Whether it is an open or breed show, a mountain trail challenge, or a mounted archery competition, I love showing. When COVID-19 quickly shut down all events, summer was suddenly feeling empty. Thankfully, horse people are resourceful folk, and several jumped in to create more online horse shows, allowing me to still experience most of the fun of a show … from home. I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical when I signed up for my first virtual horse show. I definitely have friends who just won’t do them. Here is what I learned about online horse showing and the biggest question: Will I do it again?
Rules and Forms
Since a lot of these shows are being run via Facebook, it gets cumbersome sometimes to find all the rules, forms and patterns. You see a lot of people asking the same questions over and over again, because they just can’t find all the information needed. I definitely had to ask the show operator many questions that I couldn’t find answers to that I think at a normal show would have been clearer.
However, signing up was easy, as it was all done electronically (no printing out show forms and sending in checks)—just remember to write down what classes you signed up for! (I saw quite a few people asking the show secretary what they had signed up for because they had forgotten).
It also seems like these shows are more welcoming to different styles of riding, including bitless, which is wonderful. It allows more people to show their horse, giving most of these shows quite a lot of entries.
Showing on Your Own Time
If you work on the weekends, this might become your favorite thing ever. You usually get around 10 to 14 days to submit your videos after the entry deadline. And trust me, your significant other will be overjoyed they don’t have to get up at 3:00 a.m. to support you at a show—I know mine was! Of course, the flip side is he did have to film all my classes, and that definitely took a bribe of a coffee from the local drive-thru.
It also means you can show over multiple days if you wish. I really enjoyed doing mine all in one day, but you don’t have to—that’s the beauty of the virtual horse shows.
Show Clothes Optional
While I love dressing up and getting my horse all “fancy,” most virtual horse shows do not make show clothes a requirement. As long as you and your horse are clean, you are good. This makes them more accessible for people who can’t afford show clothes. Of course, you are welcome to wear show clothes if you like.
Filming is Challenging
If you think “Each class only takes two minutes and I have 10 classes, I’ll be done in less than half an hour,” you’ll be disappointed. Things happen! The cameraman drops the camara, someone calls you on the phone you are using to video, the list goes on and on. And then there is set-up time for pattern classes, especially trail. I planned mine like a show, to minimize moving and setting up things (as well as tacking and untacking), so I did all my in-hand first, then my bareback class, then saddle classes and trail last.
The part that was most interesting to me was that the filming actually helped me with my riding. With a camera on, I was much more “aware” of what I was doing—just as if I was being judged. I notice I was talking much too loud to my horse and moving my legs more than I should (things of course my trainer tells me, but something about being in front of a camera made it more noticeable.) This was invaluable to me, and I will definitely be filming myself more, showing or not.
It seems like most of the online shows have better awards, including amazing ribbons, trophies, buckles, and even cash, than regular shows. My guess is because they are not spending money on renting a facility, so they have more room for cool awards.
One of the best things is that most of the virtual horse shows gives you the judges’ comments on your classes. This is something you hardly ever get at a pleasure show, and to me, it’s priceless. It’s one of the best ways to help you improve and see why maybe you are not winning in a class you feel you should—you may be doing something that’s knocking you down without even being aware of it!
Of course, you don’t get to hang out with your friends. But you get to hang out with your horse, and you get to watch the videos of the competitors and talk to them via Facebook, almost like at a show. Many people share photos during their filming and even successes or things that frustrated them.
At the end of the day, I was just as dirty, tired and happy as I would have been at a regular show, but with more money in my pocket (since I didn’t have to trailer, pay for a stall, etc.).
The Verdict on My First Virtual Horse Show
I learned a lot. My first virtual horse show was well worth it, and I have already signed up for two more virtual horse shows. And why not? It’s a fun way to pass the time until we can all safely go back to showing like before.
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