There are a myriad of factors that contribute to success in the show pen, but some aspects of the preparation process are more crucial than others. Non-pro Erin Russell shared her top three tips for being competitive in three different disciplines.
1. Find the right trainer
With so many trainers in each industry, it can be difficult to find one that is a good fit for a non-pro’s ability level and goals. Some riders want to be the best they can be and eventually become a trainer themselves while others just want to have fun.
“Having a trainer that can give you the tips for success and help you with all of it is very critical,” said Russell, who competes in cutting, reining and reined cow horse. “You can’t just go out and do it on your own. Find one that teaches you in your language, because not every non-pro is the same.”
For reining and cow horse, Russell trains with Steve and Carol Metcalf. When she branched out into the cutting, she went to seek out the expertise of Ronnie Rice. She said their training programs have been exactly what she was wanting in that they work with her to meet her personal ambitions.
2. Find the right horse
Russell admitted that her National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity and National Reining Horse Association Futurity horse, Under Lights, is special. There are not a lot of horses that are as versatile as he is, but having a horse that suits your ability level is vital to having success in the show pen.
“I couldn’t do any of it if I didn’t have the horsepower,” Russell explained. “You need a horse that can teach you and that you can go compete on. It’s all about the caliber of animal that you have.”
Even if a horse is extremely talented, their ground manners must also be suitable for what will be expected of them. Under Lights is just as pleasant in the barn as he is under saddle and that was important to Russell.
“When I went to look at him, his personality was just great. You could go in the stall and mess with him, and he wasn’t bothered,” she said. “He was really easy-going, especially for a 2-year-old stud.”
3. Find the time to practice
The amount of time a rider puts in to prepare for a show positively influences the outcome. Russell is busy with her job and charity work, but she always finds the time and resources to be successful in the show pen.
“Balancing your time and putting in the practice is a big thing,” she said. “You need time in the saddle.”
She is a strong believer that if you spend the time to prepare prior to getting in the show pen, it will be a better experience for both horse and rider.
“By the time we get to a show, we should be ready to rock and roll. We shouldn’t still be learning stuff. That just stresses everybody out.”
Read more about Russell and her multi-discipline approach to showing in the May 15 issue of Quarter Horse News. Not a subscriber? Click here to subscribe now.