Amateur Hour

Why I Love and Hate Horse Shows

I have the exact same feelings about riding roller coasters as I do about competing, especially in the jumper ring.

If you ask me on any regular day when I’m at the office, hanging out, getting dinner—anywhere but at a horse show or amusement park—I’ll tell you that I love roller coasters and showing is so much fun but I don’t really want to go on a roller coaster or go to next weekend’s AA show.

It’s the waiting in line, anticipating what’s about to happen that twists my stomach (as, with roller coasters, it is sort of meant to).

Walking into the arena, waiting for the buzzer to sound and the clock to start ticking down, it’s just like when the cars start to move up the track on that initial ascent to the first drop of the coaster that amps the MPH up and pumps the adrenaline. The panic, the fear, the last deep breath before you start to fly—that’s what a lot of people look forward to and find to be such a rush.

But it’s almost too much for me to handle.

All year I beg to add shows to the schedule. I count down to them and I carry the prize lists around in my purse. But the closer that day gets, the more I fill up with dread.

I am a hunter at heart. I like to go slow—I am calm when we move slow. I like to compete against myself, not the timer. But I’m jumper rider now by default. We bought my angelic Thoroughbred because we determined he was the correct partner for me in terms of personality and my needs, and chose not to force him into a discipline for which he isn’t suited.

All of this just adds onto the anxiety and trepidation I already feel when we load the trailer and set off to the show.

In the morning on the way to the show grounds, I will, without a doubt, feel dazed and ill. During that car ride, I reconsider all of the choices I’ve ever made in life that have led me to this moment and wonder seriously why I do this to myself when it’s the complete opposite of fun?


Last weekend, we arrived for a schooling show and one of my teammates told us how she had watched the weather all night the night before and hoped deep down that it would rain and the show would be canceled. Everyone else laughed a little, but I enthusiastically blurted out, “ME, TOO!”

I don’t want to be that person that bails out, but I want the pressure to magically go away without me having to.

This is entirely different from the feeling on the other side. Once I pick up that canter and hit the first fence to get the rhythm going—once the roller coaster cars plummet toward the first banking turn—it’s all just an amazing ride.

I’m the person that will start praying to deities in which I do not believe on the way up, but will throw my hands up in the air and scream in delight on the way down. I’ll watch the jump crew set the fences to my height and widen the oxers and start to tell myself that I REALLY don’t want to do this, wonder why I can’t go back to the 2’3″ hunters, but then come out after the last fence saying, “DID YOU SEE HOW GREAT THAT ROUND WAS?!”

I come out after a great run in the jumpers wondering why the show can’t last another day, whether we can do the next height up to squeeze in one more round, or how I could ever choose to stay at home and deal with the FOMO while my teammates get all dressed up and bring home piles of ribbons at the end of the weekend.

But the next day, I will inevitably get back up on my horse and the first thought to pop into my head will be, “Man, I really don’t want to do this. Remind me next time that I hate this.”

I really love roller coasters, once we’re going and I’m into it. But no, I don’t want to go to Six Flags next weekend. I really love competing, once we’re going and I’m into it. But no, I don’t want to be entered in the 1.00m next weekend.

…Okay, I’ll go.

Amy BieberAbout the Author

Amy is a graduate of UW-Madison and former member of the Badger IHSA team. She is now a Dallas-area litigation paralegal by day and an adult amateur H/J rider by nights and weekends. She is owned by a 2001 Thoroughbred named Saint John.

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