Click here to read the complete article
By Megan Arszman
While this is certainly true, there are other aspects that make these horse shows our favorites place to be, such as the tasty concession stands, scenic locations, and amazing prizes.
The Equine Chronicle brought together a panel of exhibitors and trainers to discover some of their favorite things at the horse show.
Favorite Horse Show Circuit
October is always a big month that horse lovers look forward to, so it’s not a surprise that The All American Quarter Horse Congress tops the list of shows to attend for exhibitors such as Jenna Jacobs, Reid Thomas, and Chelsea Martz.
“It’s such a prestigious horse show, and it’s the largest,” says 18-year-old Jacobs. “It’s so much fun, because it’s spread out through the whole month of October, and you have multiple chances to show. It’s a blast to stay on the grounds and be with friends all month, eating the Sweet Shop food like the cinnamon rolls, and watching all the classes.”
“For the rest of my life I’m going to have to say the Congress is my favorite horse show, since that’s where I got engaged last year,” Martz says. “I think the Congress will always have some special memories now.”
Out west, the Silver Dollar Circuit in Las Vegas, Nevada is a big draw because of the luxurious accommodations and exciting location.
“It’s held in the hotel you stay in, so it’s very convenient,” says Leslie Lange, owner/head trainer of T&L Quarter Horses, LLC in Greely, Colorado. “You can turn on the TV up in the hotel room to see what’s going on in the arena. There is access to great restaurants and room service in the stall area. When you’re done at night, you can just walk in the hotel and have access to so many great restaurants. Also, you can go to the bar or see a movie. Plus, the show is a good size.”
Thomas couldn’t pick just one favorite, but those that top his list include the Quarter Horse Congress, Buckeye Classic, and Silver Dollar Circuit. “The biggest draw for us is the management, the way they treat our customers, and the way the horse show tries to give back and do things for our clients. That’s probably number one,” he explains.
Other favorite shows listed by those we interviewed include the APHA Youth World Show, the NSBA World Show, and the Big A and Stars N Stripes circuit in Georgia.
Favorite Location to Show
There are some facilities that you want to visit over and over again, maybe because of the great footing in the arenas, the proximity to outside-of-the-ring fun, or just the welcoming atmosphere.
The feeling of seeming like you’re on vacation is a big draw for those attending Fox Lea Farm in Venice, Florida, not to mention it’s a place to warm up from the cold winter.
“This was the first year I showed in Venice, and I really enjoyed it,” Brooke Bancroft says. “It was like you’re on vacation. It’s very laid back. There are lots of palm trees, and I loved that you got to show twice. You got to show one week. Then, you’re on a mini vacation and can go to the beach. Then, you get to show again. It was worth the trip.”
Jacobs agrees, “I love showing in Venice in January. It’s really pretty and so close to the beach. The whole park is covered in beach sand. It’s casual and fun with palm trees everywhere. It’s just beautiful.”
Another location with a laid-back atmosphere is a favorite for Lillian Woodruff. The 13-year-old APHA youth competitor from Atlanta enjoys showing in her home state at Willis Park.
Auburn University coach and ApHC trainer Mary Meneely enjoys the many different arenas in Conyers, Georgia because of the ability to accommodate a large number of horses. Thomas and his clients enjoy the South Point Casino in Las Vegas, because of the fun times to be had in “Sin City.”
The Tulsa State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma is a favorite of Fennville, Michigan-based horse trainer Garth Gooding because of the facilities for riding and equine comforts. The multiple arenas in which to ride, warm-up, and show in at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City makes it a favorite for Martz and Lange.
“As far as having someplace to show and the facility, I’d say the fairgrounds in OKC is my favorite,” Lange says. “There’s always a place to ride, and there are great arenas. It’s a great place to show.”
Showing horses can make you hungry! The overwhelming favorite named in our unofficial survey was The Sweet Shop, a stand known for much more than just their delicious cinnamon rolls.
“There are many great concession stands, but I think The Sweet Shop is the best,” youth competitor Emily Maul says. “They cover the basics… from healthy taco salads to sweet cinnamon rolls and warm out-of-the oven chocolate chip cookies. Can it get any better, really?”
“I love their beef stew, taco salad, and of course, cinnamon rolls,” Lange says. “I’m a cherry turnover person, when they have them.”
Martz and Gooding both enjoy the hot Italian subs at The Sweet Shop, and Meneeley enjoys her morning staple of a gooey cinnamon roll and fruit smoothie.
Other favorites found at the Congress include Brick Oven Pizza, where Jacobs likes the margarita flatbread, as well as Lange’s second favorite, the Chinese stand.
While showing at Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas, Bancroft enjoys visiting Stubby’s for their baked potato with butter and cheese.
Favorite Brand of Tack
Your favorite saddle isn’t just about the bling, but also about craftsmanship and comfort. That’s why two staples of the show industry are also the most requested when it’s time for tack shopping: Harris Leather & Silverworks and Blue Ribbon Saddles.
Bancroft enjoys riding in her Harris show and work saddles, citing the lightweight build of her work saddle and comfort of both. Martz loves Harris so much that she has ordered custom spurs and spur straps for her fiancé, Kyle, along with her saddles and bridles. “They do such neat work,” she says.
“I like the customer service at Phil Harris, as well as the quality of their saddles,” Meneely says. “When building saddles, they take your body type into consideration and what you’re going to be using the saddle for.”
Gooding appreciates the different saddle trees available at Blue Ribbon. He finds a good fit in their Dowdy Tree. Thomas agrees about their look and fit, as he rides in Blue Ribbon, as does Woodruff.
Favorite Must-Have Grooming Tool
When the time comes to put that last touch on your horse before your class, what’s the first item you reach for in your grooming box or tack room? For Maul, she cites the multiple uses of a standard brush. “You can brush the dust, mud, and wood chips off your horse’s coat, clean up the hooves a bit, smooth out the tail and mane, plus rid the saddle of any dust or dirt, as well as your boots,” she explains. “Lastly, just before a class, I brush my chaps off to make them look fresh and clean. I guess it’s a pretty good tool for me, too!”
You can always find a clean towel tucked into Meneely’s jean pocket when she stands by the entry gate. “You can wipe down the horse and the rider’s boots right before they go in the pen,” she says.
Jacobs swears by the multi-purpose baby wipe. “You can use that on literally everything, like your English boots or your horse’s face when he sneezes. You can even wipe your horse down with them.”
Lange’s must-have is just as flexible, but a little bigger. She must have her vacuum cleaner, not only to get that deep-down dirt out of her horses’ coats, but because of the organization it provides. “It has storage, so I can put my brushes and fly spray in the top. Then, in the drawer you’ll find my tape and mane combs,” she says with a smile.
The unmistakable smell of Grand Champion’s Pepi is a must-have for Martz. “Pepi always makes everything look a little better!” she says. That’s the same way Bancroft feels about Healthy Hair coat spray and Avon’s Skin So Soft.
Gooding is a little more utilitarian. “I have a favorite pair of scissors for doing horses’ manes. I keep it hidden so no one uses them for anything else,” he laughs.
Favorite Prize Won at a Show
Whether it’s a shiny globe trophy from the AQHA World or a personalized trophy saddle, we all have one prize we cherish through the years.
For Gooding, it’s a two-horse Sooner trailer he won at an APHA 3 Year-Old Western Pleasure Futurity that was held at Berrien Springs, Michigan. Statues that can grace fireplace mantles are favorites among exhibitors, which include those coveted Congress bronzes or NSBA pewter trophies.
“Of course, everyone wants to get a Congress or World Show trophy,” Lange says. “Those are my favorite prizes to get—but those are few and far between.” Her next favorite are the director’s chairs awarded at the Red Bud Spectacular, as well as a pair of personalized English spurs she won at the same show. “The kinds of things that are keepers are the best. Sheets and blankets are cool, and they’re useable, but it’s fun to have something that you can actually keep after the sheet wears out.”
In the “out of the ordinary, but still loved” category, Jacobs loves the newest addition to her tack room from the Tom Powers Futurity. “I just won a purple and black, zebra print, bridle bag. I thought it was really cool, because I’m going to Texas Christian University in the fall, and their school color is purple!”
Favorite Horse Show Snack
Need a pick-me-up between classes or just something to hold you over until dinner? Some of the most popular horse show snacks range from the healthiest (fruits, veggies, lots of water) to the not-so-healthy (Lay’s Classic potato chips, chocolate chip cookies, and candy).
Lange likes to have a good variety. “I’m big on mixed nuts and fruit,” she says. “I’m trying to be healthy after I’ve eaten a cinnamon roll and cherry turnover from The Sweet Shop. Another favorite snack is Suzy Jeane’s Whiskey River Cake Company Cakes, which is my barn’s all-time favorite.”
Martz was honest with her answers. “It should be fruits and veggies, but, we’re really bad at the stalls with chips. Somebody always brings salt and vinegar chips, and those are my favorite. Once I have one, I can’t leave them alone.”
The stall aisle of Reid Thomas Performance Horses seems like it might be the healthiest, because the crew tries to stay away from the temptation of concession stands by bringing their own food. Thomas’s favorite is a bag of Pretzel Thins and bottled water. But when the hours are long and the show keeps going, you can’t beat a good caffeine jolt from the local Starbucks. Thomas has two go-to favorites depending on how he’s feeling that day. “If you feel fat, you go with a green tea with one Splenda,” he says. “If you feel like you’ve worked hard all day, go with an iced non-fat white mocha with no whip.”
Meneely has one standard order for her Starbucks runs, which is a grande white chocolate mocha with coconut milk.
Restaurant to Celebrate a Big Win
No matter where you stand with your diet, if you have a big win to celebrate, you want to do it in style at your favorite restaurant. Here are some popular favorites.
For her Mexican food cravings, Bancroft recommends El Tequila in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she loves to order queso blanco for her tortilla chips. While in Fort Worth, Texas, Gooding orders the tacos at The Mexican Inn. For a good steak in Oklahoma City, Martz loves The Ranch. Although she admits, “It’s always a toss up between the filet and the lobster. It’s a hard decision.”
Though Thomas can be found eating often at Charleston’s in Oklahoma City. If the celebration meal is closer to his Texas farm, he enjoys Whiskey Cake in Plano. When Meneely wants to celebrate with a fine glass of wine, she orders the Cajun chicken salad at Milano’s Italian Restaurant in Conyers, Georgia.
Out of the Ordinary
Each rider has his or her own quirks, and some of us are admittedly superstitious. When asked what’s the one thing each person simply can’t do without at a horse show, the answers were wide-ranging.
Jacobs: “I have this Victoria’s Secret PINK spray in my tack box that I’ll always spray on my horse and I before we go into Halter, because I feel like the judges can smell us as we trot past. I keep it in my tack trunk, because when you’re at horse shows and it’s 100 degrees out, sometimes you just want to smell good!”
Lange: “I like to have mats in the alleyways for my horses to stand on, because they’re on so much concrete. We like to have SoftRide boots for our horses. We like to do those for the comfort of our horses. Also, we have a small pool we take to help cool off our clients.”
Thomas: “I’m a freak about hat shape. We carry a hat shaper to all of the shows, because we might be somewhere that doesn’t have someone to shape the hats. I refuse to let a client show with a misshapen hat. That’s an OCD of mine. I’d rather have no sparkle and a great shape on a hat than the most beautiful outfit in the world and a misshapen hat. I wouldn’t even be able to talk to my customer without being distracted.”
Martz: “I cannot function without Diet Pepsi… that’s probably not a good thing though.”
Gooding: “My bridles, in general. Anyone who knows me knows I have a million bridles, and I keep them organized. If I’m gone and someone uses a bridle, I can tell instantly that it was used.”
Bancroft: “I always have an abundant amount of hair spray. I’m obsessed with it. I use Shaper Plus and Big Sexy Hair.”
Meneely: “I’m obsessed with finding a different look for a Horsemanship outfit. One time, I saw a fabric on the Project Runway TV show, and I finally found the fabric in California. I had a horsemanship top made out of it for one of my students.”