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Filling the Gaps

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EC Blog by: Kory Kumar

The global outbreak of COVID-19 has had such a dramatic impact upon the world in which we live. Our nation has shut down, and while hope remains in the hearts of competitive equestrians everywhere, many of us truly don’t know when we will be cleared to return to our barns and much awaited, busy horse show season. Equestrians are, however, ever vigilant, and we remain hopeful. Hope is that little word that whispers in our ears when the world around us says no!

As I spend time confined to my house, trolling through my social media feed, I have seen some of the most positive and inclusive practices from some faces that are new to me. Charlie Cole is a trainer, exhibitor, and judge within the horse show industry. He thoughtfully considered this time of quarantine, with its lack of brick and mortar horse shows, and filled the void with his creation of a virtual horse show. In creating a system of class registration, patterns, wonderful prizes, payout structures, and judgement of exhibitor submitted videos, he has created an online following to be reckoned with. I wonder if he ever thought that the participation level would be as large as it has become, or if the breadth of the exhibitor base would span the globe?

For years, many people have worked collaboratively to figure out a way to fill the holes within our horse show industry and improve the means by which new people enter it. It seems that Mr. Cole had the answer all along, but perhaps didn’t realize it. The virtual horse show he has created is open to all breeds of horses- those both registered with a breed organization and those who are not. Even more exciting is the lack of fear in exhibitors from all walks of life and from within the variety of age groups entering the virtual show pen. This platform has truly leveled the playing field, allowing competitive equestrians to come together and share in the joy of exhibiting their horses.

I know I use these videos as a means of decompressing after a day of working remotely from home. It’s so very awesome to cheer on my friends when I see them showing. The addition of blooper videos from trainers, youth, and amateur riders has also given joy and entertainment to the group. Nothing makes people feel more comfortable than to be shown that, no matter who you are, everyone has struggled with what you too have struggled with.

However, the thing I love the most about this is that I’m afforded the opportunity to watch and learn from all ages of exhibitors, who I may never have had the opportunity to see show otherwise. Let’s face it, my friends, the kids are killing it! Who are these superhuman pattern riders? They are amazing! In an age of dwindling exhibitor bases, Mr. Cole has knocked this out of the park. Mr. Cole, I applaud you.

When things return to “business as usual,” I dearly hope this virtual horse show community will continue on as well. The positive experiences had by so many in this group may very well be the thing that makes them feel confident in branching out to the next higher level of competitive equestrian events, thereby having the ultimate positive consequence of infusing new life into our breed shows!

In addition, the seclusion that COVID-19 has caused over the past few months has created an enhanced desire for social interaction and knowledge sharing. My trainer shared a live video link a couple of weeks ago from a midwestern trainer. Jeremy LaRose is using his time at home to provide free and comprehensive education to equestrians of all disciplines. His way of breaking horses down to identify both positive and challenge points is informative and fun. The information he imparts in this live video feed is really helpful in understanding the conformation of different horses, which then helps in understanding the movement of those horses. I can’t wait each day for a new installment in my personal education.

Something else that I truly appreciate from Jeremy is that he’s so willing to laugh at himself and share things that he’s working on with his own horses. Oftentimes, clients and/or nonprofessional equestrians in general, say that we understand the things we’re told; but, the truth is that often we really have no idea. We think we understand, and perhaps even do in that moment, but then we’re unable to explain or otherwise access that learning later on.

Ask anyone who has attended a clinic. While working with someone during a clinic, so much information is imparted in a short amount of time. Once we get home, we remember the small things, and may even integrate them into our daily practices, but the big picture was not retained. I have personally attended and ridden in the same clinic five different times, over five years, and have found myself to be at different level or point in my learning each time.

These are just a couple of examples of the positive innovation that’s breathing life into our beloved competitive equestrian industry. For many of us, getting out to the barn is not possible right now, but we can still feel connected through the pages of our social media. These gentlemen have opened the door for the inclusion of so many people, from all different levels of knowledge. I dearly hope that once things have moved back to a more mobile state, these platforms, and others like them, will continue.

The message is very clear, my friends. Thinking outside of the box, and using creative means to bring people together in our common love of horses, is awesome! In a time when so much is negative, and there is an overwhelming sense of stress and sadness, having something so positive helps us step outside of our own situations. These gentlemen, perhaps unknowingly, are helping to pave the path and increasing the hope that competitive equestrians have for our future horse show pen experiences. When we next meet, perhaps we will have a little less fear and a little more knowledge than last show season.

Thank you Mr. Cole and Mr. LaRose for giving inspiration to so many. Thank you for turning an otherwise desolate time in the hearts of equestrian people everywhere into something more positive. Thank you for giving so freely of yourselves. The equestrian community is very lucky indeed to have you both care so much about the longevity and success of the people within in.

See you at a show soon,

– Kory Kumar

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