My Holy Grail Horse Show – Pin Oak

My Holy Grail Horse Show – Pin Oak

Surely I can’t be the only one who obsesses over a horse show?

It has to stem from my equestrian upbringing, being very outside of the horse show world for a long time. While I would not trade my fox hunting based experience or education, it did make the fanfare of horse shows seems both alluring and out of reach for a long time. When I did start to show, mostly in college, I felt like a fish out of water for a long time. There was a lot to learn in terms of turnout for me and my horse, and of course riding. It’s an education I continue still, because as we all know each division/horse/day brings a new challenge.

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

My show experience in North Carolina was mostly limited to an open show circuit and hunter/jumper schooling shows. Competing in those shows, even winning some ribbons on occasion, made me feel like a bad ass. After years of flipping through magazines looking at pictures of braided hunters soaring over natural oxers with their knees to their nose, I had my foot in the door.

When I still lived in NC, I idolized the Duke horse show. It’s an AA, annual benefit that had a Grand Prix and pulled some bigger names to my neck of the woods. Duke is where I made poor Tim get up at 7am on a Thursday to watch Popeye K compete in the Regular Working Hunters. It’s where I saw my first Grand Prixs, and lugged my camera out to try and take pictures in the horribly-lit arena there. Even though I was so happy to be showing, I felt like competing at Duke would mean I really “made it.”

But like, this looks giant and I don’t want to jump it. Ever. Photo © Lauren Mauldin

Of course, I don’t live in NC anymore. Although I still love the Duke show, it’s not something I’ve been to in over ten years at this point and not a realistic goal show for me to travel to. Minus the last few years with baby horse, my showing has moved solidly into the local hunter/jumper circuits. A shows seem both super close on the horizon, and impossible due to financial limitations and having a horse trained enough to justify the cost. But I still can’t help having a big pie-in-the-sky showing goal, and right now that’s Pin Oak.

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

For those outside of Texas, Pin Oak is our heritage horse show over three weeks every late March/early April. It’s held at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center, home to many Texas A shows. Though some of the players are the same as our normal As, Pin Oak attracts some bigger hunter and jumper barns for the increased prize money and fanfare. It just feels fancy. More decorations, better prizes, hospitality tents, VIP tables, the whole shebang.

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

So Pin Oak is the current show I’m obsessing over. The one that will make me feel like I’ve “made it.” Is this silly? Yes. Yes, it is. Friends have rightfully pointed out that anyone with money can show there. After all, they have classes from opportunity poles on the ground to Grand Prix. I admit my fascination with this show is mostly fabricated, but when you grew up on the periphery of fancy, rated horse shows and your sport loves to reinforce that AA rated is the cream of the crop, how can you help but aspire to that level?

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

I had Friday off for the holiday weekend, and drove down to Katy for the day to watch a friend show and take some pictures for The Plaid Horse. When I’ve done this at years past, I had an attitude of, This is a great show that other people get to do. This year, even though we’re still far away training wise and I have not yet been able to find that money tree I’ve been looking for, it felt more like, I can’t wait to show here myself one day.

Photo © Lauren Mauldin

New trainer says Poet will be ready for Pin Oak 2022. That’s hard for me to believe, but who knows. I know that rated shows like this do not define an equestrian or a horse. My heart still loves and supports local shows, and that won’t stop. But it’s fun to dream big.

11 thoughts on “My Holy Grail Horse Show – Pin Oak

  1. You WILL get there!!! Can’t wait to see the photos that someone else will have to take of you and Po!

    I also know what you mean. I spent my young years strictly as a lesson student and a trip to the National Horse Show in New York meant watching a few people from my barn and everyone else with stars in my eyes. We also had a local AA show that I got to spectate at every year. Since my main goal was purely to have a horse of my own (which never happened), actually showing at that level was not even a glimmer of a consideration!

    Upon rejoining the equestrian world as an adult, my goal was to show at the nearby large and beautiful horse show facility (the National Equestrian Center), at ANY level. This I have done, and I’m proud and content, even though I’m now in the stock horse show world. Suits me and my wallet just fine!

    1. I’m glad you made your goal! I’m sure there are big goals waiting for you in the stock horse world too (I’m so curious about that. What I thought I’d be doing when I moved to TX).

  2. honestly i kinda love having big goals or aspirational venues or classes etc. it’s a little different in my sport and area, but i’ll often see features or combinations at certain venues and feel like, ‘oooh i want to ride THAT’ — it’s kinda a fun way to think of the future

  3. Growing up in SoCal Indio/Thermal was always the big dream show. I’ve been to watch many times but never shown there. Theoretically it’s still possible for me, but my current dream show is Thunderbird. The venue looks amazing and saying that you’ve traveled to a different country to show seems so bougie.

    1. Having spent a lot of time (spectating and working) at Thermal when I lived in CA, I think Thunderbird is an *excellent* showing goal. It looks so nice, and I hear amazing things. You can do it!

  4. I live on the other side of Houston from GHEC but its a short hop on the freeway and such a lovely facility. Would have loved to meet up so if you’re ever back in town….

    Funny I was just speaking to a trainer/friend/club president about this very thing thru texts just moments ago. Live Oak in Ocala and Gladstone in NJ are my two…. Of course I need a carriage, a ‘gator to keep wheels on the ground, a whole lotta money and time off work to do this, but I have wanted it for e.v.e.r! My ponies are ready and “you could definitely hold your own”- his words

  5. Pin Oak is a lovely show and not too far away. I groomed there for a few years and it was nice to have showers!

  6. When I was younger I always thought Indio/Thermal was the *it* horse show. As an adult I know it’s really Menlo. And I almost did it, and in retrospect I wish I had. It is hard to justify the money at the time, but when I look back on my decision not to I realize I would have been fine because I am fine now – every major money disaster I think is on the horizon worked out.

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