Attracting young and old, experienced and inexperienced riders, more than 100 competitors came out to Nicole Hornstein Equestrian Park on Sunday, Sept. 30 to kick off the Acreage Horseman’s Association’s Pleasure Show Series.
The warm-up show is the first of eight this season that will give riders an opportunity to show their stuff for fun, friendly competition in classes ranging from halter to western and English pleasure, and even gaited horse and reining classes.
The shows take place on the fourth Sunday of each month, except during the holidays when they shift to the third Sunday. Exact dates are available at www.acreage horseman.com.
The Pleasure Show Series began last year as a small, grassroots effort by AHA Secretary Linda Rainbolt, a western pleasure trainer. “The AHA used to be known for its barrel shows,” Rainbolt told the Town-Crier Sunday. “But they were trying to expand. [AHA President] John Rivera saw me out at the park giving lessons and asked me about it. My students volunteered me, and it has really grown since then.”
The Acreage has a large pleasure horse community, but there were few opportunities for non-rated and affordable competition, especially not shows offering lucrative prizes — including an AHA championship pleasure saddle.
“People needed a place to go,” Rainbolt said. “There was a need for something like this in the community. Now it has grown really popular. There were more than 100 people today. We had 15 people in one class; that’s the largest so far.”
The tight-knit group of riders, trainers and horse enthusiasts are a friendly bunch who may be at different levels of riding skill or who have horses of differing abilities and flashiness. But they all have something in common: They work hard and have fun showing off what they’ve learned.
Some, like last year’s All-Around Champion Darcy Steffen, use the shows as opportunities to give their horses exposure to the show environment. Her horse, Ride A Natural, got her feet wet with the AHA.
“If you want to show locally, this is a great opportunity,” Steffen said. “The people are really friendly.”
Now, Steffen and her horse will travel to the prestigious American Quarter Horse Novice Championship show in Tennessee next weekend.
Rainbolt said she tries to make the shows friendly to riders of all abilities. “I wanted to emphasize a supportive environment,” she said. “I try to get to know everyone and help them out. If anyone needs something, we really try to make it happen.”
Once a week, Rainbolt offers lessons free of charge at Nicole Hornstein Equestrian Park for anyone interested in showing with the AHA.
“It’s a great experience for people who know nothing about showing,” Rainbolt said. “I’m doing it so anyone in the neighborhood who has a horse, who isn’t doing anything with it, can come out. Even if they just want to come out and do halter classes, we just want to get the equestrian community active.”
Additionally, the organization hosts free clinics conducted by well-known judges and trainers. The topics range from grooming and conditioning to the popular extreme trail clinic, which brought out 45 people.
“You don’t have to be a great rider to come out and enjoy your horse,” Rainbolt said. “You don’t have to know anything. We’ll help you.”
And the show is affordable, too. Competitors must pay a $20 membership fee, and classes cost $8. Or, you can elect to pay $100 and enter an unlimited amount of classes.
Steffen said she was grateful for the opportunity to try out so many different classes with her horse. “This [series] was a great way to get started,” she said. “You can’t beat the environment, the great prizes or the cost. You don’t have to let finances stand in your way of trying something new.”
Above: Award winners with their trophies Sunday from last year’s series.