The St. Louis National Charity: A Horse Show with Heart

Crowd favorites Southern Pride and Karen Cudmore compete in the Grand Prix in 2017. Photo by Ashley Shaw.

BY ASHLEY SHAW

The St. Louis National Charity Horse Show will always have a special place in my heart. I have competed at this show ever since I was nine, bopping around short stirrup wearing bows and garter straps. Since it’s held only thirty minutes away from my house, it feels like it’s “our” show — our show at home. Now as a senior in high school, I realized this may be the last time I get to ride at the Charity for quite some time with college year bringing a lot of unknowns for the future. While this thought saddened me, it also made me recall why I love this show so much in the first place.

When I won my first classic on my Children’s Jumper, Golden Star 29, in 2014. Photo by David Shaw

I grew up competing in shows held at the National Equestrian Center, the same facility the Charity Show is held at. Every year I would spend all winter showing here, and as a result, I made a lot of amazing friends who were also from St. Louis or nearby. However, as years went on, I ended up horse showing at other venues, which was certainly fun, but it meant I didn’t get to see the hilarious, compassionate people I was used to spending months with. Over the course of the year I may see a few friends here and there, but the Charity Show is the only place where we’re all together again. We can share stories about crazy summer horse shows and groan about the classes we’re taking this semester. It’s like we’ve never spent time apart. I love the people of the Charity Horse Show, for they are a great part of what makes it so special.

A smiling group of lead-liners from my barn in 2017. Photo by Ashley Shaw.

In addition to reuniting with friends, I love the Charity Show because of its bright and social atmosphere. Decorated ringside tables allow riders to sit together and enjoy gift bags of snacks, giving us the opportunity to relax during the long show day. Sponsored lunches and dinners also give us busy equestrians the chance to slow down and spend some time together, taking one more worry off our shoulders.

Hunter Holloway clears the St. Louis skyline by miles during the Grand Prix in 2017. Photo by Ashley Shaw.

My favorite part of the show, however, is the Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon. Groups put up tailgates around the arena and lay out spreads of food, there’s a crazy hat contest, and many riders from local barns come to hang out and watch. It’s an experience I’ll treasure for a lifetime, and why I look forward to this show each year.     

The Sunday-afternoon Grand Prix in 2017. Photo by Ashley Shaw.

From my first tricolor to my first classic win, the St. Louis National Charity Horse Show has always been memorable for me. Nevertheless, what I realized this year is that the blue ribbons and crystal glasses are not why I love this show; it’s the people and the sense of community. No matter where else I go and what classes I win, nothing will compare to my experiences at the Charity Show. It’s my horse show at home, and more importantly, my horse show with family.