By Tyler Bui
Picture this: It’s the mid-1900s, and there are men in tuxedos and women in ballroom gowns—at a horse show. While this may be unimaginable today, the Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association (PCHA) holds a rich history where horse shows were once considered a popular social event.
PCHA, a non-profit corporation, serves the West Coast with the purpose to promote and develop equestrian sport in the hunter/jumper, Western, and reining disciplines. The association was founded in 1946 by a group of Western horsemen, and was originally named the Pacific Coast Hunter Jumper and Stock Horse Association.
After developing the association, these horsemen created a guide to outline certain standards that had to be followed in order for a horse show to be approved by the association. Over time, these horse shows became more and more popular and well-managed.
“The stands were always full. People came to watch, and the association kept growing,” says Georgiana “Noopy” Rodrigues, first vice president of PCHA. “At the same time, the big thing on television was the Western films. Because of that, entries for Western shows absolutely went through the roof. While there were maybe only 20 entries in a hunter class, there would be over 150 horses in the Western classes.”
While the hunter/jumper aspect of PCHA was always present, it wasn’t until trainers like Tom Blakiston began attending PCHA shows that the discipline became a mainstream component of the association. They began holding puissance classes which were extremely popular with the audience.
“The Forum Horse Show was sold out every night. Completely sold out,” says Rodrigues. “You had all these celebrities coming down to The Forum to watch. The men were in tuxedos, the women dressed to the nines.”
With more and more hunter/jumper riders joining PCHA, the association eventually founded their own medal class to cater to the West Coast riders who did not have as many competition options as the East Coast did. Over time, the hunter/jumper discipline has slowly taken over in terms of members and popularity, but the Western aspect is still equally valued.
Today, the association offers the PCHA Medal Finals, in addition to many PCHA-sanctioned shows throughout the year. For the Western and reining members, PCHA holds the Classic Ranch Riding Horsemanship Class, the PCHA Trail Classic, and the Baker Reining Classic. PCHA offers various year-end awards for divisions offered at PCHA-sanctioned shows.
The Baker Reining Classic is named in honor of Jack Baker, one of the founding members of PCHA, and his wife Linda. The class was developed around 30 years ago, and was originally a stock seat medal class judged on horsemanship. When reining became more popular in Southern California, the class switched to become a reining class, and is now a final for qualified riders. The Classic Ranch Riding Horsemanship Class has been around for about 10 years, and was developed by the American Quarter Horse Association. In the class, it is the rider’s goal to demonstrate their horse’s agility with obstacles such as trot poles, gates, and patterns.
A Focus on Education
For the first time, PCHA will offer a multi-faceted convention in conjunction with their awards gala in January 2023. Laura Kraut, Carleton Brooks, Jack Towell, Pat Parelli and Laurel Walker Denton will hold clinics for show jumping, hunters, conformation, and ranch riding, while Tonya Johnston will hold multiple sessions discussing sports psychology. For the younger riders, PCHA will hold a college fair with over 25 college and university representatives in attendance.
“I want this convention to be inspirational. I want it to be instructional, I want it to be inclusive, especially across the different disciplines because horsemanship is horsemanship, whether you’re in a Western saddle or an English saddle,” Georgy Maskrey-Segesman, President of PCHA.
PCHA brings the uniqueness of a multi-discipline association to the West Coast. With its ability to bring the hunter/jumper and Western communities together, the association hopes to not only have PCHA rated, inclusive, well-managed horse shows for its members, but also to promote and create education opportunities regardless of the discipline you ride in.
“People want to enjoy their horses. They want to grow with their horses, they want to be educated with their horses,” says Maskrey-Segesman. “I would like for PCHA to make everyone feel welcomed. I think it really comes down to inclusivity, maintaining standards, making the finals accessible, and helping people who want to learn horsemanship, grow their knowledge, and enjoy their horses.”
*This story was originally published in the September 2022 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!
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The Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association (PCHA), a non-profit corporation, has as its main purpose the promotion and development of the sport of horse showing, primarily in the Hunter/Jumper, Western and Reining disciplines. These objectives are accomplished by setting the standards for showing on the West Coast and approving shows that meet these criteria.
Founded in 1946, the Pacific Coast Horse Shows Association promotes the interests of owners and exhibitors, cooperates with exhibitors, officials, and management of competition, publicizes and advertises PCHA sanctioned shows, encourages and assists owners, exhibitors, and breeders of horses to maintain, develop and improve the quality of horses of the Hunter, Jumper, Western and Reining divisions.