Rider to Rider: Favorite Equestrian Competitions

Readers share their best-loved events and what makes them their "go-to" shows.

Rolex 3-Day Event. The level of completion and horsemanship is extraordinary. The venue is beautiful and the shopping amazing! It”s best to go with your BFF horse friends?the ones who don”t talk during a dressage test. I travel to the event from Pennsylvania. Worth the trek!
Wendy Maddox Gardosik, via email

My favorite competition is Spruce Meadows. I have never shown there but it is my dream to one day. I have gone to watch the “Masters” twice now and it is always amazing to be there. The atmosphere at Spruce is fun, friendly and competitive. For the “Masters” riders from all over the world go and it is always fantastic to see them compete in the “BMO Nations Cup” and “CN International.” For those showing, the grounds are amazing and for those just watching, there is always stuff to so such as shopping in the “Equiplex.” Spruce Meadows cannot be beat!
Kelly Donaldson, North Vancouver

Every year I find myself looking forward to the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association”s (IHSA) National Competition. As a college student, riding as a freshman at IHSA Nationals for Delaware Valley College was the most thrilling, intimidating, challenging, exciting, and now the most memorable horse show experience of my life. I attended all four Nationals that occurred while I was in college at venues such as the Coliseum at Middle Tennessee State University, The Big E Complex in Massachusetts, and the Harrisburg Show Grounds either as a rider or volunteer. Since then I have only missed one National Competition and have continued to attend with colleges I have coached for. I love every moment of it. Spending quality time with my teammates and now riders on my team are some of the best memories I carry with me, and many of the stories we continue to tell year after year become legendary. Seeing all of the wonderful horses that colleges are able to loan to the competition, reuniting with friends (old and new), and watching the students ride hard for their teams is the highlight of my year. Riding in the IHSA brought so much to my life as a student and seeing other riders and teams that seem to feel the same way is thrilling to me. We are looking forward to bringing the nation to our backyard again this year; see you at Harrisburg in May!
Emily C Miller, Pennsylvania

In the nearly 50 years that I have been riding I have participated in many different types of competition, from lead-line equitation and gymkhanas to Pony Club rallies and USEA recognized horse trials. My favorite to prepare for and compete in was the Versatile Horse and Rider Competition at the Equine Affaire in Springfield, MA in November, 2011. I decided to send an entry video in on a whim, and didn”t start to do any serious preparation until early September when I got the acceptance letter. I went onto YouTube to look at videos of previous competitions and get an idea of what we might be faced with. I have had Gabriel, my 10-year-old Belgian/ Thoroughbred cross, since he was a baby and we do a lot together: eventing at Novice level, fox hunting, trail riding and pleasure driving, but never anything like this. With props from the Halloween supplies at Walmart, round pen panels and other stuff I had around the barn I built an obstacle course behind the barn and practiced every chance I had. I even had friends come over with their kids to yell and cheer to prepare Gabe for the audience. Preparing for this brought our partnership to a whole new level. Gabe was great at the competition; we tied for 11th place out of 30 entries, just missing being in the top 10 for the final round. I definitely want to try it again. (My favorite competition to attend is Rolex Kentucky. I”ve been twice and loved it!)
Rebecca Hunter, via email

My favorite competition to ride in is one that helps to build the confidence of the horse I work with. “George” is an 18.2 hand Thoroughbred gelding whose naturally spooky nature has been tested by a stable accident that resulted in him losing an eye. His owners and I have chosen local shows where smaller class sizes are less likely to over stress him with a ring full of strange horses. It challenges him to be in a different place and still focus on me and what I am asking of him. George gets very proud of himself when he knows he has done well. It doesn”t always mean a blue ribbon; just the fact that he did his best in a class is a win for me. He has learned to trust me and if I don”t get overwhelmed by an unfamiliar or scary situation, he is more at easy with whatever is going on around him. As a horse person all my life, I am always amazed at the ability of horses to read our moods and emotions. It helps me to focus as well by knowing that how I react effects him and his ability to handle things like another horse cantering on his blind side. George and I have come a long way together and we were awarded champion of our division at our last show.
Lynn Motschmann, New York

The Whidbey Island Pony Club Horse Trials on Whidbey Island, Washington. Been watching it since ?88, groomed at, and rode in it just a couple of times?fingers crossed I ride this year.
Chris Cole, Washington

The Breeder’s Cup World Championship Horse Races! Where else could you go to see horses of all ages and specialties from all over the world compete in one place over a two-day period? Its fun, affordable and filled with stars of the sport!
Jonie Fanning Reeves, via email

Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event! It’s an amazing atmosphere and world-class facility. I love how they have a spectator’s course walk directed by one of the competitors. It really shows how down to earth the rider’s are, despite their fame and success in the horse world. Being from California it’s the only vacation I can afford for the year but it’s well worth it!
Sarah O’Dea, California

The Metamora Foxhunt’s Hunter Trials at the end of September or the beginning of October. There are varying levels for all riders as well as tailgating for spectators. The hunt has been holding the trials for longer then I have been alive, and I have missed precisely two since I was 6 (mind you that’s 20-odd years) it is the best show around, and all proceeds go to feeding the hounds, I take my greenies before they compete in the hunter ring. (After all, if they can navigate around a hilly trial course, a ring ride is a breeze!)
Kira Wolf, via email

Read more answers to this question in the April 2013 issue of Practical Horseman magazine.

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