Go Horse Show

Showing in the Carolinas

by Pam Gleason

Lovers of competition will tell you that there is no greater thrill than testing your skills at a horse show. Showing does more than simply give people a chance to prove whose horse or whose riding is best. It is also an opportunity to engage with a wider community of horsemen. It gives riders goals to strive for, and tangible results from their hard work. For some people, riding and training at home can be enough, but for those who truly want to be their best, horse shows are an invaluable motivator. Finally, horse shows can provide exposure to some of the best riders in the country and the world, who may be showing at the same grounds, and even at the same time, as people riding at lower levels.

For riders in the Carolinas, there are shows for every horse and at every level, from leadline all the way up to international showjumping. All disciplines are available: hunter/jumpers, western, dressage, saddleseat, driving and so on. There are shows that are recognized by national and international organizations, shows sanctioned by regional and local associations, and unrecognized schooling shows, which can be less intimidating (and more affordable) for greener horses and riders. Finally, the Carolinas also offer a number of historic, old-fashioned shows, giving today’s horsemen the flavor of times gone by. Whatever your level and however you enjoy your horse, there is probably a show for you.

Historic Horse Shows

The oldest show in the Carolinas is South Carolina’s Aiken Horse Show, established in 1916 and held every spring in a historic grassy show ring about a mile into Aiken’s iconic Hitchcock Woods. Although the show is not recognized by any association and there are no points to win for year end awards, the “Show in the Woods” always attracts accomplished exhibitors from around the region. The Blowing Rock Horse Show in North Carolina is another historic show that brings top riders and horses from near and far. Blowing Rock was founded 1923 and includes two completely separate types of show: a Saddlebred show and a USEF rated hunter/jumper show. Blowing Rock is a resort area in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where the summer weather is noticeably cooler than it is in most parts of the Carolinas. A trip to the show can seem like a voyage to a different country – and even to a different era.

Regular Horse Shows

The highest level of showing in the Carolinas is in North Carolina at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, host of the World Equestrian Games in 2018. Over the summer months, Tryon International holds FEI jumper classes up to the four-star level, attracting Olympic athletes from many nations to their manicured show rings.

In South Carolina, Aiken is a hotspot, with regular USEF rated shows at Bruce’s Field in the Aiken Horse Park as well as at the Highfields Event Center, which is the home base for Progressive Show Jumping. Stableview, also in Aiken, has a new set of hunter/jumper shows called the In and Out series, awarding $25,000 in prize money at each show.

Over in Camden, the South Carolina Equine Park (SCEP) has a full schedule of horse shows for a variety of disciplines. Progressive Show Jumping also puts on shows there, as well as at Mullet Hall on Johns Island.

In North Carolina, the Carolina Horse Park in Raeford, near Southern Pines, holds the Sedgefield hunter-jumper shows in addition to its renowned horse trials. Meanwhile, Triangle Farms in Raleigh has a number of shows during the year, and the prestigious Jump for the Children event to raise money for Duke Children’s Hospital each November.

There are also regular shows organized by the Union County Saddle Club in Monroe, and a variety of shows at the Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE) in Tryon.

One of the great things about horse shows in the Carolinas is that even entry level shows are often held at world class facilities. For instance, Tryon International hosts many of the Harmon Classics Horse Shows, which have divisions down to walk-trot and cross rails. Sarah Madden, marketing and public relations manager at Tryon International, says she appreciates the opportunity.

“As both a staff member and a low-level competitor who didn’t grow up with the resources to compete often, I have taken advantage of local shows hosted at the venue to compete at one of the world’s best showgrounds,” she said. “As a child, I couldn’t even imagine such a wonderful place for my horse-crazy self to get to enjoy every day. The fact that beginner cross-rails competitors can compete alongside seasoned Olympians, and that spectators can be immersed in the equestrian industry in such an accessible way is still amazing to me.”

Janet Black, who runs the Foothills Equestrian Show Service, has a show series with year end awards at FENCE in Tryon and at the South Carolina Equine Park in Camden. Black prides herself on offering well-run shows for riders from beginner through advanced at an affordable price and at top notch facilities.

“I feel my shows offer a great experience,” she said. “Walk/trot riders are judged by the same officials as the professionals and medal riders. It’s a family atmosphere and we are seeing more RV spaces being used, so the entire family is on the show grounds tailgating after the show. Offering circuit awards provides an end goal and special recognition.”

Go Horse Show

Are you ready to show? Whatever your discipline or level, there is probably a show for you. If you are not quite ready yourself, why not go watch? Any level of horse show can be inspiring, and it will put you in touch with other people who share your equestrian passion. Horse shows are good for the equestrian industry, good for your horsemanship, and good for the community as well. So go horse show. You will be glad you did.

 

 

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