Some people have no desire to go to the show pen and compete with their horses. Yet some do nothing but eat, sleep, work (as little as possible) and go to horse shows. Why? What is the lure of the show pen? Besides, it is all about how much silver your saddle has and how expensive your outfit is, right? Not really.
In my eyes the show pen is to make me a better horseman, and to help me make my horse more competitive. If you ride your horse at home, and practice at home, then what reference do you have to judge your progress and your horses capabilities.
I often have people come take a couple of lessons to help them reach the next step in their horsemanship. Often times what they find is that they have actually become so stagnate in their abilities, we have to go back to their basics and redefine those points first, before we move on to the next step.
It is like you are playing tennis with a ball machine and not getting any help or guidance from an instructor. You hit balls with the machine three times a week and feel like you are doing pretty good. But, in reality you do not really have a good idea as to where your game is at until you actually put it into play. That is where you will find your real weaknesses. The same goes for me as a trainer. I have horses in training that I am expected to take to futurities their 3 year old year. I may ride them everyday for a year and feel that they are very good. It is not until I take them out and put them in the show pen with other three year old horses that I really know where they stack up against the competition.
Competition should inspire you to become better and practice more. It should give you goals and levels to reach. There are so many arenas to compete in with horses now days that you can compete at any level you desire. Here are a couple that come to mind; open shows, breed shows, event specific shows. You should start at the type of shows that complements the breed and type of horse that you have. Then pick the type of show environment that suites you as an individual. Let me give you a list of association shows that I compete at and why. This will give you an idea as to how they are set up and what about them draws me to them.