“To school or not to school?” For those riders attending this past weekend’s show here at Edenview it was a question that was at the forefront of almost everyone’s mind. Why? Because the answer was an emphatic: “No! You do not need a lunchtime schooling!” If you’re ever looking to stir up a hornets’ nest of controversy, just threaten to take away something riders believe they cannot live without. Something like excessive practice, let’s say.
Lunchtime schooling became a “thing” this season when we agreed to open the ring and allow horses and riders the ability to practice over the fences in the show ring for the first time since we started hosting our shows five years ago. The request for schooling was made by a new barn attending our show series for the first time and, in hopes of gaining new faces and striving to be seen as accommodating, we decided to give it a whirl. Everyone loved the schooling BUT everyone hated the longer day!
Organizing an event as dynamic as a horse show requires patience, practice, dedication and commitment to the riding community as a whole. Most entry level horse shows run on tight budgets and rely heavily on competitor entries in order to fund the various aspects and elements of maintenance, upgrades and prizes that keep people coming back for more. The decisions that we, as managers, make today directly affect our bottom line for years to come. One mistake can be critical to the outcome and continued success of the show, so it’s in our best interests to get things right…the first time!
As a rider, coach and show manager, I’ve been on both sides of the “to school or not to school” question, so I knew that some serious thought was required before we made our final decision to cancel the schooling. In an effort to make the right choice for Edenview, my family and I actively considered the role and goals of a schooling level horse show. We were keenly aware that the outcome of our discussions were going to affect not only the riders’ enjoyment of their day, but it would also indirectly affect whether we would retain them as competitors and clients. There was some considerable pressure to get this right.
So, what tipped the scales and caused us to cancel the lunch schooling? The certainty that riders need to prepare at home for a show, no matter what the level, and use the resulting outcome as a means of determining what they and their coaches will focus on to better themselves next time out. A schooling show by its very nature and definition is a means of getting out and riding in a show environment for the purpose of testing and training both horses and riders. Mistakes made on course are an opportunity to find holes and fill them with knowledge and information that will allow riders to continue up the ranks with greater success. Schooling is NOT an opportunity to approach and re-approach each fence numerous times until the horse and the rider are perfect but the management are in the hot seat because the last class is being run in complete darkness as a result of the lunch schooling taking forever!
So, out with the schooling and in with a significantly shorter day! Hooray! Without the afternoon schooling our day ran without a hitch, finished hours earlier and no one died from boredom or inevitable heat stroke resulting from watching endless schooling trips while waiting for the afternoon program to start. And as an added bonus, the horses weren’t exhausted from jumping those extra lunchtime fences so they had enough energy to be brilliant when it counted (while they were being judged). All in all, it was a fantastic day of showing and the riders did an amazing job of piloting themselves and their horses/ponies around the courses without incident. Great job guys!