Note: this is an excerpt from our article “What You Should Know if You’re New to Showing” where we answered the question “Why are so many Open riders getting zeros?” Check it out if you missed it!
Horses are smart. The more they’re showed, the more they begin to recognize that being in the show pen is a little stressful or a little scary, or even begin to notice that they’re not being reprimanded for acting up like they would be at home.
Because of Gem State’s affordable entry fees, many trainers use our shows as an opportunity to get their horses ready for larger shows. Using a run to train the horse instead of trying to win is called schooling.
This may mean that the rider may use an illegal bit (note: this is not actually allowed!) in order to train on their horse a little more, or they may countercanter a horse that worries about changing leads, or they may turn around more than the pattern calls for in order to stop only when the horse is feeling correct, or they may work on getting their horse to stop straight instead of making a fence turn.
There are as many ways to school a horse in the show pen as there are trainers.
Schooling is an essential tool in keeping show horses tuned up. Talk to your trainer about it!