Can We Improve Horse Shows in a Post-Pandemic Circuit?

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

With shows starting back up in some areas as early as a few weeks, the horse industry is buzzing with new regulations and guidelines for showing in a COVID-19 world. Face masks, warm-up ring times, limited spectators… the only thing that’s 100% clear about our return to horse showing is that things are going to be different.

But can some of those differences be positive? Could this re-start be an opportunity to improve our sport? We asked amateur riders their ideas about how we can improve moving forward. Here is what they had to say.

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

On Building a Better Community

Look for ways to support each other instead of picking others apart. – Lauren M

Promoting continued horsemanship and learning opportunities! – Lauren O

Encourage and support riders from underrepresented backgrounds. – Allison F

Thank you notes for volunteers/office staff/ring stewards – Liz V

Be ready at the ring. Smile, wish each other luck – Amy M

I would personally love to see better inclusion or appreciation for disabled riders in competition. Having mostly gone to these shows to support our riders, I see that often our stands are void of spectators during things like the Hampton Classic. Our riders are scheduled on a day when almost nobody else is scheduled and that’s tough. Without a platform we can’t expand our reach. I know we will never get the same crowds as the big shows, but it would be nice to have some of the adult amateurs come out to support differently abled riders. Would also love to see initiatives to better support ring crew, gate workers, etc for times of the year when they’re susceptible to a loss in income. – Maggie

Support therapeutic riding and maybe even start having classes for them at shows! And also just be encouraging and supportive of each other and practicing good sportsmanship!! – Caroline L

Go easy on our horses for a bit, as many of them have had more time off and they’ll need some time to get back to full fitness and show-readiness! Related, be kind to the riders who are stepping down to lower jumps or lower levels so as to follow this advice. – Dana D

One way to promote riding is to donate unused riding clothes and tack to non-profit urban riding and therapeutic riding programs like Young Ladies Dressage Team & Academy – Jill D

I hope that when we’re able to get back to our horses and routines, we come back with a new appreciation that it’s not ABOUT showing, it’s ABOUT improving our riding and our connection with our partners. – Sophie C

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

Supporting the Equestrian Economy

For prizes perhaps purchasing small gifts from small local tack shops, or give like mini gift cards so that each person can go to said tack shop and pick out something they’d like. – Julie S

Help each other by promoting horses available for lease and sale. There is likely to be a flood of horses and ponies on the market later this year as many families struggle to support our sport and their animals. – Jennifer R

I’d love to sponsor a division or something, but also sponsor employees. Like, how can I sponsor the ring crew, or the back gate person, or someone who was really affected by this shutdown and who doesn’t have a lot of benefits usually? Can we do something like the grocery stores do, where I can choose to donate a few dollars directly to employees on my show bill (and know that show management won’t just keep it?) I’d pay for and extra class every week if it could go to my gate person or ring crew or someone. – Morgan E

Staff benefit warmup trips or ticketed schooling or a benefit hack class could be a great idea. – Julie B

Would love to see a “charity/fundraiser” class (that is inclusive for the adult amateurs @ the 2’6-3’ range…not just professionals, higher levels or juniors) both in the hunters & jumpers to benefit ring crew/horse show staff that has been impacted by show cancellations. Class prizes could be donated items purchased from local small equestrian businesses to support their lost incomes as well. It’s a WIN, WIN!!! – Megan C

Sponsor or support a young rider that is keen but has limited means – Kim A

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

Improving Horse Shows

Dressage ride times for hunters! – Lena L

How about adopting some old-school 4-H rules? You’re not at the gate on time, you’re not going in the ring. No parents to drag your pony into the ring allowed. No advisors/trainers/parents shouting from the fence allowed. – Jil D

Recycling programs on showgrounds. – Georgia E

I would love it if year end awards, circuit awards, and qualifying shows only allowed a certain number of shows to be counted (i.e. 1 show a month) to discourage showing our horses every week/chasing points and give them some downtime to be a horse/be back home. It would also potentially help level the playing field a bit. I’m not saying it would happen, but it’s what would make the sport someplace I would like to be. – Sophie C