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  • Writer's pictureJoyride EQ

3 Ways Indoors is Like Nothing You've Ever Experienced

This article first appeared at Marketing4Equestrians.

Elodie Watrous & Paper Trail at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show 2022. Photo Andrew Ryback Photography

With the summer season wrapping up, we come to Joyride’s favorite season (ok, ok, besides WEF circuit!), indoor season! For newly minted equestrians, indoors is a time to grab a pumpkin-spice latte and settle in to watch live-streams of the nation’s best, all vying for championship titles to add to their resumes. If you're participating at indoors, you're really going to need that coffee to keep up with the hectic pace of finals competition!

For junior hunter and equitation riders especially, these shows are goals that horses and riders have worked towards all year.

As with most things that are important, we found out everything we were unprepared for with the first junior rider in our family, Chloe. The big four (Capital Challenge, Pennsylvania National, Washington International, and the National Horse Show) were different horse show experiences than anywhere else we had been during the year. Now, with our second daughter, Elodie, we approach these horse shows a little differently. Here’s what we learned:

1. If you want to be competitive inside, you’ve got to train inside.

Everything about riding inside is different than riding outside. Visually, the walls back off the horses, so your ride must change. Sound behaves differently inside, so you may find that your horse is suddenly reactive to the different echoes around the ring. And the rings, they can be oddly shaped ovals or not quite equidistant from one end to the other. Let’s just say you don’t want your first experience at indoors to be your first-time riding in an arena like this. Plan ahead and get to some shows with an indoor like Kentucky, or for those in the south, even training in a covered arena will help.

Elodie Watrous on Consierg at the National Horse Show 2022. Photo Meg Gehron

2. Logistically, competing at indoors takes more… everything.

Most of us are used to traveling to horse shows in packs. When we horse show, we are part of a group of 25 horses who travel to the horse show for 2 – 3 weeks! We buy supplies in bulk, we book hotel rooms in bulk, and we settle in days beforehand, working out of the horse show the way we work at home. At indoors, we are taking one to three horses and planning to be at the horse show for two to three days. There is no settling in. It’s nothing like working at home. We’ve got to unpack and get moving, which often means more manpower per horse than usual.

The days are long and action-packed, sometimes getting the horses out multiple times a day. The mornings are early and the night classes late, so be prepared to use your time and energy wisely and stock up on Starbucks gift cards!

3. Leave your warm-up at home.

There are no warm-up classes, no smaller classes we can pop into to get the horse into a certain ring one time. You’ve got to show up and jump championship height totally cold. Most of us are not used to showing our horses this way. Heck, many of us have our trainers horse show our horses first at every show! (Such is life!) Not at Indoors. This may be the hardest of the tests for most people. The best you can get is to get up before the sun rises and grab some time flatting in the ring when it's open for schooling, that way at least both horse and rider can get a view of the sights and take a deep breath.

Practicing tough courses with short turns and getting it right the first time is helpful practice. Each lesson day the girls pretended to be at indoors and had one chance to get the track perfect. It helps to get their head in the game when they know they only have a few shots in the ring.

Having great horses that are up to the task, physically fit, and healthy certainly helps. At Joyride, we take pride in our quality horses and our ability to find the right ones for the job.

Always Learning

The fall indoor circuit is definitely a challenge, but one we love taking on every year. The results always tell us where our program is strong and, of course, where it is weak.

After our learning experiences with Chloe, we started taking Elodie on the indoor circuit much earlier in her riding career. There is just no replacing good old experience. We let her go, make some mistakes, and learn as soon as possible so she would have a better chance of showing what she’s capable of before she aged out of the juniors.

Thinking of heading to one of the indoor shows soon? Learn more by following our journey on our Facebook or Instagram page. Feel free to reach out to us if you have questions - we're happy to help!

Happy Horse Showing!

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