Going to shows can be fun, but let's be honest, it's discouraging if you never ever win anything. Of course, winning shouldn't be the most important thing — but it's sure nice to come home with a ribbon. If you're having bad luck at shows, take a look at the classes you enter. Maybe they are not classes that suit your horse's talents and personality. Perhaps there are other classes in which he would shine.
Think about your horse's personality. What's he like? Is he frisky or laid back? Is he slow and steady or zippy and fast? What are his talents? Can he jump any fence, no matter how high? Is he unafraid of spooky objects? When you sign up for show classes, pick the ones that suit your horse.
Let's take a look at some horses and what classes they should enter.
Jack Rabbit is athletic and he loves to jump. He is zippy, and sometimes his jumping style is not perfect — but he's careful and always clears the fences. If you have a horse like Jack Rabbit, consider entering jumper classes. In jumper classes, getting around the course clear in the time allowed is the only thing you are judged on. The fastest clear wins the class.
Smooth as Silk (Silky) is slow and steady, and she has a wonderful canter. She's comfortable to ride, and her transitions are smooth. If you have a horse like Silky, try go as you please classes. Ride around the ring at the walk, until the judge says, "Go as you please." Then, as quickly and smoothly as possible, you pick up your favorite gait, for example the canter. Continue cantering until the judge says, "Walk, please." Your horse is judged on his way of going, how smooth his gait is and his behavior.
Braveheart is great on trails. Nothing scares him. He crosses bridges with ease and is happy to stand still while you open and shut gates. If your horse is like Braveheart, give trail classes a go. A course of obstacles is set up in a ring and your horse must travel through it on a loose rein. You may walk over a bridge, jump small a small fence, open and shut and gate and back up in a trail class. Your horse is judged on his manners, his attitude and his performance over the obstacles.
Zippo is a speedy horse. He loves to gallop, but he can stop on a dime. If your horse is fast like Zippy, try gymkhana games in which you are timed. Barrel racing is a gymkhana game. You gallop around three barrels at top speed and the fastest competitor wins. You could also try pole bending. Poles are stuck in the ground and you must gallop in and out of them and cross the finish line in the fastest time.
Polly is a truly a pleasure to ride. She is calm and quiet and she moves forward willingly. If your horse is as friendly and obedient as Polly, you can enter pleasure classes. Pleasure classes are held on the flat — you don't jump. The judge asks you to walk, trot and canter in each direction. She judges your horse on his manners, obedience, willingness and steadiness of gaits. She also considers if you and your horse suit each other. Do you perform well together? Finally, the judge notes if your horse seems safe to ride.