Throughout his time as a professional reining and working cow horse trainer, my husband Clay has often found it interesting to learn other peoples’ strategies for entering horse shows. Some people may choose to enter two shows in a row, then take a break from a third show and pick up where they left off in the next month. Or shows may revolve around the kids’ school schedules. Finances, travel distances and vacation time all play into how and when a competitor can go out to shows and by the time a person actually gets to the show grounds, a lot of thought and consideration has gone into the planning.
Yet, it has often been alarming to learn that some people don’t seem to have a strategy at all when it comes to picking show classes for their horses. Purse monies aside, there are many details to take into account to ensure you have the best show experience possible. In the following questions and answers, Clay offers up some of his best tips:
Q. First of all, how does a competitor know if they are ready to go to a show?
This is a good question and the answer may be slightly different for every person because it depends on what level they like to aspire to. However, I have always made sure my students can do all the reining maneuvers on a consistent basis at home. There’s nothing worse than getting to a show and realizing your lead changes, or another aspect is not in place – because a show is not the place to be practicing these important parts. A schooling show is the best way to get one’s feet wet or to gain experience with a new horse before paying the larger entry fees of an A-circuit show
Q. When you are considering entering a horse into a show, how do you determine which classes to enter?
I often will look at how much money is added to the class and look at the pattern to determine if it is a good pattern to represent that horse’s trademark maneuvers – I always want to accentuate horse’s best performing maneuvers. For example, if I’m faced with NRHA patterns 9 or 10, I’ll want to put my big stopping horses into that class. If I’m riding a greener horse, I might try to pick a class with a pattern that has fast to fast lead changes. Also, if I’m riding a bigger-strided horse I’ll choose bigger arenas to show it in and likewise for smaller arenas and smaller-strided horses.
Q. How many classes do you enter per day?
A. I don’t like to enter my horses into more than 1 class (per horse), per day – unless the classes run concurrently. Throughout the course of a show, I usually try to pick one class that I intend to show the horse in and at least one class to school the horse in. And with that schooling run, I try to make it a quiet, correct go to increase the horse’s confidence.
This ensures that I don’t cause mental and physical burn out in my horses. I often use breed shows to prepare my horses for the specific discipline shows.
Q. How does the show schedule, class purses or class categories factor into your decisions?
A. If my horse is capable of making an Open run, I will often put him or her in the Open division. If however, the horse isn’t necessarily strong enough for the Open, I’ll often have an assistant show it in the Rookie Professional or Ltd. Open divisions.
I often use Novice Horse Open classes to school my horses and allow for that horse to have a quiet correct run. Additionally, I’ll often take my reiners to cow horse shows to school them and vice versa (cow horses to reining shows), where the competitors at those shows should be happy to have the extra added money in their class and we can use the opportunity to school our horses in slightly different show scenarios.