Supportive Horse Show Spouses

Learn how you can be a helpful horse-showing hand with these three tips from veteran show spouses.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

They are the backbone of the exhibitor. They are the ones who are there for the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. They ensure that the horse is show-ring ready and the exhibitor is perfect.

They are show spouses. Always behind the scenes, show spouses are usually only recognized by their significant other for their contributions. The exhibitor gets all the glory for a win he wouldn’t necessarily have achieved without that lone person who groomed and exercised the horse and ensured that all the tack was clean and the exhibitor was spotless.

The Journal asked three show spouses how they help their other halves:

• Patsy Smith of Franklinton, Louisiana, helps her husband, Nickey, show in reining and working cow horse events.
• Bob Callies of Saukville, Wisconsin, is an integral part of helping his wife, Jennifer, at AQHA shows.
• Sheri Moore, of Covington, Georgia, is the quintessential trainer’s wife. Her husband, Casey, depends heavily on her at cutting shows.

Their advice can apply to anyone helping someone show horses.

Rule No. 1: Take care of the horse.

Even before leaving for a horse show, there are little things that can be done at home to ensure that the experience runs smoothly.

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“The night before, we pretty much get organized for the next day,” Bob says. “We wash the horses, put a sheet and slinky hood on them so all you have to do is brush them down and put the finishing touches, like hoof polish and such, on them before heading into the show ring.”

Sheri starts getting ready the Thursday before a weekend show.

“It’s hard to keep your trailer organized,” she says. “One thing I do is clean the trailer out every Monday, and then on Thursdays, I pack everything into it except the saddles.”

Because Casey rides so many horses and they also transport client horses, Sheri has many saddles to help with. To help keep track of each saddle, she has named them.

“One horse gets the Otis saddle. Another will get the Nu Bar saddle,” she says. “I’ll write each horse’s name and the saddle’s name on the back of the trailer door with a dry-erase marker, so we know which saddle goes with which horse. I’ll then put that horse’s headstall and bit with each saddle.”

Sheri also organizes the tack rack before heading to the show.

“Have your wraps prewashed and rolled up,” she says. “If there are certain products for certain horses, put them in separate bags and label them for that horse.”

When it comes to feed, Sheri takes only what will be needed for the show.

“I literally sit down and count the scoops so I know what is in the bag,” she says. “That way I know how much feed to take so we don’t run out.”

When Bob and Jennifer arrive at a horse show, the first thing he does is get the horses out of the trailer and longes them while Jennifer checks in at the show office.

Bob keeps a cart handy with all of the grooming products he needs.

“It makes it all very easy, because it’s all right there for you,” he says.

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Jennifer also warms up all of Casey’s horses, as well as their clients’, before they enter the show ring.

“That way, all he has to do is concentrate on showing and watching cattle,” she says.

Rule No. 2: Take care of the spouse.

Patsy does very little with the horses. Her main responsibility at shows is watching over Nickey.

“I’m just his moral support,” she says. “Truthfully, I feel like the horse-showing part is low on my totem pole. The thing with me is I don’t care if he comes in first or dead last as long as he’s safe and having a good time.”

And to ensure that their show times are good, Patsy and Nickey cook for themselves and friends.

“That has really helped me get involved because I’ve met lots of people and made some true friends,” she says. “I get all the food together and get everything ready. When we get to the horse show, Nickey puts it together, and we argue a little bit about how to do it.”

Arguments are not uncommon between the show spouse and the exhibitor. Most can be blamed on nervous energy.

“You can’t take it personally,” Bob says. “Jennifer and I have been married for 28 years, so I know what’s happening. She just wants to make sure everything is right.”

And when Jennifer comes back out of the show ring, Bob is waiting for her.

“I’m her biggest cheerleader,” he says. “But I’m also there to support her. If she doesn’t do well, I remind her she’s not going to win all of the time.

“You have to shrug it off and realize it’s someone’s opinion. Today you might have only gotten a second or a third, but tomorrow you might be first.”

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But the No. 1 goal of a horse show husband-and-wife team is to ensure that everyone is having fun.

Rule No. 3: Take care of yourself.

Even though the horse and exhibitor get the primary focus, show spouses shouldn’t forget about taking care of themselves, as well.

“You’re usually appreciated for your hard work, but we are the backbone of it,” Sheri says. “We’re behind the scenes and don’t always get enough credit. But you need to know that when he wins, you’re winning. It’s a team effort. He’s the quarterback, and you’re the line.”

For Patsy, it’s a special touch when Nickey acknowledges her when he’s in the show ring.

“He tips his hat and throws me kisses after he shows,” she says. “Sometimes I think it’s because he wants to buy a new horse, but I know he’s really doing it for me. I truly don’t have any hobbies so this is my hobby, going along with him.”

Anyone helping an exhibitor needs to be able to adapt to change at a minute’s notice. However, downtime at shows and at home needs to be scheduled.

“It takes its course on you, and you’re exhausted by the end of the day,” Bob says. “It’s nice to be able to take a nap or just sit down at the trailer and relax.”

Bob also makes sure that he has time for himself when Jennifer is not showing.

“You have to take care of yourself, too,” he says. “My passion is being outdoors. I’m a hunter and a fisherman. That’s what I do a lot of.”

Although show spouses need to multitask, they must remember they can’t do everything.

“I’m a nutrition consultant, a cosmetologist, a therapist and a cheerleader,” Sheri says. “But the more strain you can prevent on the exhibitor by being more organized and having better teamwork, the better the show will go, and the happier you both will be.”