That Championship Season …
(… and the Power of Socks)
Move over, World Series! It’s the season of ... Championships (with some exceptions) in the equestrian world, and it’s high excitement, no matter the breed or location! A wide range of opportunities for riders of any background or breed affiliation awaits – here’s a quick run-down of just what might be out there for you!
But, if you’re a Quarter Horse enthusiast, well, the All American Quarter Horse Congress – known as just “Congress” -- is just as exciting. And it’s also just the largest single-breed horse show in the world, attracting nearly 9,000 Quarter horses, their people, and well over a half-million spectators during the three-week run at its Columbus, Ohio, venue each October! Quarter Horses are well-associated with the Western disciplines, but there is an equally large number of hunter and jumper classes contested, attracting riders of all ages. Congress is the destination for both aspiring and confirmed Quarter Horse show-ring riders – if you compete Quarter Horses, no matter the discipline, you’ll want to be setting your GPS to Columbus every October.
And what if your heart secretly lies with the beautiful Arabian horse? Is there a Championship for you? Have no worries! You are far from being left out of the excitement of the Championship season. Several major competitions for the Arabian are held throughout the year, with one being especially important: The Scottsdale (AZ) Arabian Horse Show, in February, boasts a complete roster of classes, from halter and costume, to Western Pleasure, to several divisions of hunter and even a jumper division.
For Morgan horse enthusiasts, get thee to OK City every October, and crowd into the OK State Fairgrounds with the nearly 6,000 other Morgan horse lovers for a action-packed week of top Morgan competition. Like the other breeds, a whole roster of classes are offered in both the English and Western disciplines, so there is really something for everyone.
Are you a dressage rider? An eventer? Then you’ll know there are many regional championships taking place all over the country from late summer to fall, and that they offer championships at every level. For eventers, it can be the junior and amateur-oriented American Eventing Championships (the AECs), which offer championships from Beginner Novice and Novice to Advanced; for dressage devotees, the U.S. Dressage Federation’s regional championships and the championships hosted by pre-eminent dressage associations found in nearly every state make up the fall competition calendar and showcasing Training level through to Grand Prix and the musical Freestyle. At these competitions, the most novice of competitors can have the chance to rub shoulders with the country’s top dressage riders. That opportunity alone makes for a very exciting atmosphere and any ribbon won is a real accomplishment.
Riders of all ages – senior and junior – compete at these significant and very well-attended shows, as they are the destinations around which many competitors and trainers build their show season. It is a rigorous road to any of these Championships – it means a careful preparation and conditioning of each show horse. It also means careful training of the junior riders and the amateur riders who hope that the spotlight will shine on them and their mount. A little bit of luck doesn’t hurt, given the tough preparation and equally tough competition, and a quick survey may reveal that a special ratcatcher or stock pin is always worn on the big day in OK City, that a lock of mane from a special horse is always found in the breeches pocket of some juniors waiting to enter the ring at Syracuse, or that new gloves are worn at exactly two prior competitions before gilding the hands during the big Championship class in Columbus.
These gestures can be very powerful. Their positive associations carry over to the rider’s outlook and, by doing so, help eliminate negative nervousness and anxious thinking. Such touchstones help a rider to focus and help a competitor envision a happy outcome to his or her performance. Even if the ride isn’t the best, the happy outlook will persist and help the rider view her performance as a chance to improve, not as a falling short. Such is the power of a well-worn belt or lucky socks!
Many riders may carefully pack special items in their suitcases as they prepare for their Championship show, and many riders keep up the flow of good luck by purchasing a new pair of socks to be worn under their boots at the big event. Breeches, ratcatchers and chokers, a show jacket purchased to complement the shining coat of their favorite show horse… clothing that will be just as useful and timely whether you are prepping for the big event or just aiming to win a few classes at your regional show. So, taking a cue from these competitors could be a boost for your own riding. Think about getting those paddock boots or that polar-fleece vest that have been catching your eye for oh, so many months. Watch your riding blossom – and maybe we’ll see you at the in-gate during next year’s Championship season!
Copyright © TheEquestrianCorner.com, October, 2009
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