Sunday, Apr. 21, 2024

Let’s Not Forget The Big Picture

Our columnist combines her thoughts on the fall indoor shows with the real-world challenges we’re all facing.

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Our columnist combines her thoughts on the fall indoor shows with the real-world challenges we’re all facing.

This month, as the fall indoor hunter/ jumper shows are in full swing, we as a nation are going through many changes. The economic crisis looms over our heads each day, there’s a presidential election on the horizon, and severe weather has hit many of our horse country states with a vengeance. Yet the indoor circuits, our equitation finals and our zone finals are full steam ahead.

Following the Capital Challenge (p. 8 and 38), the Pennsylvania National is underway. This show has long been the home of our USEF Medal Final, one of the most hotly contested medal classes of the year.

Affectionately known as “Harrisburg,” this competition has always drawn top hunters and jumpers and is one of the most important junior jumper goals of the year. In the prestigious Prix des States team competition, juniors from throughout the country represent their respective U.S. Equestrian Federation zones.

This class is the culmination of a year of top jumper competitions, including the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships held during the summer. And when combined with the major equitation finals, these jumper classes allow our junior riders a wonderful stepping stone to future national and international goals.

The United States is fortunate to have such a strong system for a rider to come up though the ranks, and we trainers must support these events. We need to encourage our young riders to set these competitions as their goals and do everything we can to enable them to attend. I know it’s sometimes difficult to travel to Colorado or Illinois or Pennsylvania when it means a cross-country trip, but without these riders to form the base of our jumper pyramid, we’ll be compromising our future international successes.

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And speaking of success, our U.S. show jumping team, with Chef d’Equipe George Morris, brought home a second consecutive Olympic Games team gold medal. Hats off to a well-oiled machine! And I want to take this opportunity to remind our young riders to observe these gold medalists as often as possible, while schooling and in the show ring. It’s an important part of your education.

This gold-medal accomplishment has certainly brought a silver lining to many dark clouds in our sport. George has remained focused on his brilliant teaching system and has such great insight in producing winners and gold medals. We must continue to learn from this genius, who has structured a riding education for all levels.

The Washington International Horse Show, this year celebrating its 50th anniversary (p. 48), has had its own shake up this year. The organizers will have to go the extra mile to fill the shoes of show managers Hugh Kincannon and Alan Rheinheimer, who have moved on to other commitments. This show is special, but it’s a difficult event for horses, riders and owners behind the scenes because of the limited stabling at the Verizon Center in downtown Washington, D.C. But, again, we need to support this show during this difficult transition because it’s a fixture
and tradition within our sport.

The National Horse Show, which was previously held in Madison Square Garden, has made huge strides with a return to New York. After a stint at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington, Fla., the show will move back to New York and partner with the Syracuse Invitational Sporthorse Tournament.

This year the National Horse Show entries are up. The show officials were wise to become a part of this special show that John Madden and his team have created.

We need to stay consistent in our plan for year-end events across all levels. Some zones have been successful and fortunate to have a place to hold their events—such as the popular Zone 2 Finals at the Pennsylvania National venue—but some are struggling to find a place for this important event.

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In addition to supporting these events through participation, owners and trainers may want to consider a sponsorship or an ad in the show’s program to increase support in these challenging times. The Capital Challenge has rewarded their loyal sponsors by sending them their prize list first and accepted entries not based on USEF points but on a first come, first served basis. In this case, additional support has its rewards too.

On the other side of the spectrum, these year-end shows must remain true to their tradition and history. As our world changes, show officials must keep up with the times and reward the owners, riders and horses by reinventing themselves year to year. It cannot be the same old, same old.

Similarly, those of us at the top of the sport must also think outside our small community. Especially when times are tough, we cannot lose sight of the people in need and the animals that are suffering. It’s a delicate balance but one that we can achieve on our path to the future. If your resources are stretched thin, consider giving more of your time to a worthy cause.

This fall we must consider the big picture as we enjoy our fall indoor horse shows. Sadly, our politicians have lost sight of the structure that has made our country the envy of the world. Thankfully, we as horsemen still have in sight what makes us love this sport–our horses. 

Susie Schoellkopf


Susie B. Schoellkopf serves as the executive director of the Buffalo Therapeutic Riding Center, which is the home of the Buffalo Equestrian Center and SBS Farms in Buffalo, N.Y. An R-rated U.S. Equestrian Federation judge, Schoellkopf has trained numerous horses to USEF Horse of the Year honors, including Gabriel, Kansas, Big Bad Wolf and GG Valentine. She started writing Between Rounds columns in 2002.

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