that you end up having to sit around for two hours waiting for your event. We promise it won't be boring. You'll be too nervous and excited to notice the time.
Practice Warmup Arena Etiquette
Sometimes the warmup arena is quite full of other horses getting ready for their events. It takes some getting used to, which is why it's a good idea to enter a group lesson before you go compete in horseback riding.
Check the rules for your warmup ring about passing other horses, announcing a jump, and tack adjustments. Then, strictly follow those rules to avoid any faux pas or, worse, accidents in the arena.
Bring a Wipe
You should always carry a little wipe with you to use during the day. This wipe has multiple purposes and will make a lot of things go more smoothly and cleanly.
First, you should wipe your horse's mouth before entering the ring to compete. This one little move can be a nice finishing touch to make your horse look neat, clean, and presentable for the competition.
You also never know when you'll get a bit of dirt on yourself. Appearances are important in this sport, so it's a good idea to have something with you that you can easily clean yourself off with.
Stay In Your Comfort Zone
For your first horse show, you may be tempted to push yourself and get out of your comfort zone. But this isn't a great idea for a beginner jumper.
You aren't just executing the jump; you're competing in a brand-new environment, which is nerve-wracking. What feels possible in a lesson might feel daunting when you're in the competition ring.
Enter a class that is about 10 to 20 cm less than what you've been jumping in lessons and at home. This way, you can enjoy the show and feel confident that you'll be able to successfully complete your event.
Later, when you're comfortable with show procedures, you can increase your height and push yourself to higher standards.
Thank Your Horse
No matter how the show goes or where you rank, you should thank your horse for a job well done. Your horse is your partner and has accomplished a challenging thing by performing in front of a crowd.
Give your horse plenty of words of affirmation, pats, and even a treat after completing the event. After all, you're competing for the love of horses, so show that horse some love!
This also has the added benefit of helping the horse associate events with good things. The happier you can get your horse to compete, the better your performance will be.
Support the Other Riders
Even after your event is done, there's still more for you to do for an excellent show day. Show jumping is a social event as well as an athletic one.
Watch the other riders, cheer them on, learn their names, and get to know them. The more friends you can make at a show, the more fun you'll have attending in the future.
Horseback Riding Show Jumping—A Sport Like No Other
The new connection you make with your horse after your first time horseback riding show jumping will be like no other. With the right gear and clothes, a healthy breakfast, an early start, and a properly groomed horse, you'll feel great and want to go to more and more shows!
Are you interested in show jumping but don't know where to start? Check out our riding lessons to get started today!