Your Turn: Horse show horror story

Have you ever witnessed a trainer exhibiting poor sportsmanship at a horse show? Morgan Dalis needed to get this story off her chest.

From Morgan:

I was recently talking to a friend of the family who has a 6-year-old horse girl for a daughter–let’s call the mother Donna and the daughter Stacy for anonymity. Donna was telling me that at a horse show the past weekend, Stacy had been all but verbally abused by her trainer (whose name I don’t know, nor would I share if I did) for making three mistakes. Stacy was called an embarrassment to the trainer, stupid, and then banned from cantering, jumping, and showing.

Remember, Stacy is SIX years old. She was also placed in a class against another pony rider who she is good friends with. When her friend was having trouble getting her pony around the course, everybody cheered; when Stacy went around and trotted a bit too long in her opening circle, she looked to her trainer who promptly berated her for doing so when she exited the arena. Stacy placed 6th and her friend placed 7th, but Stacy’s trainer told her that she shouldn’t have placed higher than her friend and she wasn’t as good of a rider.

Here is my problem with this story: No trainer should ever verbally abuse their student (unless their name is George Morris or Michael Page or someone with an equally awe-inspiring resume–and even then, I don’t necessarily agree with it). This is a very quick way to foster the horrible image that the horse show world already tends to have, especially in hunter/jumper arenas. It’s also the fastest way to make a kid hate horses and/or horse shows. By telling Stacy that she wasn’t as good as her friend, she now has a seed planted to be overly competitive with barn mates, which causes hostility and way more barn drama than necessary.

As an, admittedly amateur, instructor, I was mortified to hear this particular story. I was once a product of that kind of training, and vowed that I would never follow that path in my own instruction.  This kind of pressure promotes poor horsemanship and a my-horse-is-more-expensive-than-your-horse mentality, as well as the ever present barn drama. Why is it necessary to put this much pressure on such young children?  Why can’t horse shows just be a place to have fun and show off accomplishments?

I felt the need to share this story because it’s something that’s always bothered me.


Morgan Dalis graduated from Alfred University with a degree in Biology and spent four years on the western equestrian team.  She currently lives on Long Island and spends free time with her Quarter Horse, Ace, schooling dressage, jumping, and playing out on trail.


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