By Ambassador Alexis Martin
Since the first time I walked into a show ring, I have always been taught how showing is much more than blue ribbons, bows and having the most expensive horse. Like most things in life, sportsmanship is a HUGE part of riding and an even larger part of showing.
I grew up with the most inspirational people in my life teaching me about the importance of sportsmanship. Andrea Duffy, my amazing trainer to this day; and Lawson Mayfield, my barn mate, role model, and the older sister I will always remember. To this day, I think of how lucky I am to have had them in my life to demonstrate sportsmanship in and out of the ring.
I remember once I was watching Lawson show in the Junior Hunters. After her round, I thought “She just won this class!” But when listening to the announcements, she was placed second. I spoke with her back at the barn about the class. I can still hear to this day Lawson say, “I am happy with how I rode and even happier with how my horses performed. That is what’s most important. The ribbons are just a bonus.” This was just one of the many occasions where Lawson taught the art of sportsmanship by example.
“I am happy with how I rode and even happier with how my horses performed. That is what’s most important. The ribbons are just a bonus.”
I had just finished my round. I was very excited, this was my first show as an adult amateur rider in the A circuit. When I walked out of the ring, many other adult riders congratulated me on my round. I walked straight over to Andrea, my trainer, and stated how nice all the riders had been. It was encouraging to me to see other adult amateurs working hard and demonstrating such great sportsmanship. Even as adults, these riders were still very much in love with our sport.
Sportsmanship isn’t taught like it used to be. As adult amateur riders, we need to set an example to the younger girls. We decide how to treat each other at the ring. We decide how to treat our horses, our partners. This is our sport after all. You aren’t always going to have the perfect ride, the most expensive horse in the ring, or the most ribbons hanging on your stall door. You will never be able to control the outcome of a show day. Trust me, I’ve experienced this first hand plenty of times. However, here’s what you can control. How hard you try, how you treat others, and how to take mistakes as learning experiences. Taking control of these won’t be easy, but I have faith in you. Just remember, at the end of the day, we are all trying to achieve the same thing. Being the best we can be in the sport we love with the horses that have stolen our hearts.