While most of us will probably include a pat on the shoulder or a wither scratch in our festivities, there are a few distinctive calling cards for individual disciplines in how we celebrate after a really good trip in the show ring. (This is meant to be a tongue-in-cheek list: choke down your personal offenses and just try to enjoy the ride.)
Exuberant first pump: You’re an international show jumper. The more famous you are, the more percentage of your upper body will be involved in the exuberant fist pump, and if you’re now leading the class, you’ll really wind up and let one fly as your horse wheels underneath you wondering if you’re about to fall off. Extra special brownie points after the jump-off if you take your helmet and throw it (apologies to the crowd if they’re not paying attention and get clobbered).
Seriously, this is a thing:
Absolutely no reaction on your part, but your trainer gives a distinctive hoot: you’re a hunter rider, and to show any signs of celebration would be tantamount to the years of tradition that brought you to this arena in the first place. Your trainer, however, will give a distinctive hoot if you’ve done a good job. Like an owl, individual trainers can be identified by their hoot, so keep your bird book/show program handy.
Dismount, walk out of the arena and remove your hat so you can wave it to the crowd when your score is announced: you’re a Level IV reiner, and if you know your horse did a good job, there’s no need for him to carry you the additional 20 yards out of the arena at the walk. If it wasn’t a good trip, though, then Docs Chex Shiney Slider Lena better get used to that long, long walk of shame.
Drop your reins and ride out on the buckle: hello, dressage rider! After all of that contact, you celebrate with no contact at all.
Drop your reins completely and wave with both hands to the crowd: hello, internationally-famous dressage rider! In the name of balance and symmetry, you need to wave with both hands, because to keep one hand on the reins and one hand in the air saying “thank you” to your legions of fans would throw your horse totally off-balance, and that’s not the point of dressage.
We have no idea, because you’re somewhere out in the parking lot trying to stop your horse: you’re a barrel racer or other speed event rider, and that long exit chute was helpful for letting you have a good run home but not so helpful for pulling ol’ Sparky up at the end of the trip. When you eventually get pulled up and turned around, hopefully someone will tell you how fast your time was.
Lift one hand in the air and point repeatedly at your horse: you are an upper-level eventer, and you want to remind everyone watching that while you may have remembered every step of that complicated dressage test, kept your peak-fit horse bottled up throughout, then managed to hang on for the entire cross-country trip AND leave all the rails in their cups, it was your horse that carried you through all of that and you’re just an accessory. Or… something like that.
Slap the cow: you’re a reined cow horse rider and all of the stars finally aligned for you to get that perfect trip that never happens, and you hear the whistle blow just as you’re finishing your second perfect circle, your horse positioned perfectly on the cow’s shoulder, allowing you to reach down and pet that big beautiful hamburger that definitely did not sign up for this. Pro tip: if you slap a cow at the end of your trip and you are NOT a reined cow horse rider, something has gone seriously, seriously awry with your horse show.