Are Horse Shows Fun?

By Terry Golson

As I turn out of the barn’s driveway at 6 am, Tonka safely ensconced in the trailer that I’m pulling with my pickup truck, I glance at Steve and say, Why do I do this? It’s not a question and he’s heard it before. We know that on the road back home I’ll have the answer.

I could do without these shows – the early mornings, the expense, the nerves. But I do them anyway. Partly it’s about having a goal to achieve that gives the daily rides more focus, and me a reason to push to excel. Partly it’s about having a way to gauge how I’m doing. Partly it’s because despite the anxiety of competing, there’s a rush when I’m done, one that gives that frisson of excitement that one can’t get at home.

Tonka seems to like applying his skills in a new place, too.


Horse shows take time. We left Greystone at 6 am (which means a 4:45 am wakeup time) and returned home at 1 pm. At the last show I competed in three classes for a total of 4 minutes. What else did we do?

I want Tonka to have time to eat his breakfast hay before I get on, so I like to arrive a good 45 minutes before I need to get in the saddle. While he’s eating, I do a bit of last minute grooming. When you have a horse with white hocks that can take some time! I also organize my gear and check out the show venue.


Tonka doesn’t need much of a warmup. Walk for 10 minutes to get the joints lubricated, and then a bit of trot and canter.


Steph coaches me over 4 jumps.


Other than that, he gets pet.


We hang out and wait for our turn, which is our least favorite part of all of this.


Then we get the few minutes in the ring that give us the rush and sense of accomplishment for the day.


Add up all of the time in the saddle, and it still accounts for only a small percentage of time out of your horse show day.

Altogether, what with eating breakfast and having to stick around to find out class placement, Tonka spends a lot of time tied to the trailer. I used to worry that Tonka would be bored, frustrated, feel restricted. But, he has a full bag of hay. He has undemanding company. It makes him, and the people with him, quite content. There’s something to be said for doing nothing. A horse show is a great place to do it.


I’d be lying if I said that much of the fun didn’t come from the ribbons. In our three outings this summer, I’ve come home with three blues. Winning is very satisfying.


But I think it’s the excuse to spend the whole day immersed in horse world, that makes showing something that I do time and again, despite the early morning grumpy questioning of my sanity.


Everyone’s show experience is different. Do you show? Why and what keeps you going?

6 thoughts on “Are Horse Shows Fun?

  • Cynthia Cooper

    When I used to show so many years ago I can’t recall the last time – I looked forward to and enjoyed the social aspect.
    It was also a time for seeing friends and hearing about what’s happening in the horse industry.
    You can tell this was well before social media times!

    • Terry Golson Post author

      Those sort of in-person chances to socialize are still essential to our well-being. It’s one reason why a boarding barn is a good place for me.

  • Laura Allemand

    The time commitment is much the same in gymkhana, except our shows can take all day. We ride 7 or 8 events at a show, for a total of probably 10 minutes actual ride time. But I keep doing it because I get to spend the day in the company of my favorite people and horses. After 25 years, I still get those butterflies at the gate when I’m waiting to go in and make my run. It’s the exhilaration during a run with your heart beating out of your chest. It’s the satisfaction after a good run. It’s the reflection on the good parts of a run, even when it’s not perfect. And ultimately, good day or bad, It’s the partnership between me and my horse. Whether or not I continue with gymkhana or some other discipline, I will always find a way to show my horse to build on our bond.

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