Benefits of Observation

Many trainers have advised me that a great way to learn and further your riding is watching others, and I completely agree. Over the past few years, I have taken any chance I get to watch any show, whether it’s someone competing at 2ft or 4ft, a lesson, or a hack. It has shown me what a winning round looks like, how a 1st place round is different from 2nd place round, and the commonalities in the top ranked rounds. In today’s post, I am going to share with you my opinion on why watching horse shows, both in person and online, are important.

Personally, I love watching horse shows on the USEF network. I especially love watching the big equitation classes, like Maclay, Dover, and USET finals. These riders ride extremely difficult courses, sometimes without stirrups, while in a small arena. My favorite feature of these classes is the commentary of each round. These commentators range from judges, riders, top trainers, past winners etc. They all have different opinions on rounds and discuss their perspective on things like adding in a line, first impressions and pacing. They discuss decisions that make riders stand out or don’t really matter. I specifically love watching 2nd rounds and tests, because these courses are truly trying to separate the top riders from the rest of the pack.

When watching horse shows in person, I like to watch any class (hunters, jumpers, or equitation). Like watching a show via computer, I love to see different rider’s tracks, whether they make a tight roll back, have a looser canter, or decide to take their time on the track. If I get the opportunity, I really enjoy watching trainers show in the schooling and training hunters. Watching a professional work with a horse that may not be on its best behavior is such a great way to learn more about patience and ways to handle younger horses. The choices they make in a course speak to their expertise and experience and can help you as you plan out your show courses.

Watching lessons are another favorite thing to do. I love listening to my trainer discuss what to do differently during a course, how to fix a bad habit, or how to work with a horse differently. The tips or corrections a trainer is giving another rider can almost always apply to my riding as well. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to take in everything that your training is telling you in a lesson. Listening to their expertise when the pressure is off and you are sitting on the sidelines allows you to absorb so much more information.


I think everyone believes the only way to advance your riding is in the saddle, but there are many opportunities to learn from observing other riders, trainers and courses. Listening to others’ commentary about a rider or round can be invaluable to your own training. And making your own observations and/or predictions about a course can help you develop your game plan when it’s time to compete yourself.