Bring Back the Brown Ribbon

The new 8th place ribbon in gold. Photo by April Bilodeau.

BY April Bilodeau

When I was a kid and started showing in some of the larger shows, there was a very exclusive club among the junior riders in the barn that I strived to be in.

The first time I heard about it was at one of my first away shows, showing in the Children’s Hunter Ponies and other 2’6 divisions. Towards the end of the week, I think I had a ribbon in almost every color, except for one.

“I don’t want an 8th place! That’s the brown ribbon!”, I recall exclaiming.

“But then you’ll get to be in the Brown Ribbon Club!”

The Brown Ribbon Club. An attempt at glamorizing the last place finish in most divisions at the big shows, while also making arguably the worst color in the ribbon rainbow a coveted prize.

Once I knew about the Brown Ribbon Club, all I wanted was that 8th place finish.

After a couple of horse shows trying for what seemed like a ridiculous goal, I finally joined the club, and my barn friends rejoiced with me.

Flashforward to present day. At a recent horse show, I saw young riders walking around with what looked like a faded gold ribbon.

I scratched my head trying to figure out what they could possibly be for.

A participation award? Was there a special class they did for the kids that they chose a random color for?

When Sunday rolled around and the USHJA $5,000 National Hunter Derby took place, I was even more puzzled seeing the same colored ribbon hanging on a horse’s bridle.

It was then that I realized, gold is the new brown.

While yes, gold is a far more appealing color than the dark brown, a piece of me fell nostalgic, thinking about the Brown Ribbon Club and the memories that less desirable color brought me.

I don’t know if this is something happening at horse shows nationwide, but I’m petitioning to bring back the brown ribbon. While it may seem silly, it was a memento that I’m sure other barns had inside jokes about, and maybe their own exclusive clubs.

We can’t continue the tradition of the Brown Ribbon Club with no brown ribbons.