World Show Advice

World Show Advice

Use these 10 horse-showing tips to keep your world-show dreams alive.

rider holds AQHA World Show gold globe trophy (Credit: Kirstie Marie Photography for AQHA)

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By Tara Matsler, AQHA Digital Media Team

Your fingers clutch the golden bars that encase the iconic, glowing horse. Can you feel the heft of the metal and wood in your hand? Your heart is bursting, coursing with the emotions of triumph and accomplishment, and above all, an untold partnership with your horse.

When I was 10, I wanted nothing more in the world than to win an AQHA world championship. It was a dream that never left me; at least not until I was 17 and had finally achieved that goal with the 2006 AQHA youth working cow horse world championship aboard TC Lena.

But back when I was swooning over that world-championship fantasy, someone sat me down and dispelled any notions that I would wake up one morning world-champion material. No, she reminded me, a pinnacle achievement such as that came only after you’ve climbed the ladder of setting, making and achieving realistic goals.

Sure, she told me that winning one of AQHA’s highest honors would require blood, sweat and tears. But she was adamant that world-level success was attainable when you scratched off goal after goal. And I took her at her word. A two-time amateur world champion, my grandmother, Bonnie Christiansen, knows a thing or two about setting your sights high, and rising to those heights.

With the Farnam AQHA World Championship Show in Oklahoma City just days away, it begs the question, what does it take to see success at that level? The success you’ve seen thus far, friend, is just a taste of what’s on the horizon for you and your American Quarter Horse.

So while you’ve got your eye on the world show prize, try these 10 horse-showing tips.

  1. The perfect horse with the perfect rider is an illusion. Below the surface of our visual perception lie two top performance secrets. The first is the rider’s ability to remain focused in the moment. The second secret is a rider’s ability to respond to the horse from moment to moment and make appropriate adjustments.
  2. If you aspire to be a world-class competitor, you have to think of yourself as an athlete. It’s really no different than a skater or gymnast. You have to be healthy, get enough sleep, eat right and feel good.
  3. Set realistic goals for your show season. First, take a good long look at your horse – and set your target accordingly. Generally, any individual can grow into a good exhibitor, but you need a caliber of horse that is going to be capable of doing what the exhibitor wants to do with it.
  4. Think objectively. As a competitor, you should be able to say, “I know exactly what happened there – I missed the cone or I was a stride late.” But also be able to look at your competitors and appreciate their performances. For instance, “Wow, she nailed it. She should have won it. I have to raise the bar for myself.” Really, it’s about developing the right kind of professional attitude.
  5. Leave your stress and nerves at the barn. Compete with optimism! If you give off any negative energy, your horse will know and tense up during the class. Turn phrases like “I’ll try” or “What if” into “I will” or “My horse will do well.”
  6. Keep in mind that you have a teammate. Sometimes all of the stress of horse-showing is transferred to your horse. When that happens, it will show up in your performance, making it hard to be the harmonious team that you need to be in the show pen.
  7. Everyone trying to improve their riding can benefit from applying sports psychology. Sports psychology is mental training: Just as athletes go through physical training, and people put their horses through specific training, you can train your mind to perform at its best.
  8. Horse shows should be about fun. Going to a horse show with a must-win attitude isn’t a winner. Remember, horse shows are about creating friendships with other exhibitors and sharing the entire experience, too.
  9. It’s about you and your horse. The most important achievement in any judged event has to be your performance and your horse’s performance – a personal best. Always respect your horse, and never sacrifice him for the performance.
  10. Remember, every champion was once an unknown. And every champion was once nervous about going up against really tough competition. How they overcome it is by doing the best job that they’re capable of and concentrating on their own performance – not on the competition.