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Showing 101 – with Tarryn Stebbing

After our wonderful stint at Horse of the Year, we realised it was about time that the HQ Team got up to date on all things showing. We enlisted the help of National Candidate Showing Judge Tarryn Stebbing to get an overview of the whats, wheres, hows, and whys of this fascinating discipline.

HQ: So, Tarryn, to start us out, could you tell us a little about yourself and your background in showing?

Tarryn: I started showing as a Junior and have been blessed with several great showing horses over the years. My passion for showing has just grown with age and I’m now a National Candidate Showing Judge and Open Showing Rider. I’ve represented the Western Cape at the South African Championships, managed teams at Nationals, and currently work at producing horses for the show ring. I also compete in dressage and find the dressage training an asset in strengthening and suppling the show horses.

HQ: What are some of your greatest achievements?

Tarryn: I have two success stories that I love to share.

The first is of a horse I owned name Nelson. I bought Nelson without even trying or vetting him (something I would never recommend). It was one of those gut feelings that make you do the riskiest things!

Nelson was a young recently backed 4 year year old with a big personality and some behavioural problems. I was given him for a very good price by his lovely owner who just wanted to see him in the right hands. He was a quick, sharp, and sensitive ride and oozed natural athleticism and talent. Having said that, he was impossible to stay on if he was in a mood, and in the early days he was in a mood most days! I became known on a first-name basis at our local emergency room!

I couldn’t hack him out in the beginning days as I couldn’t even get out the gate without him throwing me and so I began long lining him. I long-lined him until I could do an entire outride running behind him without him freaking out (I would highly recommend this for weight loss and fitness training!). I then began slowly taking him out at a walk until he was confident and before I knew it, we were leading the young horses out on rides.

Whilst Nelson was a menace in the warm-up arena at a show, his ego would always take priority when he walked into a class and he would show off like no horse I have ever met and began winning classes and championships straight away.

Through traveling to shows upcountry, having a structured routine, and understanding how to manage him, Nelson matured and went on to become the best and most valuable horse I have owned.

My other great success story is of my dear friend and partner Tchutara Oberon.

I broke my back in early 2018 whilst riding a young horse which meant a few months out of the saddle and a hideous back brace that needed to be worn 24/7.

Whilst out training a student one day, I walked past a large horse poking his head out of the stable. His owner, who I didn’t really know at the time was standing outside and we began chatting. She disclosed that she was pregnant and wouldn’t be riding for a while in which instant (and I can only imagine it was a drug-induced comment due to my pain medication) I offered to take on the ride of the horse and show him while she was out of action.

To paint the picture a little more clearly, I had not so much as seen the horse outside of the stable at this point. He could have had three legs for all I knew. Turns out, he was a 17.2hh pure showjumping stallion with a rather colourful history of behaviour. Luckily he had clean legs.

That said, the day my neurosurgeon cleared me to ride, I was on Oberon’s back!

We clicked straight away and a strong partnership was quickly built. I immediately assessed that whilst he was not your textbook show horse, he could certainly jump, had an enormous presence and a great gallop.

We went on to win most of the local show hunter and working hunter classes We entered and were selected as the ‘wildcard’ in our annual Western Cape Chairman’s Cup that year. This is a very prestigious event held for the four horses in the province with the highest Open points and one wildcard of the Showing Chairman’s choice.

Oberon went on to not only behave beautifully but win the Chairman’s cup in front of a packed stadium in his first year of showing, making us the first wildcards to win the competition.

Since then, he has represented the Western Cape at nationals, been graded Medium dressage soon to go advanced, and is jumping the 1.40s with his owner.

This horse was the most underestimated horse I have ever met but despite everything, he has triumphed and shown that he can win at whatever you face him at.

His owner is now my best friend and we are still working together at showing the talent and capabilities of this magnificent horse.

I love these two stories because my life motto is ‘you deal the cards you are dealt.’

I don’t come from a very affluent family but my parents worked hard to support me as much as they could and I’ve worked hard to achieve my dreams. That said, I believe you don’t always need a big budget when buying a horse if you have a good eye, patience, and are willing to put in the hard work.

My goal is always to bring out the best in every horse I ride. This takes any expectations off them and allows for a happy partnership.

HQ: So what would you say are the advantages of showing for the horse?

Tarryn: My list could get very long for this. First and foremost, every horse that is sound can, and in my opinion, should do some showing. All of my young horses start with showing, as it is much more relaxed and less rigid than dressage or showjumping as a starting point. The other major advantage, particularly for young horses who are just starting out in competition, is that they are not alone in the arena. This security in numbers helps youngsters feel a little more confident in their first shows. Show horses are generally kept in great condition, and this is always something that is worth prioritising.

HQ: And in terms of the rider – what advantages do you see there?

Tarryn: I believe that for riders showing has a lot to teach us. Showing is a lot about ‘showmanship’ and the ability to best show off the horse you ride on the day. There is also a class for every rider, so if you’re not a jumper, there’s still plenty you can do. Showing also teaches you refinement and finesse in your riding and highlights your horse’s weaknesses and strengths so that you know what you need to work on. It’s also a great lesson in losing gracefully, and whilst humbling, this can make you more resilient in the future. Finally, in most disciplines, I believe good turnout is an advantage. A well-presented horse just creates a better impression, and learning to turn out to accentuate the best features of your horse, as you need to in showing, can only be beneficial. Oh, and I must also say that showing really does have the best prizes.