Making Horse Shows Fun for Kids

Making Horse Shows Fun for Kids

How to help youth succeed in the horse-showing ring while having a great time.

AQHYA small fry exhibitor waiting for showmanship judge with palomino mare (Credit: Journal)

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Showing horses should be both fun and educational for youth, says AQHA Professional Horseman Tom McBeath of Union, Mississippi. The benefits of fun youth horse showing are many. Showing horses builds character, confidence, leadership, responsibility, persistence and countless other life skills. 

Tom offers some advice on how to help kids succeed in their show-ring endeavors and keep horse shows fun

  • Find the right horse. “For kids to have fun in the show ring, they’ve got to have the right teammate, and they’ve got to start with classes they’re interested in,” Tom says. He looks for horses with talent, gentle dispositions and willingness to tolerate young riders.
  • Start small. For kids to enjoy the competition of horse showing, they need to feel a sense of accomplishment and reward for their efforts. So Tom starts his youth riders at levels in which they can be competitive.
  • Find your level. AQHA offers Rookie, youth and other divisions to compete in to help level the playing field for everyone. 
  • Reward based on efforts and improvements. Success doesn’t always equate to winning. The key is to teach youth to set small, achievable goals. 
  • Give honest encouragement. Tom makes a point not to lavishly dish out praise. He wants his riders to know he’s being sincere. 
  • Teach responsibility. “It has always been my goal for the kids to be able to get on their horse, ride it, school it and go show it on their own,” Tom says.
  • Know when to switch gears. If show life becomes mundane for kids, Tom suggests spicing things up by working on a new event. Maybe trying out a new scene is all the rider needs to be challenged and have fun.

Tom’s Quick Horse Showing Tips:

  • Set realistic goals.
  • Stay organized at shows.
  • Don’t put too much pressure on children; don’t be too serious about winning.
  • Kids remember the little things, not how they placed in a class.
  • There will always be another weekend and another horse show.
  • Teach and practice responsibility.
  • Guide them; don’t do it for them.