Courtesy of Southern States
As a parent or supporter of a rider, you only want what’s best for your child. After a great deal of practice and preparation, your rider is ready to show his or her skills in the competition arena. And there are things you can do to help. By following a few “etiquette” suggestions, you can make sure that your rider’s horse show is an enjoyable and rewarding experience for everyone involved.
During Show Preparations
The coach or trainer’s job is to help the rider perform her best. So, don’t interfere when he is giving instructions before your child or rider goes into the show arena (unless it is absolutely 100 percent necessary, and if you do choose to do so, be sure to do it in a tactful way). You have hired a coach or trainer for a reason. Stand back and let him do his job. You’ll be impressed.
If the competition requires some sort of pattern or sequence of events, ask the rider to repeat the pattern back to you once. Have the pattern on a piece of paper handy in case the rider suddenly draws a blank. If this happens (not uncommon!), you will be a “super-parent or supporter of the show”! Do not drill the rider over and over again until you agitate them to the point that they lose their memory!
Help the rider brush up right before entering the arena by checking for untucked shirts, loose hair-ties, crooked hats, uneven reins and the like. Take a towel over their boots for added shine and paint the horse’s hooves with hoof oil. Also, run a soft grooming brush over the horse one last time to remove any dirt or debris they may have picked up while in the practice arena. Make sure the tail is not tangled between the horse’s legs and do a quick equipment check – make sure the girth is snug and the headstall and bit are in place. Don’t get too meticulous though. You’ll only make the horse and rider more nervous by nit-picking at small things that don’t really matter.
During The Competition
Trotting the outer perimeter of the show arena alongside the rider and coaching them is a definite no-no. That’s what practice at home is for. Let the rider show what they have learned. This is their time to shine. If your favorite rider passes you as you are sitting in the stands, it is permissible to give him a reassuring nod or a quick and discreet word of advice. But make sure you do so in a positive manner! You don’t want to make the rider more nervous or represent the team you are pulling for poorly!
Do not verbalize the rider’s every move as they compete to those sitting around you. It’s okay to make a comment about a part or two of the performance, but you don’t need to put your two cents in about every single step taken. More than likely, the person whose ear you’re filling – whether it be a family member, friend, or even a stranger – will appreciate that you allow them to take in the experience and have their own thoughts. Good, bad, awesome or ugly, just let the competition take place in a peaceful environment. Discussion once the class is over is certainly acceptable and encouraged, but again, remember to keep any criticism positive and constructive.
Do not, I repeat, do not openly criticize the other contestants when you are in the stands! You never know who is sitting within earshot. You’d be surprised how much people around you are hearing. Also, you never know who the person you’re talking to is or isn’t friends with… judges, other show parents, other competitors, industry officials, etc. I personally witnessed a friend overhear someone in the stands saying something pretty nasty about her performance in the arena earlier that day, and the only person it made look bad was the gossiper! I know it’s not always easy to keep mum about the competitors, but just try to keep it to an extreme minimum (nothing is best!) while the show ensues. Trust me, you’ll be thankful in the long run if you practice taste and class even in the toughest competition.
After The Show
If your rider wins or places, do show enthusiasm and happiness! It’s a big deal! But, show good sportsmanship. Some say your excitement should vary for different types of competition, but clapping and a proud smile is the fail-safe way to go. Some shows call for boisterous whooping hollers while others require a golf-clap at most. You know your audience. In your own excitement, do not forget that there are others that tried hard too and may not have fared as well. You shouldn’t allow that to put a damper on your joy but just don’t be obnoxious about it.