Always a group with an eye for innovation, the World Conformation Horse Association has developed a new program they feel will help illustrate the versatility of a horse with proper conformation, falling in line with one of their founding principles of form to function.
Executive Director Don Falcon explains. “We’ve seen an alarming trend over the past ten years in the declining number of people showing, breeding, and raising Halter horses,” he says. “The one thing, that people who have dropped out tell us, is that we’ve priced so many of the people who used to raise Halter horses, or entry level exhibitors that would like to show, out of the business. They can’t afford to purchase a $15,000, $25,000, or $50,000 baby, but they still want to show, they still want to breed, and they still want to compete. However, they don’t feel like they can compete with a $5,000 horse at our futurities and World Shows.”
“Another critical factor in our industry is that we’re raising horses that have great conformation, are pleasing to the eye, and have willing dispositions; but, we have no market for those that aren’t top 5 Halter horses.”
WCHA aims to change that with the introduction of two new Versatility classes that will be held during the WCHA Breeder’s Championship Futurities at the 2019 APHA World Championship Show in Fort Worth, Texas. The first is the Ranch Riding, Ranch Rail, and Conformation Stakes class for all age horses with APHA, AQHA or ApHC registry. At this time, the class has $5,000 in added money, courtesy of Steve and Kathy Headley, but Falcon anticipates that the amount could easily double leading up to show time. This class will have multiple divisions for horses and exhibitors of all levels. Any horse/rider combination can enter divisions like Open, Non Pro, Color, Maiden, Youth, and WCHA-bred. The entry fee per division is $200 and only 25 spots are available. The horses and riders in this class will compete together and be placed separately by division.
The three-part event will include a Ranch Riding pattern, Ranch Rail Pleasure class, and Form to Function Halter class. This event will be run at one time, and riders will have the opportunity to change tack within the arena, much like the Inaugural 3-Year-Old Versatility Challenge class held at the AQHA World Show last year.
The second event is the 2-Year-Old Prospect Stakes class, which currently has $5,000 added money, courtesy of Steve and Kathy Headley. This is a slot class with 20 spots available. The price is $1,000 per slot, if purchased by July 1st. A $500 down payment will be required with the balance due by July 1st. Horses must be named by August 15, 2019. Slots will be sold on a first come, first served basis. Like the previous event, this class will consist of a Ranch Pattern, Ranch Rail Pleasure class, and Form to Function Halter class. Where this event differs from the all age class is that, because this is a 2-year-old event, it will be held over two nights.
“We would like to thank Steve and Kathy Headley for donating $10,000 to get us started,” Falcon says. “That was just an incredible boost that we needed. Of course, we’re working to increase that amount in additional sponsorship donations.”
Working with Falcon and the Headleys on this new project is the WCHA Versatility Task Force, which includes Beth Dunlap, Steve Meadows, Marty Simper, Monte Horn, Anne Prince, Dan Fox and Luke Castle.
“A significant way our industry has evolved since the 70s and 80s is that competitors, back in the day, showed their horses in Halter in the morning and rode them in performance events throughout the day. Why can’t we bring that concept back to these events?”
“We also need to take steps to change the image of our Halter bred horses- that all they can do is stand still and look pretty; otherwise, our industry will surely continue to decline in numbers. With the overwhelming success of the Ranch Horse Riding classes across the country, we see new faces competing, in large part, because they don’t need the fancy saddle and the $20,000 horse. What if we, as responsible breeders and members of WCHA, made an effort to save our Halter breeding industry by tapping into the Ranch Riding popularity that has swept the country? We can put our resources into promoting the horses we raise as versatile athletes that can perform Ranch Riding patterns, but also reward them for having positive conformation and being pleasing to the eye.”
More information about the WCHA Versatility classes will be forthcoming. Stay tuned to EquineChronicle.com for more updates as well as the new WCHA Versatility Facebook page.