When Is It Time to Stop Showing

After Bubba and I’s last schooling show, I cancelled the rest of our season. This was an immensely difficult decision for me because I’m inherently competitive. I love to win. I love to succeed and, to be frank, do better than other people. So why did I decide to stop showing then?

I couldn’t answer this question: “Why am I doing this?”

Well, I could answer it, but I didn’t like my reasons.

The Decision to Stop

Showing horses, season after season, is expensive. It’s down right bankrupting; physically, emotionally, and financially.

I have gotten good at economizing. I can squeak out an entire dressage season for under $2,000. That’s including rated and schooling shows, hauling fees, membership fees, and fees for year end awards. Not too damn bad in my opinion.

One thing I haven’t gotten good at yet is limiting the physical and emotional toll of showing. I’m burnt out. To go from zero to sixty like Bubba and I did is difficult. In November of 2011, I took my first lesson on him, in a 20-meter wide arena, and couldn’t steer around a traffic cone without running it over. In 2015 we did a full season at Training and First level.

I’ve never been good at coping with stress and you can in no way say that horse showing is not stressful.

Somewhere along the way too, I forgot how to have fun at shows.

This could be because along with my personal showing goals, I’ve ensconced myself in the horse show world. I go to anywhere from 50-60 shows and clinics a year between my own personal showing and the shows I cover for work and as part of my board duties for IDCTA. For anyone, that’s a lot of shows. Don’t get me wrong, I go to shows both as a competitor and as a worker, because I truly do love them. There’s nothing quite like that atmosphere and I’ve made innumerable friends.  Adding the extra pressure of performance, though, was getting the better of me.

I remember back in the good old walk trot days, every time I came out of the arena and didn’t forget my test, it felt like a major victory. Sooner or later my perfectionism crept in though and I found less and less to celebrate about our accomplishments. As more and more of my negative mental energy built up, I could feel myself locking up and getting stiffer, blockier, and just plain old tense. As I didn’t see the advances I expected in myself I also became more and more frustrated and angry. Not at Bubba, he’s fully capable of doing third and fourth level movement. I was angry with myself because I wanted to advance and I wanted to advance NOW.

That’s not fair to Bubba. It’s not fair of me to ask him to continue to give so much of himself without rewarding him with positive feedback. Yes, I also need to get heaps better at rewarding myself too because I’ve virtually destroyed my faith in my own abilities.

The Aftermath

I did not look forward to telling my coach, and Bubba’s owner, that I wanted to stop. I knew she’d be disappointed in me but deep down in my gut, this was the right decision.

And it is.

Without the looming deadline of a show to get ready for and the pressure to scrounge up enough money to pay for the darn thing, it feels like I’m free to have fun again.

Not only that, I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of riding multiple horses. Which is great for rebuilding my confidence and increasing my horsemanship skills.

So, until I can reclaim that positive and excited mindset that I had when I started, I’m going to stop showing.