It is a major step in your relationship with a horsewoman when she first invites you to one of her horse shows. In many cases, this will also mark the moment of your first fight…or even the end of your relationship all together. To avoid misunderstanding and ensure that your first horse show is not your last, remember this:
She wants you there. She will probably ignore you. That’s okay.
What you will learn (with time) is that horse shows are a very important part of her life, and her desire to have you there is a sign of the fact that she thinks you are important enough to share her passion with. Horse shows are exciting and stressful, requiring a lot of energy and focus on her part. She wants you there because it is important, but she’s not going to hold your hand. Horse shows can be a lot of fun, but they are not a date.
Your first horse show can be difficult, because (assuming you are a horse person already), you are likely to feel like a stranger in a strange land. You won’t know anyone except your partner. There’s a language being spoken that sounds familiar, but it is clear that you don’t completely understand what’s going on. There are rules and cultural norms that you know are there, and that you don’t want to violate, but you have no idea what they are … until you break them. The feeling you are bound to have is not so different from the feeling that anyone has when dropped into a foreign environment, except the feeling is made worse from the fact that you expect your partner to be your horse show sherpa, and you are disappointed when she fails in her duties as a guide. The fact of the matter, however, is that it’s not her job to make you comfortable. The horse show is not about you. It’s about her.
Your number one job at any horse show, but especially your first one is this: be happy. Remember that she has not invited you to the show to help her with chores. Feel free to volunteer, and definitely lend a hand when she asks, but know that there is an art to even what looks like the simplest task (you will suck at cleaning stalls the first time you do it). She has also not invited you so that you can offer your opinion on how to improve her workflow. She has not invited you so that the two of you can spend a weekend away together. She has invited you because the horse show is important, and because you are important, and because she wants to share an important activity with an important person.
How, then, are you going to avoid frustration and conflict as a result of your first horse show experience? Here are some tips
- Keep an open mind – don’t enter the show grounds with any set of expectations about what the day/weekend will be like. See it as an adventure, a foray into foreign territory. Be cool, and use it as an opportunity to see your partner in her element, doing something she loves and is probably pretty good at. In other words, know that you don’t know anything, and you should be just fine.
- Hydrate, wear sunscreen, and bring snacks – nothing will make you fussy at the end of the day like having heat stroke, getting sun burned, and having ‘rumblies in your tumbly.’ Amidst the stress resulting from having to navigate this strange new world, if you are physically uncomfortable, you are likely to blame your ill-temper on your partner rather than on your body. Taking care of your bodily needs at a horse show can be difficult (I’m still trying to figure out how best to do it, and I still always forget something important). At the very least, if at the end the day you feel upset, instead of taking your partner’s head off, ask yourself these questions: Am I thirsty? Am I hungry? Am I sleepy? Am I hungry? …am I gassy?
- Be happy – I can’t underscore this enough. I will certainly go into this in more detail in later posts, but remember that she is not at the show to look after you and your needs. It’s your job to be supportive, and the best way of being supportive is by demonstrating that she doesn’t have to worry about you (she already has a demanding horse(s) to worry about).
At the end of the day, when she asks you what you thought, admit that you don’t know anything about most of what you were exposed to, that you admire her knowledge, skill, and commitment, and are delighted that she thought of you as someone important enough to share this part of her life with. With luck, this horse show will not be your last, and you will continue to develop in your ‘horse sense’ and discover ways to make horse shows fun in themselves (because they are).