Having Fun at Virtual Horse Shows

Having Fun at Virtual Horse Shows

An online horse show for pattern classes educates and entertains at the same time.

A rider wearing an English helmet rides a Quarter Horse alone in an arena practices in an English saddle. Larri Jo Starkey photo

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By Larri Jo Starkey

Like most of us around the world, AQHA Professional Horseman Charlie Cole of Pilot Point, Texas, is stuck at home, maybe a bit bored and definitely missing horse shows.

On March 18, he looked around at what was happening in the world with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and he said, “I want to have a virtual horse show.”

So he did.

By that evening, The Virtual Horse Show was set up as a private Facebook group with Charlie as the administrator, and he was drawing patterns.

A week later, more than 6,000 people had joined the group and begun posting videos. It’s a sensation rocking the horse show world. Boredom is no longer a problem for Charlie. The first showmanship class had 150 entries, and the ranch riding class has already filled.

“I didn’t really know how big it would get,” he says. “It has for sure given me something to do, and it has been educational for a lot of people. (Group members) have been super creative. They really got into it.”

How The Virtual Horse Show Works

The all-breeds concept works like this:

  1. Charlie posts a pattern for a specific class.
  2. Exhibitors send him $20 to enter and $50 if they want private critiques.
  3. They film themselves and their horses performing the patterns, then post the video to the group within the time limit.
  4. Charlie judges the patterns and places them, with top exhibitors receiving cash prizes.

At least that’s how he thought it would work. But many of the top amateurs declined their prizes, and Charlie redistributed those to Level 1/novice and 13-&-Under classes.

“I’ve been up until midnight and 1 a.m., judging videos,” Charlie says.

Group members are from around the world, including Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and Canada, Charlie points out, adding that watching videos of accomplished exhibitors showing a horse on a pattern can inspire and educate those who haven’t been showing as long. There’s no cost to join the Facebook group, though members must request permission to join.

Charlie is recruiting other judges to help out with different classes.

Jimmy Daurio is going to judge ranch riding for me,” Charlie says. “That starts March 27, and Sara Simons is judging the trainers’ horsemanship, which is just a fun class. All proceeds (from the trainer class) are going to be donated to the AQHA Professional Horsemen’s Crisis Fund and the (National Snaffle Bit Association) Crisis Fund.”

“Fun” has been the watchword of the group.

“I think for now, while we’re all trapped at home, we’re going to keep going on it,” Charlie says. “I’ve got several classes in the works – equitation and trail are the two biggest coming up. I think once this all quiets down and we go back to real life, one or two classes a month might be a manageable amount.”