|None of us really enjoy riding in the rain, and showing horses in the rain certainly is not the fun time it should be! But should we really all run and hide when the showers start? In a heavy downpour, whenever footing is dangerous, and certainly in a thunderstorm, we should not be expected to brave the show ring. On the other hand, if we retreat at each light rainfall we hurt the shows and may eventually lose them. Maybe it is because my part of the world is fox hunting country that riders of my generation were expected to be tough.
As I recall showing as a junior back in the early '70s, the trainers said ride and you rode. If the hunters were going to ride to hounds all winter, they were not going to make a fuss about a little rain. If the hunter entries were riding, the show was going on, and everyone else was expected to ride too, no matter what kind of saddle you had. Plastic hat covers and clear rain coats were carried along with every habit as a concession to poor weather, but if you happened to get caught without your rain gear, it was not a big problem. Most habits were washable if necessary, and the worst you could expect was that the dye from a new coat might stain your shirt if things got really wet.
In my day, the worst cries about rain came from the western riders who had spent so much time polishing the silver on their
saddles, and now had to go out and let it all get wet. Suede chaps can take some serious damage if they get too wet, so there
was good reason to save an old pair for a rainy day, just in case. Times have changed. No one wants to think of what could happen if a horse slips and falls in the mud. Riders are dealing with habits in materials that dry clean only, and tack that is far less forgiving of rain than the plain leather of 30 years ago. If it is not a really important event, it hardly seems worth dealing with all the mud, and if it is a major event that means a lot to the entrants we want a fair shot for everyone, not a quick class in conditions where no one can be their best.
In the last two years, I have seen a number of outdoor shows scramble to try to rearrange schedules when rain starts to fall. In
some cases, they are able to move swamped classes to another day, but there are limits. For a one day show, rain dates are a
challenge in a busy season. If conflicts make changes impossible, you may well lose a show completely for the entire year. Lose
that same show for a couple of years running, or have a poor turn out due to weather on multiple dates and you may lose that
show for good.
As more riders decide they are not willing to come out rain or shine, more of our shows seem to be moving indoors. In some cases, at venues where there are indoor and outdoor rings, smart show managers schedule some open time into the prize list so that the outdoor classes can be moved inside if worst comes to worst. Rather than see outside shows for saddle seat riders disappear, we as exhibitors can take steps to work with show management to try to keep our classes alive. Most importantly, exhibitors need to keep in touch with the show officials. If conditions are poor and you really can't justify riding into a mud soaked ring, let the gate know that you will be withdrawing. Few things look worse than to have a class announced and have no one come to the gate. If you are willing to ride, let them know that as well. If an earlier class was cancelled due to lack of entries, the management may be assuming that no one will be coming later on, and they will be ready to cancel your division even though you and your fellow riders are not.
If a show you would have entered is rained out, try not to be too upset with the show management. They didn't order the weather and certainly they are not happy about having to cancel any classes. What you can do is let them know that you are willing to enter again next time, and what classes you would like to see offered. Coming from a time when it was show rain or shine, I can tell you that if you have the right attitude, a little bit of rain is no cause for a big fuss. If the skies threaten, dress for the worst, put the horses' tails up in mud knots and enjoy. If you are having fun, you can ignore the rain like water off a duck's back.