Confessions of a Show Mom: Dealing with show-ring stress

Horse shows can bring out the crazy in moms and kids alike. This week, Barbara Hamilton gives us some tips on how to support your child in a show setting without getting in the way.

From Barbara:

The Stress of Showing

I don’t know who gets more anxious before going on–my daughter or me.

There are hours and hours of training, polishing, and grooming put into every show, and we all know a show can go well or just as easily go badly. Because when it comes to a horse show there are no guarantees.

Maybe your child is just not “on” that day or they’re tired, or over-thinking how they did at their last show. It’s too hot. It’s too windy. A fire truck just went by—the list can go on and on.

I know my daughter likes to do shows but she definitely gets nervous beforehand and is very tough on herself. So there are some things I’ve learned the hard way not to do, and to do.

The biggest one for me was to back away during the show. (OK, I’m still working on this one.) As a parent this is probably one of the hardest things to do, but let your trainer and your child figure out and discuss what they need to during the show. There’s a reason you hired a trainer so let them do what they do best.

What you can do

Take photos and videos. They’re a great way for your child to see how they did. My daughter loves looking at them—“Oh, that was a great jump.” Or, “Yikes, I got left behind on that one.” And what kid doesn’t like putting up photos on Facebook, especially from a horse show? Or a Mom for that matter.

Pack something for your child to eat. There were a few shows where my daughter wouldn’t eat before she went on, and I noticed she just wasn’t performing as well as she did in the past. Now I make sure we pack something that she agrees she’ll eat before she goes on.

Have something on hand for your child to drink while they’re warming up and showing (this is one time you can talk to them) but be careful—some of the sports drinks ended up making my daughter more nervous so now we stick to only water.

Don’t let your child get freaked out by the competition during warm-up. I’ve seen kids feel defeated before even entering the ring simply by watching the other kids. And guess what? A couple of times they weren’t even in the same class.

When your child looks over to you while they’re doing their round, try and look happy. I know that sounds silly but I can’t tell you how many parents look like they’re going to jump the fence and yell at their kid.

Take a break

If your child is starting to get too stressed out about showing maybe it’s time to take a break for a while. It’s a lot of pressure and we have to remember they are still kids. So talk to your trainer. Maybe your child just needs a break, or let them do a couple of easier shows or easier classes so they remember how much they do enjoy showing.

Mix things up. It’s nice to do the same shows every year—especially the big ones. But sometimes it’s fun for a barn to try something new. Our trainers are always looking for a new show to throw in the mix and the kids love it.

We all want our kids to do well at a show—who doesn’t have ribbons hanging in their house? But we also want them to be safe and most importantly happy. After all, most of our children aren’t going to peruse a career as a show jumper, and life is only going to get harder as they get older. This is one pleasure that we can enjoy and share with them. And to me that’s better than any ribbon she wins.

Stay tuned for Part II of “Dealing with show-ring stress,” written by Barbara’s daughter.


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