This weekend I completed my final Winter lesson-horse-only show of the season. I had expected to participate in this particular annual show last year, but it was cancelled just as the first COVID-19 shut downs began.
I mentioned that canceled experience in a previous post last March at https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2020/03/18/mental-fitness-in-riding/.
While these lesson-horse-only shows are largely designed for children, they are a good opportunity for riders of any age to practice show-ring skills in a supportive environment. They take place under the auspices of what is known within the Saddleseat world as Academy Shows.
At Academy shows (or open shows with Academy classes), multiple lesson-barns convene at one show location so participants get the flavor of open showing but without the stiffer class requirements, expense or pressure of bigger shows. Any horse ridden at an Academy show must be a regular part of a lesson program.
For this Winter’s show series, I rode in the walk-trot Huntseat classes, not the Saddleseat ones, but the horse I rode was a Saddlebred (most Academy horses are of the Saddlebred/ Morgan/Arabian variety). The Academy hunt seat classes were open, not divided by age or experience level. Most Academy Saddleseat classes, though, are in fact divided by age and experience level so you are hopefully competing against your same-age peers with similar skills.
I am surprised that more discliplines don’t do a version of Academy. What fun it would be for several reining barns or dressage barns or barrel racing barns or any discipline-specific barns to get together for a series of lesson-horse-only shows.
Interesting that this show idea hasn’t caught on in the wider horse world. Sure, there are barns that host their own shows and allow other folks to bring their horses to show, too, but not with lesson-horses-only. Anybody ever heard of something like this outside of the Saddleseat world?
It really is a great way to be introduced to showing. Also a great way for someone like me who has shown off and on before but unfortunately still struggles to improve both their basic general riding as well as show-ring specific skills.
And if you happen to win a class at the final show of this series, you get to take a victory lap with your ribbon in front of the show photographer. I don’t ever remember getting to do that before. I picked a good show to win a blue!
In addition participating in this recent Winter show series, I also took a handful of dressage lessons this Winter from a USDF “r” judge (United States Dressage Federation). After participating in my online western-dressage show last year with my horse, Shiloh, I wanted some help in clarifying some basic dressage concepts. I should be finishing off those lessons this week and will talk more about that experience in a future post.
I would love to be able to ride my own horses at home year-around. That said, I certainly appreciate each Winter where I get to ride a horse, even if not my own AND have the benefit of instruction AND chances to show. Win or lose or learn. I am grateful for each and every ride. Thank you to the Academy, the horses and to all the folks whose hard work make these classes possible.