Haley reflects on a crucial part of the horse show world.
My last regular season show will take place this weekend at Alfred University, and I can’t wait for it. This weekend, several of my family members, some friends, and even possibly some of my supervisors from my work study job plan to attend the show and be my cheering section.
I am eternally grateful for family and friends who are willing to come to shows and wait around all day to watch me ride for only a few minutes — I’m still not sure why they do it, especially those who aren’t particularly equine-inclined, but they make shows enjoyable no matter what kind of ride I have. Their opinions mean more to me than any judge’s, and I’m guaranteed a “great job!” when I come out of the ring. They are my jacket/hat/bobby pin/horse holders, my encouragement and my entertainment. They make sure my number is on straight and I have a smile on my face before I enter the arena, and they are the reason I’m still smiling when I come out.
Whether it’s “That was an impressive counter-canter departure” or “Wow, would you look at that horse with the spots! Is that a stallion?” my show support group provides commentary all day long— a welcome distraction from my own nerves. They are schedule-keepers (“Is your class next?”), personal nutritionists (“Want another water bottle? Some snacks?”), and pep-talkers (ranging from “Take a deep breath, you’ll do great!” to “Do you want me to sabotage the competition? Because I will.”)
As if this isn’t enough, they usually bring cookies for me, for the team, for other teams, coaches, and maybe even for the judge if there are still some left.
Thanks, Cheering Section, for everything you do.
Haley is the author of Horse Nation’s “Academic Equestrian” series, following her collegiate experience as she balances her studies with participation on the varsity equestrian team and time with her own horse. Catch up on past columns by clicking the #ACADEMIC EQUESTRIAN tag at the top of the page!
Haley Ruffner is attending Alfred University, majoring in English and minoring in Business and Equestrian Studies. She has a green Quarter Horse, At Last an Invitation “Cricket,” and he is also “enrolled” at Alfred. She rides western and hunt seat and also loves to rein and trail ride.