TALES FROM THE TRAILS
Labor Day weekend wasn’t just a long holiday weekend. For some, it meant loading up the trailer and heading out to the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center for the first Palm Beach County Mounted Posse hunter show after the long summer break.
Hunter/Jumper Show Director Linda Wolosyn stood outside the rail of the covered arena ring, watching riders, walkie-talkie in hand to help coordinate the classes. However, I hadn’t come to see who won what. I’d come with two specific questions in mind, which I asked Linda: Which parts of showing do you like best, and which do you like least?
“I don’t show much anymore,” she answered. “But when I did, I enjoyed the competition — how I measured up to the others in my classes. I worked on one specific skill at home, then brought it to the show ring and applied it. I saw each class as a kind of test of what we had accomplished. In the show ring, you always compete against yourself. If another horse and rider were better than us, and we’d done the best we could, then I was satisfied. That’s one of the best things about a show like Posse. We’re open to all kinds of riders and horses, all breeds, all levels. You don’t need a fancy horse to do well.”
Her least favorite part? Not winning.
“When I felt like I’d done really well and didn’t get a blue ribbon, that was frustrating,” she said. “But I used it as a goal to go home and practice more on what needed improving, then came back to try again the next time.”
Alicia Castaneda, 18, of Boca Raton, was competing in the 2’6” hunter classes on Perla, one of her trainer’s horses. She has been showing for three years. “I like seeing all the different riders and different breeds of horses,” she said. “It bothers me when some people discriminate against some breeds. Take Perla, for instance. She’s a Thoroughbred, so a lot of people automatically assume she’s fast and flighty. But she’s very cool, calm and collected. The part I don’t like is how political some classes are. Not the jumper classes, where all that matters is going clean and fast. But the hunter classes, where, if you’re not well known or from a big barn or riding with a famous trainer, you’re not going to place first. Sometimes you see less-experienced riders showing against professionals, and that’s not fair.”
Shawn Sapp of Wellington come along as a support person for Palms Stable South. “I hold the horses no one else wants to hold,” he chuckled. “Today I’m holding Duly. It’s only his second show, so he’s here to get used to the noise and excitement. The part about showing I like least is having to clean all the stalls. When we’re here, I’m the groom, the helper, the chief cook and bottle washer. My favorite part is going home.”
Breana Hanley of West Palm Beach had brought along Carmina, her young steel-gray Quarter Horse mare. “We’ve only been showing seven months,” she said. “I enjoy getting to show what we’ve been practicing at home, and seeing it all come together. The hardest part? Waiting for our classes.”
Jennifer Wagner has been showing for many years. “I like that every show experience is different because every horse is different,” she said. “You bond with them and learn their personality quirks, the ways they respond to you and the bustle of the shows. My least favorite part is the clothes.”
Twelve-year-old Molly Evans of Wellington has been showing for two years. “I like getting to have fun with my horse at new places away from the barn,” she said. “I hate having to wait such a long time to go into the ring.”
Robbie Rios is getting back into showing after a break of nearly 20 years. “I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment of bringing a horse along from scratch to the show ring, seeing all the hard work pay off,” he said. “The hard part? Long, hard days.”
Self-described show mom Serena Nyikes has been in and out of horses all her life. This was her daughter Breanna’s first show. “When I showed, I liked the camaraderie of everyone rooting for each other. For my 11-year-old daughter, I like being proud of her accomplishments,” she said. “The worst parts? Keeping the kids happy and focused on these long, hot, tiring days. And also, the expense. Showing isn’t cheap.”
Loxahatchee residents Kristen and John Campagnuolo watched their daughters, Jaycie, 8, and Jaclyn, 11, show on Snippety Doo Dah, their 26-year-old pony. Trainer Kate Turner offered tips and support. Jaclyn was excited; she had just finished her classes with two fourths and a second. Jaysie got grand champion in her division.
“My favorite part of showing is seeing my daughters smile,” Kristen said. “My least favorite part is all the work and preparation that goes into getting here. But it’s worth it in the end.”
John’s take was slightly different. “I like seeing how dedicated the kids are. They learn that all the hard work and practice pays off. For me, the hardest part is getting up so early on a Sunday morning.”
Jaycie said she liked getting trophies, sitting on her pony in the ring after the class finished, waiting to hear how she placed, and the chicken salad sandwiches at the food truck. Her least favorite part? Losing. Jaclyn said she liked jumping all the jumps, even though it was also a little scary. The hardest part: wearing long sleeves and a coat in the heat.
Trainer Kate Turner also took part in the discussion. “My favorite part is watching my students improve and blossom into better equestrians,” she said. “The worst part? All the hours you hurry up and wait in the hot Florida sun.”