I almost feel guilty being so excited about what’s going on in the equestrian world in the West. Coronavirus still colors much of the region with activity-restriction’s strictest purple hues. Yet it seems like some corners of the horse world are doing OK.
Early in the pandemic, Elvenstar founder Jim Hagman told me he thought that horseback riding might see a bump in interest. Jim is a smart, thoughtful guy, but I recall thinking that was a little optimistic.
Horseback riding is a healthy, outdoor activity. It’s relatively easy to maintain physical distance. It’s wholesome, good exercise and it requires and engenders compassion and communication.
“With the stresses of a shut down world, I think more parents will want their kids interacting with something more than the electronic box in their hand,” Jim stated.
Riding schools were hard hit early on. Like show and other personally-owned horses, the “schoolies” that start so many in their equestrian lives need food and care whether they’re working or not. I’ve heard positive reports about businesses who thought they might have to shutter feeling more confident. I’ll be reporting more on that to see if Jim’s predictions are panning out. Meantime, it was heartening to hear that the United States Hunter Jumper Association’s Feed Aid raised $111,620 dollars to help over 3,000 lesson horses at 200 facilities.
Organizers have figured out how to stage safe shows that comply with safety protocols dictated by sport governing bodies and state and local agencies.
They’ve gone well beyond that. The success of the National Sunshine Series hunter/jumper shows at the radically remodeled Desert International Horse Park in Thermal is one example. Good reviews for the inaugural Desert Dressage at the same venue is another. Intense competition at the Galway Downs International in Temecula also maximized the region’s many assets and attractions.
I’ve had the good fun of spending time with visiting jumper riders Nicky Galligan, Paige Jardine, Rowan Willis and Rowan’s horse manager Amy Westcott-Allen in the last month. They are originally from Ireland, Australia and England, and have lived and competed mostly on the East Coast. They all had high praise for the teams running the shows they’d trekked west for: the DIHP competitions and West Palms Event’s Riders Cup in Del Mar. After the Galway Downs event, top ranked East Coast-based eventers Boyd Martin and Liz Halliday-Sharp said they’d be back.
These new friends’ enthusiasm and praise helped me see with fresh eyes what a great scene we have out here. So grateful that many have found ways to keep enjoying our horses and our sports through these tough times.
Wishing all happy, safe holidays!
Kim F Miller
Editor, The West Equestrian.com