“Be bold, but wary! Keep up your merry hearts, and ride to meet your fortune!”
― J.R.R. Tolkien
When I mention the words “Show Team” they may conjure up images of fancy stall decorations at horse shows, and rows of stalls filled with expensive, beautifully turned out horses, ridden by wealthy, talented (or not so talented) riders, under the instruction of a rather forbidding big-name instructor. This is NOT the type of show team I am referring to!
While there are many riders out there who can afford to board and ride at these barns, there are many more who cannot. These are your everyday horse crazy kids and their slightly shell-shocked non-horsey parents who board, or lease, at modest family-owned facilities, and are lucky to have a lesson once a week.
As mentioned in a previous blog (https://www.willowfarmequestrian.com/post/party-business), developing a sense of community is an essential factor in building a healthy barn culture. The type of show team I suggest you develop is more about facing challenges together, cheering one another on, and doing this crazy horse life in community, rather than winning ribbons.
Of the 8 horses in my barn, half are owned by older retirees who enjoy the odd trail ride together, and the other half are owned or leased by students who participate in my show team. These are all young novice riders, riding school ponies with all their “idiosyncrasies,” none of which are likely to endear them to judges.
This fact doesn't stop us from attending 4-H clinics, or competing in small, local training shows. These experiences are invaluable in building a young riders confidence and horsemanship skills. Having a goal at which they are aiming (an upcoming dressage show for example), also provides them with the incentive and focus to push themselves to advance in their training at home.
It is amazing how different the show culture is on the East Coast as apposed to the West Coast. I have to admit to missing our Virginia schooling shows with their beautiful outdoor venues, professional organization, and friendly relaxed atmosphere. At these shows we always set up a tent, everyone brought food to contribute toward a potluck, and parents enjoyed socializing and watching their children's events from the comfort of their deck chairs. Oregon schooling shows tend to be very different. It is still possible to create a community atmosphere, it just takes a little more effort.
Even if you don’t have lesson students like we do, encouraging a group of your barn clients to participate in a group trail ride once a month, attend a local clinic, or enter a show together is a great way to create shared, bonding experiences. Don’t miss out on these great opportunities to grow your riding skills and develop a stronger sense of community in your barn.