Choosing a Horse-Show Mentor

A good mentor will help you achieve success in the show ring.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

A mentor helps you learn the ropes, establish goals and outline a plan of action.

Your horse-show mentor can be anyone from your mom to a fellow competitor, an experienced horseman to your 4-H leader – anyone who is willing to dedicate time and effort and has the expertise to push you to succeed.

While a trainer teaches you to overcome obstacles in the class, your mentor encourages you through mental obstacles you face in and out of the arena. Your mentor watches you compete because he wants to support you, not because you are paying him to be there.

It’s probably best if your mentor has a competitive background to understand what you go through before, during and after a performance. But sometimes even the most successful horsemen aren’t cut out to be mentors.

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A certain level of expertise is necessary, but mostly, your mentor should genuinely care about you and what you want to accomplish.

Here’s what to look for in your horse-showing mentor:

    • Your mentor must be available for discussion of your goals, the progress you’re making and evaluation of achievements.
    • A mentor wants you to excel no matter what and can’t be threatened by sharing knowledge with you, or by your success.
    • A good mentor possesses strength where your weaknesses lie so you can learn to strengthen them. For example, do you tend to be detail-oriented, picking out all the small faults in your performance? Your mentor should be able to point out the big picture and overall accomplishments while recognizing the room for improvement.
    • Mentors acknowledge strong points in your performances, while constructively criticizing and driving you toward new challenges.
    • Your mentor should have high personal standards in order to expect the most from you, according to your level of experience.

As a protégé, be dedicated to your goals, focused on achieving them, open to new ways to handle obstacles and responsible for your actions. You have to be action-oriented and open to suggestions.

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Discuss what you want out of the relationship, including the areas where you’ll need advice, support or an extra push. Also, figure out the best time to rehash performances. If you’re too sensitive following a competition to take criticism in stride, set a time for the day after you compete. On the other hand, it might be best to discuss it while everything is fresh in both of your minds. Finally, if there are lines you don’t want your mentor to cross, or that he or she is not comfortable advising you about, set those boundaries.

Are you a mentor?
A mentor stands to benefit from the relationship, too. If you mentor someone, you pass on your knowledge, experiences and skills to someone with the potential to succeed. When your protégé wins his or her first class, you’ll likely be just as excited at the victory – your knowledge and support pushed your protégé to a championship. It also allows you to evaluate your own skills as you teach.

Mentor-protégé relationships aren’t stagnant – they evolve as the needs of the protégé change. That’s not to say they last forever, but once you achieve your goals, your mentor will prod you to set higher standards and expect more from you as you progress.