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Are Some Horses Being Over-Shown?

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306 – May/June, 2024

By Heather Smith Thomas

An issue that has gained attention among exhibitors, trainers, and judges is that occasionally a few horses may be “over-shown” at some horse shows. The ability to share a horse among a family of exhibitors is a great thing–and usually not a problem for the horses–but in some instances, they might be over-worked, particularly at smaller, weekend shows.

Keeping The Best In Mind

Opinions about this subject are mixed, however, which creates a debate about whether it is actually a problem. For instance, Holly Hover, a long-time competitor and judge from Cave Creek, Arizona says in her experience seeing the same horse over-shown by multiple family members at the same show is rare.

“Here on the West Coast, I have seen parents and children share individual event horses, particularly Western Riding and Trail horses. Traditionally, our shows are multiple day shows and those classes are split up. The horses have a day in between to rest. I think you’d tend to see more problems–where it could actually become overwhelming for the horse–at a single-day or two-day weekend show, where family members may use a horse in the same events over and over,” says Hover.

“In Quarter Horse events I show at or judge, I don’t see much crossover. There is an occasional walk-trot horse that also gets shown in higher level classes by a parent, but I don’t consider that over-showing. I see some horses shown in the Trail and Western Riding, and possibly Showmanship classes by two family members, but I’ve never seen a horse shown by more than two family members. I also don’t see them over-prepared by trainers,” says Hover.

“The only time it might be too much would be if someone were to show that horse heavily in all-around competition, where the same horse would be shown in six or seven events by two people. I never see horses shared in the Reining or Ranch Riding–which are more strenuous events,” she says.

Some of the questions that have been posed as possible solutions are: Should shows run the Rookie and the Level 1 classes concurrently so a horse could only be shown in one? Should shows limit a horse to only show in two classes per class division?

“Most people recognize what their horses can or cannot do,” Hover says. “I don’t think we should make rules that limit or dictate too much. I think this particular problem is rare, and I also think the judges have within their discretion the ability to comment to the owner/exhibitor that their horse is looking lethargic and overheated.”

She feels the only time this might happen is with a family that is new to showing and still learning. “Most shows have stalls so people can take their horses back to the stall and rest them. I think the problem is so infrequent it doesn’t deserve having rules to mandate what exhibitors can and can’t do. I think we can run our Working classes with our Level One classes, and it will be fine. People want to show–often in multiple classes–and not pay a big entry fee to have only one quick class,” says Hover. “I have been judging for more than 35 years and have never judged a show where I thought a horse was being abused by being shown too much.”

On the Other Hand

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306 – May/June, 2024

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