When showing's been your passion, but then loses its allure, what does it mean for your horse life?With the aid of four Horse & Rider readers and a clinical psychologist, we ask, and provide some answers to that question in "End of the (Show) Trail," a feature in the December 2007 print edition of Horse & Rider.
The story promises a Web-exclusive update on the participating readers: Jo-Ann Hamson of Topsfield, Mass.; Vicky Reynolds of Martin, Tenn.; Jill Smith of Snohomish, Wash.; and Audrey Wood of Hillsburgh, Ontario. Here's what they say:
This Morgan exhibitor, who says she looked forward to show season every year since age 14, is accepting that her own drive to compete just isn't there like it used to be. Sometimes, she says, "I just like to stay home and go for a great trail ride with some friends." Other times, she still gets to participate in showing's social aspect by attending shows as a spectator.
She's also seeing shows from the center of the ring. "Recently, I got my judge's license, so I do a lot of judging. It's great, because now I am getting paid for something that I love to do."
Vicky was a die-hard barrel racer for most of her adult life. The fervor faded the last several years. But she hasn't given up horses. Instead, she's replaced the thrill of competition with the satisfactions of bringing up her young horses.
"Now I'm really enjoying riding just for the fun of it, along with working with a 2-year-old and yearling," Vicky reports. "I occasionally ride my daughter's mare to keep her in shape, or maybe keep me in shape. I don't have the pressure of performing every weekend, and that is a huge relief. I may get back into some showing as my youngsters grow up, and I continue training them."
"But right now, it's nice to stop and smell the roses, or whatever other horsey smells that come along," she adds. "It makes my day when I arrive at the barn after a hard day at work and hear the horses nicker when I drive up. I've discovered that you don't have to constantly make your horses perform in order to enjoy them. It's fun just watching them be horses."
Jill's show life centered around Paint breed shows. Then her life underwent many changes, including divorce, remarriage and relocation to what she calls a "non-horsey place." She stays connected to the horse world by trail riding and taking lessons, adding that she no longer has the desire to do the work that showing requires.
She's still trying to come to terms with her shifted attitude. She's also looking forward to a new sort of horse-show adventure with her grandchildren.
"It's hard to give up your former horse life, and I do fight it from time to time," she confides. "My horse-show days were a lot of fun, and I have great memories. If I end up with an upcoming cowgirl in my group of grandchildren, I'll do the leadline classes. That sounds like the most fun of all!"
Audry's first competitive pursuit involved showing in English rail-type classes. Eventually, she reached a point of disenchantment. But rather than give up competition, she re-energized with a switch over to reining.
"I never felt a part of the glitter-world so common in showing Western pleasure," Audrey recounts. "But I did receive encouragement and welcome from the reining riders, and I was happy to compete in an event where ability was recognized, and custom outfits and silver tack were not required nor the norm. Having to learn patterns, procedures, and a new specific set of rules helped to fuel my enthusiasm and interest in showing again," she says.