Showing: How often and how many?

I was reading a post online this past weekend about how often people event their horses and how many times a year. Some of the answers varied widely, but most people came to a general consensus of less often for upper level horses, more often for lower level horses. Makes sense.

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Bobby and I have spent a fair amount of time on the subject ourselves, particularly since his horse Halo is 17 this year and requires some special meds when he travels to prevent him from getting sick. Understandably, Bobby tends to be conservative with his schedule because of that. When we were sitting there looking at the omnibus, trying to plan for fall (because he always wants to show with me – stalker), he was a particularly annoyed that the 3 shows he really wanted to hit were all 3 weekends in a row. He’s not willing to do that. Neither am I, to be honest, considering none of them are a super short haul. Henry could probably do it and be just fine (I baby him, I know, but to me he’s irreplaceable), but I just don’t feel comfortable with it. Then again it’s not unusual to see the same people hitting every single recognized show in our area, week after week, so a schedule like that seems to work fine for plenty of folks.

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Both of our horses are at Training level, so while it’s not a simple trot around the park so to speak, the fences aren’t super big nor are the speeds particularly fast. Last year when we went to Coconino the horses obviously showed back to back weekends, which we actually thought was super helpful and educational. You could come back the second weekend and try to smooth out the rough edges. Granted, two weeks in a row was definitely my limit, especially when flanked by a long drive. And no way I would have wanted to do that more than once or twice a year.

In h/j land, it’s not unusual for horses to show for many weeks in a row, and some of them 4 or 5 days a week. While a lot of people are conservative with how many classes they enter (most jumper folks I know will only do 2 a day max), there also always seem to be those horses that have racked up 15-20 classes by the end of the show. There’s one barn around here in particular that will enter just about everything. Gotta be honest, that really makes me cringe. I absolutely think there’s a lot of educational benefit to getting young horses in the ring more frequently, but I also think there’s a point at which training becomes drilling.

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It also makes you wonder how long these horses will last if they’re on the road showing for weeks and weeks on end, almost non-stop. What really started out as more of an h/j problem has started to creep over to eventing too. Winter used to be the off season and “let down” time for a lot of horses, but now that so many people go to Aiken and Ocala for winter, some of them don’t really get much of off season anymore. Maybe a couple weeks or a month in a paddock, which isn’t much for an upper level horse on a busy show schedule.

So, what say you? How often are you comfortable showing, and (for hj people) how many classes a day do you cap yourself at?

28 thoughts on “Showing: How often and how many?

  1. when I was younger and showing in the hunters and it was a local one day show, I would do one or two 3-foot divisions and a medal. If it was a rated weekend show we would do a few classes each day. My horse was never exhausted afterwards and we weren’t showing every single weekend. Now I’m just lucky to get to a starter trial once a month. I have noticed that less people are giving their horses a winter break in the eventing world. I would never want to drill and show my horse so much that I wouldn’t be able to ride and enjoy him when he’s older, I wanna have him happy and healthy as long as possible!

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  2. Duke is 22 so this is a huge factor for me this year. If all continues to go as it’s been going we will have a season, but I’ll have more restrictions on us this year. No more than 1 event a month (if that) and no further away than 3 hours. The traveling does him in more than anything else I think. We may do a July and/or August event but we’ll see how the summer fares with heat and temps. The other restriction this year is probably no Novice. We’ll start with BN and see how he goes. But we had some issues with Novice at the end of last season that may have been indicative that he’s done at that level. So, really this year is all about no pressure having fun – for both of us! He still enjoys his work and LOVES XC so I can’t ask for any more.

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  3. I event twice a month, tops, and usually it’s less than that! If I am doing dressage or jumper shows for mileage, I’ll do back-to-back weekends, but in that case I’m only riding one or two tests or three jumper rounds at the most. And while I’m riding at a super low level, my pony is old and I want to keep him feeling good! Showing is also exhausting and I have a horse show hangover after every little rinky-dink one-day event, so I just can’t handle showing more often than I do!

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  4. Roger has not been shown extensively (but we’ve gone on plenty of field trips to get miles), and while some of that is due to finances, most of that is my desire to keep his ankles happy as long as possible. The few shows we’ve done o/f together have been a max of 3 classes per day, but I’ve also never shown him 2 days back-to-back. Granted, we’re only doing the 2’3″-2’6″ height right now…it’s not like I’m asking him to jump around 3’6″ courses, although that’s the goal down the road. Roger will only be 7 at the end of this month, so keeping our show schedule light and low is what works best for me. Some may call that approach ‘too conservative’ or that I’m babying him too much, but Roger’s physical and mental well-being is what’s most important. I would NEVER want to fry his brain or risk a permanent injury because I wanted to move up too quickly or drastically increased the show schedule. Roger loves his job, and I want him to love his job as long as possible.

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  5. When we did the hunters, I showed roughly ever other weekend March-November. We would do 3 over fences and one flat, with minimal warm up. It sucked up a lot of weekends and I think we were both bored by the end.

    Last year I only did 4 USEA horse trials because of work travel and this whole silly getting married thing (I wanted to run KY Classique but my trainer refused because it was 10 days before the wedding. I didn’t see the problem). We did 2 schooling CTs as well. This year I think we have one USEA horse trial a month for the season and maybe 3 CTs. Most of the time (except for when he is in a mood) we hack for 10 minutes to warm up, and jump maybe 6 fences and go in. I always try to keep my warm ups short for all three phases and go in off the good jump rather than keep going.

    I’m lucky that we have a lot offered here in Lexington, so it cuts the cost down as well as the travel wear and tear on my horses. Often I load M up the second night and take him home to let him out instead of standing on the concrete KHP stall floors all night. I also tend to not jump him for two weeks or so after an event. He’s 18 and I want to keep him comfortable as long as I can. If his enthusiasm starts to wane, I may cut back but right now that silly horse loves XC more than I do and I think eventing is keeping him young.

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  6. Only just stepping into eventing from H/J myself, I generally don’t show more than 2-3 times per year, only 1 day per show and always an hour drive or less – but for me it’s because of budget and time. I did attend a local 1 day schooling show once a month for about 5 months of the summer with my first horse as we were garnering points, but I haven’t done that since. This year will be one 3 phase event and maybe 2 jumper schooling shows at most. My husband has expressed a bit of frustration about the budget always favouring my horse play time and not allowing enough for *his* play time… Boo.

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  7. You know, I was thinking about the “off season” recently. It’s interesting to me how much the lack of an off season (which I see as something that has developed in the last 15-20 years, but I could be wrong) requires riders to have a better handle on their horse’s unique needs. And those who don’t seem to lose big.

    Example being: My old horse can’t really have an off-season. He needs to be worked/ridden/have his old bones chased around at least 5 times a week to keep his joints lubricated best. However, just like me, he gets burned the fuck out a lot. So, I have to pay close attention to when he needs a week of hacks and stretchy trot (read: last week) instead of continuing to pour on the pressure. As we shorten seasons and train horses year round, I think we might not be doing a great deal of harm to the animals unless we ignore their (often discreet) signs of burnout/wear and tear. Not really what your post is on, but a concurrent thought that’s been running through my head.

    As for showing, I usually aim for once a month at max. Sometimes closer together, but I also tend to take off the hotter months and not show through the winter. I do tend toward 2-day shows.

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  8. As you mentioned, we’ll do 2 jumper classes/day. If it’s a single day show, we might go ahead and do 3 classes since he’ll get the next day or two off. Neither of us really have the energy for more classes than that even if we wanted to. I don’t really have to worry about over-showing Frankie because LOL I’M POOR so I can’t afford to show more than once a month-ish. Overall I think this has worked well for us, especially as Frankie has gotten more fit- I can exit my last class with a horse that isn’t exhausted, and know that he can recover for at least a month before we ask him to do it again. He’s super sound and healthy and only 11, so hopefully this conservative schedule and lots of conditioning will keep him sound and healthy for a long long time.

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  9. I only do the Limit division at h/j shows and my horse is 10 so we will generally go around as many courses as it takes to have a good ride. I’m very much still learning this jumping thing and 2’6″ isn’t particularly strenuous so we take full advantage of as many courses as possible, which generally is a maximum of 4 in one day and never more than 2 days in a row. If Sterling is well behaved and his rider doesn’t try to kill him then we will just stick to the O/F classes in our division. I presume that as the jumps get bigger and he gets older that strategy will change. I try to show once a month from February through November, but that doesn’t always happen. Esp in hot Texas summer months. I don’t jump at home, only at shows and lessons so he’s not getting beaten up in between shows.

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  10. i think my busiest show month ever was three events (all one-day shows with <4hrs driving round trip), and that was followed by a month off. my happy spot is ~1 event a month, occasionally 2. at the lower levels there's really nothing physically that should prevent getting out there every week. i often think the events themselves can be less taxing than schooling or lesson sessions (depending on how the show warm up goes). only considerations beyond the intensity of the riding itself would be the effect of travel and stress on the horse (certainly not inconsequential!).

    but i prefer to balance the competition schedule with lessons for my own benefit, as well as other types of outings (like paper chases, trail rides, jumper shows, dressage shows or whatever!) to keep it interesting and varied. and i typically draw the line at three weekends in a row.

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  11. I typically show 1-2 times per month, May-October. I do 1 or 2 back-to-back weekends, throughout the season, but never 3 shows in a row. My horse typically schools fences on Thursday or Friday and shows in 3 over fence classes plus a flat per day at 2’6″. I’ve done more and I’ve done less — while Miles usually doesn’t need to go around very much, I need the practice, so I try to balance the two.

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  12. Right now on the lesson horse I ride, I usually do one division. I tend to share him with 1 or 2 other riders and I’m the most experienced. So I usually do pleasure (2 hacks and 2’6″ o/f or some sort of 2’6″ o/f hunters) and then he does short stirrup and cross rail classes with his kids so nothing taxing.

    I’ve always been a 1 division person just due to cost. With my TB, I’d have to sit on his back for hours just to get his brain quiet (I never had the funds to show often so we’d show up at 1 day shows and it would be OMG spook, buck, act like a lunatic so I’d basically have to ride until he was quiet — by the time we got into the ring, I’d be too tired to do more than 1 division anyway)–I usually would skip the hacks in my trainer would let me as well.

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  13. Once upon a time, we showed pretty much every or every other weekend(ish) March-October. The catch is we showed breed show, where shows often ran all week in the summers (and I was still a junior and could just galavant around all summer). Typically 2-4 classes a day, and all flat so at the end of the day, it’s just not nearly as strenuous as eventing or h/j. Many breed show people don’t take an off season, but we did mainly because my parents refused to let me show over holidays (why can’t I be at a horse show December 26th, I see no issue…)

    It’s definitely a different game and it was exhausting. I had no social life, spent 20-25 weekends a year on the road and racked up major mileage. The other consideration for us was we were often showing 8-12 hours from home, which adds an entire level of complexity. Writing this all out, I don’t know how I did it and still functioned. I’m tired just thinking about it.

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  14. Good topic. I don’t have an answer yet because this will be my first year showing (if I do show) but I think it would be hard to keep a horse going weekend after weekend. Especially with long hauls and possibly very little down time.

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  15. We do mostly dressage, showing and low-level jumping, so my ideal is twice a month. Usually we end up showing once a month. Back-to-back weekends are doable, but green horses get some time off afterwards. Older, experienced horses can be expected to show back-to-back, but I give them 6-8 weeks completely off each year. When I still used to event, no more than one a month.
    My rule of thumb is always that the horse should have as many days off after the show as the show was long. And after preparing for and completing a particularly big, long, or stressful show, they get a week in the field just to unwind.

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  16. Dressage is not jumping so my comment may not be relevant. I show at the Prix St George level and next show will also do an Intermediare 1. You are only permitted to do those classes once in a day at a recognized show. That suits me fine! I just finished four days at Global in Wellington and I am effing tired! I will show again in 3 weeks. I do not show as much at home in Canada during the summer. Maybe just some one day schooling shows. I find I need time to train and not be focusing on the competition tests. Very interesting to read all of the other comments here! Thanks for the post!

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  17. I am lucky that the farthest I would have to go for a show is only an hour. So if I can swing once a month, that is a lot for me. I am most limited by finances, as I assume most people. However, if that were not the case, and I had unlimited money I would love to show twice a month. Cosmo is a senior dude, but his maintenance is supremely low at this point, and we are not jumping very big either. I only enter 2-3 classes a day, which is all my body can do right now, so Cosmo is not going to be over-taxed by 6 rounds every other weekend. He’d probably get even more fit and then I’d get more exhausted.

    For now, I’ll stick with one show every other month and squeeze in an extra when I have the cash.

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  18. Last year I showed more than I have in the past like 10 years in one year. Between shows, trail rides, and other adventures Annie and I were all over the place and it did so much for her! She’s a very solid citizen for her age and travels like a pro. This year I will probably scale it way back. I’d like to show every 4-6 weeks if feasible but we’ll see what happens. I LOVE that with eventing it’s 3 things. Not course after course. I cringe when I see how many times some horses have to go in the ring!

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  19. I try to get out as often as possible. I often manage every second weekend. My horse is young and generally enjoys being out rather than doing the same things at home. I compete in dressage and we generally do two tests per competition.

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    1. I show in the hunters.The Adult Amateur division is usually 3 O/F classes in a day (1 warm-up and 2 division classes) and an U/S one day with 2-3 more O/D classes (warm-up, division class, and a classic/stakes class). Since the jumps are 3 ft, and there are usually only 8 of them, I think that’s an acceptable amount. I haven’t started showing my new guy yet, but the last horse I leased was a PRO and barely needed any warm-up. We’d do maybe 3 or 4 warm-up jumps before going in the ring. On the second day of the division we might not even do the warm-up O/F class if he felt good the day before. That being said, the shows are 5 days and I may do a class or 2 on the “non-division” days as well, so if I am there all 5 days it ends up being around 10-12 classes total. I think it is a lot for the horses, and will not do more then 2 weeks back to back. I aim to do 5-6 weeks of A shows in a year once my guy is going- which is WAYYYY less then most H/J’s, but to me that is a good amount. Money is also a limiting factor though, I think ideally I’d want to do a 2 week show about 6 times spread out over a year, so 12 weeks of showing, but not more then that.

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  20. Great topic. Today, my biggest concern is the lack of off season. I’m in H/J land and I just can’t imagine showing 8-12 weeks all winter taking a week off and jumping into the spring season. It’s crazy and it blows my mind that the same horses make it all the way to fall finals with four legs in tact.
    That said, when I look back at 2016 somehow I entered TWELVE shows last year. 12 feels like a lot, especially when I realize that 10 of those were full week outings. Drilling down, Winds’ schedule has lightened, and by the end of the season he was doing a division with the pro (4 rounds over two days), one division with me (typically 2 rounds on Friday) and then the derby on the weekend. That’s still 4 days with 2 rounds each, and if he continues to move up the ranks, we will have to manage his schedule more carefully. He’s the first horse I’ve had where he didn’t need warm up rounds, or extra schooling – something I’m hoping will continue and make shows even less of a physical burden, even if the jumps start to creep up 😉

    Travel is tough, and I won’t haul down to Cali unless we can stay for more than a week… and I also assuage my guilt a bit since our most common venue has great grass paddocks and the horses all get to graze and roll each day mid show. Doesn’t take all the stress away, but it sure seems to help.

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  21. I’ve always done a max of one-two shows a month. And if we do a full 3 phase horse trial, they get at least 3 days off afterwards to recover and relax. I am not a huge travel person, though in my new area I don’t have much of a choice in that matter so I will be doing a lot more 2-4 hour hauls instead of a 2 hour max.

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  22. Before Siggy had colic surgery in August, we were competing at training level approximately every other weekend. That was during the height of show season in KY, which is pretty much only late spring to early fall. KY has tons of shows, so the haul usually wasn’t more than an hour. I won’t do back to back shows unless it’s under special circumstances, i.e. at the same venue and just stay there 2 weekends in a row.

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  23. I’m in the UK so our distance to shows is much much less than you guys. Many are only
    an hour away; 2 hours is a long trip and a 3 hour one is a once a season thing. (I have huge admiration for you guys who have to travel so far!)

    Our season runs start of March to end of October.

    I compete at be100, moving to novice later this year (so jumps are 1m at the moment then will go up to 1.10m at novice) and I don’t event more than every 2 weeks. I’m also always ready to withdraw if the ground is too hard or too wet and save them for another day.

    I always give mine a holiday after the season; when my older horse used to event he would have a month completely off out in the field. He really benefited from that.

    My mare who I compete now doesn’t benefit so much from a break so she tends to have a couple of weeks off, then a couple of weeks just hacking before cracking on with dressage and show jumping. I’ll do back to back shows of these but usually up to two or three a month, again only up to an hour drive (often closer) and up to two classes per show.

    We don’t jump much at home unless there is an issue to address.

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  24. If I had unlimited funds and unlimited vacation time, I like the two weeks on two weeks off method for showing. But not year round. I’d say that’s probably end of April through maybe October. And probably more than two weeks off here and there.

    As for number of classes, it really depends on the horse for me. And also hunter vs jumper. In the recent past with Jamp doing the hunters or equitation, it’s usually 2-3 jumping classes a day and maybe a flat class. At one particular one day show where he was a sassy pants, he wound up doing all the equitation and all the hunters which was 6 rounds… Not my normal MO especially with him being older. But he wouldn’t give up the antics. Eventually he did, and day two he only had to do one class. Also, the fences were only 3′. He’s an ex 1.50 meter horse, so that’s like a cavelleti for him. Plus, afterwards he got a two day vacation followed by a hacking only week.

    Sorry, I got sidetracked. For a seasoned 3’6″ horse, I think 2 jumping classes a day and a hack class is plenty. Normally they show two days per show.

    For a jumper, if it’s a very high level horse, definitely one class a day. I am not that rider though, so the highest level I’ll probably ever do again is the low ammy’s (1.2M). (And that’s honestly not all that likely, cause I’m a chicken.) At that level, two classes a day maybe at the most. When Rio was doing that stuff, he only ever did one class a day. And usually I didn’t do the whole division. He’d do the first class on say Friday, skip Saturday, then do the classic Sunday.
    When Jamp was doing the high AA’s I’d do the full division with him. They were between 1.1meter and 1.15 meters. It usually was one class a day for three days, but occasionally we’d do two classes on the middle day.

    Sorry I just wrote a book.

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