BY LAUREN MAULDIN
Hey there local show rider. It’s 4:25pm, and you’ve been sitting in the hot dust waiting for the hack for an hour because someone told you it was time to go, until it wasn’t. It’s been a long day, or weekend. Let’s be real, it’s probably been a long month balancing family commitments, work deadlines and squeezing in that extra lesson so you can feel really good about the equitation.
I know it might seem that the greater sport doesn’t pay much attention to you. Let’s face it—news outlets aren’t covering your high point champions, your mini derbies. The glossy pictures in magazines and catalogs aren’t showing the unbraided lesson horses cantering around 2’ courses to teach their kids how to ride. No one outside of those waiting by the stalls back behind the rings, the ones lined with camp chairs and coolers instead of fountains and high-end furniture, is biting their nails to see who’s going to get awarded Modified Hunter Circuit Champion. It’s easy to feel forgotten.
There are a lot of reasons you stay on the local circuit. Your horse is green, and this is a great way to build up the miles. You’re on a budget, and can’t justify three thousand dollar weekends when that money could go towards your kid’s college tuition or your house’s AC unit that’s on its last leg. Or maybe you’ve done that world before, the point chasing and the traveling and the pressure cooker equitation finals. Really, there are a lot of reasons.
People talk a lot about these local circuits. Some say they’re disappearing, some say they’re going to gobble up the B and smaller A shows as participants get increasingly frustrated with growing fees and the logistical complications of regulated competition. But no matter what the conversation, there’s an underlying theme that rated is better, fancier. That rated is what every rider should aspire to.
Local rider, you’re the backbone of our sport. Whether it’s your first show on a school pony headed for crossrails, or an adult amateur that’s been riding for forty years in the 3’ adults. You are lunging your own horse, watching barn friends ride at the end of an incredibly long weekend, coming out of the ring with a smile even when you just royally messed up your approach go the single oxer. You are exhibitor pizza parties, walking the derby course with a slice in hand. You are sharing a shower with your horse after finally taking off your helmet after five classes in 98 degree heat. You are a dedicated equestrian, and you matter.
I don’t care if you ever show rated. If it’s your goal, if it’s not. Find a circuit that makes sense for you and your horse. We all know how it goes—expectations, budget, training—it all can change in an instant. You know what’s right.
But don’t ever think you’re less important than those out at the big shows. Night lights, fancy ferns, braided tails—they don’t make you a rider.
If you’re building that partnership now in the local circuit and have big goals for Devon next year, I wish that for you. If your nerves explode at the very thought of stepping into the rated ring, don’t rush the process. If your pocketbook isn’t deep enough for more than a few local shows a year, that is not a judgment on your aptitude as an equestrian.
This sport is about bonding with an animal. Creating a partnership where was ask these athletic creatures, who would really rather be eating snacks and taking a nap in the sun, to do extraordinary feats for us. Lead changes? Two strides? Why would they? It’s only from the partnership and trust we build in each other. That impossible bond can form in any ring, any circuit.