Five Tips for Being a Great Sportsperson in the Show Ring May 25 2015 3 Comments

How to be a good sportsperson at horse shows

With all the hustle and bustle of a horse show, it’s easy to forget about the people around you.  Your nerves take over and you become hyper focused on your job as a rider and showing your horse. But even so, you can’t forget that you are in a ring with other riders and horses, sometimes a LOT of other riders and horses. While we aren’t all lucky enough to have large arenas and group lessons to practice riding with other living and moving obstacles, there are five things that will you a better sportsman/woman in and out of the show ring.


When you are passing another horse in the arena, leave at least another horse length in between you and the horse you’re passing. Just like with driving, cutting someone off is dangerous and irritating. Not to mention the fact that when you cut someone off using an animal that is also space conscious, you’re just asking for your horse or their horse to react in a negative and sometimes really dangerous way. While getting out there and showing your horse off to the judges is important, you also have to “drive defensively” ensuring you are always leaving yourself and those around you enough room.

Don’t call the rail

Unless your horse is literally out of control, in which case maybe you need to be excused, do not call the rail when someone else is already on it.  It is your job as a rider to actually steer your horse and if you aren’t on that level, or you're unable to accomplish that with a particularly challenging horse, then it may be better for you and everyone involved if you just opt out of showing until you and your equine partner are farther along in the process.

Lose gracefully

If you didn’t have the best of rides, or even if you did and you just didn’t get in the ribbons or as high as you felt you deserved, keep that to yourself.  There is nothing worse than a Pouty Patty. Scowling in or out of the arena, crying, or making dramatic scenes of your distaste are all things that make you look like a sore loser.  All of those things are acceptable every now and again, but in private.  Disappointment is a part of being in a sport where there is only one winner, but being a good sportsman/woman means losing with dignity and grace.

Don’t heckle

Intentionally sabotaging or undermining the confidence of other riders is not cool. While this tip seems incredibly obvious, it is true that some out there feel it is appropriate to tell riders to “change” their diagonal when they are in the ring to the WRONG one in an attempt to sabotage their ride.  When you do things like trash talk, treat people rudely or like they are less than you are, it really only makes you look small, petty, and worried about your actual ability to ride.  While we know things like this “go without saying”, if someone doesn’t say it, how would anyone ever know it!?

Acknowledge and be grateful for the congratulations

If you are in the line-up and your name is called and the rider next to you offers congratulations, do the right thing and say “thank you.”  If you are outside the ring and someone says congratulations, always say “thank you” because disregarding a kindness like that is incredibly unsportsmanlike and practice all too often employed.

So let’s always take the high road, treat people equally and fairly, and ensure we are courteous in all facets of life, but especially when large, unfamiliar animals are involved.

Have any experience of unsportsmanlike conduct, or pointers for great sportspersonship? Let us know in the comments down below!