The Top Mistakes Horse Show Competitors Make (And How To Avoid Them)

A horse show is a competition that tests the skills of both rider and horse. There are many different types of shows, including jumping, dressage and barrel racing. 

Horse show competitions are important because they help you learn how to train your horse properly and improve your own riding abilities so that you can compete against other riders at higher levels.

Common Mistakes in Horse Show Led Classes
– Horse show competitors can improve their performance by avoiding common mistakes such as nervousness, bad training, and lack of focus.
– Proper training, including warm-ups and a varied training program, can help maximize a horse’s potential.
– Understanding judging criteria and horse show etiquette is essential for success in competitions.
– Overcoming nervousness can be achieved through various techniques, including deep breathing and visualization.
– Good horsemanship involves being aware of your horse’s needs and signals, maintaining proper posture and balance, and practicing good sportsmanship.

Mistake #1: Not Being Prepared

The first mistake you can make is failing to plan. If you don’t know what’s going on and how things work, it will be hard for you to compete effectively. You need to know what equipment is required for each class, how long the classes are, how many entries are allowed in each class and so forth. 

You also need to know the rules of your particular discipline or level of competition (for example: Hunter/Jumper versus Dressage).

If there is one thing that I have learned from competing at horse shows over the years, it’s this: being prepared makes all the difference in whether or not your experience will be successful or miserable!

Feeling nervous before a horse show is normal, but it shouldn’t ruin your performance. Our article on 15 Tips for Handling Nervousness at Horse Shows can help you overcome your anxiety and perform your best.

Mistake #2: Not Knowing the Course

The second most common mistake is not knowing the course. Competitors should familiarize themselves with the layout of their horse show courses, as well as any additional information about them (such as what obstacles will be present).

Competitors should also practice enough so that they’re comfortable with their rides–and can ride them without thinking too much about what comes next.

Mistake #3: Poor Horsemanship

  • Poor riding skills.
  • Not having a good relationship with your horse.
  • Not knowing how to handle the horse.

Mistake #4: Poor Attire

You’ve got a great horse, you’re entering your first show, and you want to look the part. But if you’re not wearing the right attire for the class, it can make all the difference in how well your horse performs.

The most common mistake is not wearing proper clothing for either yourself or your horse. This includes:

The wrong type of helmet – There are different types of helmets depending on what discipline (show jumping or dressage) that you’re competing in. It’s important to wear one that fits properly so it doesn’t shift around while riding or fall off during competition! 

Not having boots on – If your boots are too tight or loose around your ankles/calves/knees then this could cause pain while riding which will distract both yourself and the animal from performing well!

Understanding judging criteria is crucial for horse show competitors who want to succeed. Our article on The Importance of Understanding Judging Criteria at Horse Shows explains how you can prepare yourself and your horse ahead of time for a successful competition.

Mistake #5: Not Being Mentally Prepared

You have to be mentally ready to compete. This means staying calm under pressure and being confident in your own ability to succeed. If you’re not confident, then it’s easy for doubt and fear of failure to creep into your mind–and once those feelings are there, they’ll make it much harder for you perform well at the show.

It’s also important not only that you feel prepared but also that others around you know how prepared (or not) they are too!

If someone asks if they should bring their horse’s halter or bridle with them on show day, don’t say “yes” unless it’s absolutely necessary because doing so may give off an impression that their horse isn’t well trained enough for competition yet; instead just tell them “no” politely without giving any specifics as this will avoid making anyone feel bad about themselves or their horses’ abilities

Lack of ConfidenceDoubt and fear of failurePractice visualization techniques and positive self-talk. Focus on your strengths and accomplishments.
Poor Time ManagementFeeling rushed or unpreparedCreate a thorough competition schedule and stick to it. Practice deep breathing exercises to stay calm and centered.
DistractionsNoise, other competitorsUse noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs. Intentionally focus on your own performance and avoid distractions.
Lack of ExperienceNew or unfamiliar showsPractice at a variety of shows and events to build your confidence and experience different atmospheres. Attend clinics and work with a professional horse trainer to gain valuable insights and support.

By being mentally prepared for a horse show, you increase your chances of success. Confidence, time management, focus, and experience are all key factors that contribute to mental preparation. By addressing and overcoming any weaknesses in these areas, you can ensure that you’re ready to perform at your best.

Mistake #6: Poor Strategy

Not having a plan. You can’t just show up at the horse show and expect to win. You have to have a strategy in place, and it has to be one that takes into account all of the factors that could affect how well your horse performs–from weather conditions, course design and footing conditions to what classes offered on which days of the competition schedule.

Not knowing when to make adjustments during competition day itself (i.e., not being able to adjust as needed). If something isn’t working for your horse or rider during competition day itself (i.e., if they’re not performing well), then you need some sort of backup plan or way out so that everyone doesn’t end up frustrated by their poor performance!

Taking too few risks overall when competing at shows/riding events because they’re afraid of making mistakes – which leads me right into my next point…

Knowing the proper horse show etiquette can help you make a good impression on judges and fellow competitors. Check out our article on The Do’s and Don’ts of Horse Show Etiquette for tips on how to behave and what to avoid during a competition.

Mistake #7: Not Listening to the Judges

  • Not listening to the judges
  • Not following their instructions
  • Not responding to their feedback

Mistake #8: Poor Time Management

This is a common mistake that can be easily avoided. It’s important to keep track of your time and plan ahead so you know how much time you have left before your next class or event. Leaving too classes can cause stress and make it difficult to get everything done in the right order. 

If this happens, it’s likely that something will go wrong with one aspect or another of your horse show preparation process–and then all of your hard work will be for nothing!

Mistake #9: Poor Nutrition

You can’t expect to perform at your best if you’re not eating the right foods and drinking enough water. You also need to take in enough energy to keep going for long periods of time, especially if you’re competing on a hot day or doing endurance events like dressage or jumping.

If you aren’t getting enough nutrients from food, it’s important that you supplement with vitamins and minerals so that your body has what it needs to perform well during competition season!

Proper training is essential for unlocking your horse’s full potential and achieving success in horse shows. Our article on Maximizing Your Horse’s Potential: Training Tips for Competitors provides valuable insights into training techniques and strategies that can help your horse become a top performer.

Mistake #10: Not Practicing Enough

This is a common mistake that many riders make. They think they’re ready for their first show, so they show up with their horse and compete without any preparation or training. But if you don’t train regularly, you won’t be able to master the basics of riding and jumping, which will lead to mistakes in competition. 

You also need to push yourself when practicing so that when it comes time for competition, you’ll know how far your horse can go–and how far he or she can take you!

EffectsPoor performance in competitions, inability to master the basics of riding and jumping
SolutionsRegular training and practice, pushing yourself in training to test your limits and your horse’s abilities

This mistake is very common among riders, and can result in poor performance in competitions if not addressed. Regular training and practice are essential to mastering the basics of riding and jumping, and pushing yourself in training can help you determine your limits and those of your horse.

Make sure to allot enough time in your schedule for regular training, and commit to a consistent practice regimen.

Mistake #11: Not Resting Enough

You’re not getting enough sleep.

You’re not taking time to relax and recover from hard workouts.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of competing, but if you don’t take care of yourself physically and mentally, it will show in your performance at the show.

Mistake #12: Poor Communication

The number one mistake that horse show competitors make is poor communication. This can be caused by a variety of issues, including:

  • Not talking to the horse
  • Not listening to the horse
  • Not understanding the horse’s body language

Winning a horse show takes more than just talent and hard work; it also requires careful preparation and planning. Our article on 10 Secrets to Winning Your Next Horse Show offers valuable tips and advice on how to boost your chances of success and achieve your goals in competition.

Mistake #13: Not Listening to Coaches

You have to listen to your coach. They’re there to help you, not you.

If the coach tells you to do something and it doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it! If they tell you that something is wrong with your horse and he needs training, then get him trained!

You should also respect the coach because they have years of experience that can help improve your technique or riding skills, which will make both of you better competitors in future shows.

Data PointValue
MistakeNot listening to coaches
ImpactCan hinder competition performance
SolutionListen to coaches, respect their experience
Brands MentionedNone

By not listening to coaches, competitors risk disregarding valuable advice that can help improve their performance. Listening to coaches and respecting their experience can make a significant difference in a competitor’s technique or riding skills, ultimately making them better competitors in future shows.

Coaches have years of experience that can help competitors develop and refine their skills. If the coach asks you to do something that makes you uncomfortable, communicate that openly and respectfully, so you can work together to find a solution. Ignoring or disregarding a coach’s advice can result in a negative competition experience and a missed opportunity for growth and improvement.

Mistake #14: Poor Horse Care

  • Poor horse care
  • Not grooming the horse
  • Not cleaning the horse
  • Not taking care of the horse’s health

Mistake #15: Not Staying Positive

This is a big one. If you’re not positive, it will be difficult to stay focused and motivated. You have to believe in yourself and your horse, otherwise it’s just too easy for negative thoughts to creep in and take over your mind. 

The best way to avoid this is by surrounding yourself with people who are positive and supportive of your goals!


Now that you know what the top 15 mistakes are, it’s time to learn how to avoid them.

  • Be prepared for anything. If you’re going into a horse show competition and don’t know what type of course or obstacles will be thrown at you, then it’s best to be ready for anything (and everything).
  • Know your horse inside out. You need to know everything about your horse–from their favorite treats and toys down to their shoe size–in order for them not only perform well but also stay safe during competition time!
  • Practice makes perfect! The more practice time two partners have together before entering any type of competition, the better chance they’ll have at winning first place overall against other competitors who may not have as much experience under their belts yet.”

Further Reading

13 ridiculous mistakes all competition riders have made at some stage: This article provides an entertaining overview of some of the most common blunders riders make in competitions.

Bend: Top 8 Common Mistakes We All Make: Understanding bend is crucial for success in many riding disciplines. This article highlights some of the most common mistakes riders make when trying to achieve proper bend.

15 Mistakes That Can Make You Snubbed in the Horse Show Arena: From making a poor first impression to getting your horse disqualified, this article covers 15 potential mistakes that can sabotage your performance in a horse show.


What are some common mistakes made by horse show competitors?

Some common mistakes made by horse show competitors include nervousness, improper training, bad posture, lack of focus, and forgetting horse show etiquette.

Why is understanding judging criteria important in horse shows?

Understanding the judging criteria used in horse shows can help you prepare your horse and yourself ahead of time for a successful performance. It can also help you identify areas where you may need improvement and tailor your training accordingly.

How can I overcome my nervousness before a horse show?

There are many ways to overcome nervousness before a horse show, including deep breathing exercises, visualization techniques, positive self-talk, and focusing on the present moment.

What are some good training strategies for horse show competitors?

Good training strategies for horse show competitors include warming up thoroughly, using a varied training program, setting goals, practicing consistently, and working with a qualified trainer.

How can I avoid common mistakes when handling my horse during a horse show?

To avoid common mistakes when handling your horse during a horse show, always be aware of your horse’s needs and signals, maintain proper posture and balance, avoid over-correcting, and practice good sportsmanship and politeness around competitors and judges.