Show Ring Politics

by kpmautner

I learned a little about show ring politics with my first real hunter trainer.  I’d started out doing mostly seat-of-the-pants and do-it-yourself, then turned pro with my BHSI certificate and learned about the eventing ins-and-outs from one of the best.  We went and did, and if we won that was great, and if we didn’t, we figured out what went wrong and tried to fix it for the next time.   Never occurred to us that there were politics involved.

Then I started paying attention to (and coaching) Medal and Maclay competitors.  I learned that it really does matter who your teacher/trainer is.  I learned that there were parents who mortgaged their homes so that their little princesses could come East to work with the gods, demi-gods and heroes of the equitation world, and that if you weren’t working in this closed circle, you might as well not bother.

This lesson was reinforced when I started showing hunters with Cameo.


Unknowingly, I’d arrived at the barn of one of the BNTs (big name trainers) in our area (I chose the barn because it was close to home, clean and neat, not for the trainer, of whom I’d never heard – I was going to event again, but Cameo thought otherwise).  I started noticing that every single time I went into the ring with Cameo, BNT would make a point of being visible by the in-gate.  Point being, “hey judge, this is one of mine”.  Must admit that it helped.

On the other hand, I have never been one to enjoy success on someone else’s laurels.

In the dance world, it’s the same sort of game.  There are pro/am professionals (trainers) whose students pay huge sums to take coaching with the big names, knowing that at one point or another, these big names will be judging them and remembering them.  These pro/am pros also will carry their students on the competition floor – essentially doing all the work while the student just looks pretty.

I have never been one to enjoy success on someone else’s laurels.

My wonderful partner/teacher/friend  insists that I do my own homework.  If I sit on my posterior in the studio because I’m not doing what I’m supposed to, so be it.  If I’m not trotting with impulse and collection, there’s a spur or two.  If I’m getting strung out and heavy in hand, there’s a brisk half-halt.  It means that I’m learning self-carriage.  Which is a good thing.

Yes, on the competition floor he will cover for me if I lose it, but he still expects me to pull my own oar.  And we don’t play politics.  Granted, it has affected our placements occasionally, but I want to get good enough that they can’t ignore me, even if we don’t play politics.  Wish us luck!!!