My Time in the Open Show Circuit

My Time in the Open Show Circuit

Even though I’ve always loved hunter/jumpers, it wasn’t until the last few years that I showed at “legit” hunter shows. Moving to the world of rotations and 1 million divisions under 3′ was a little confusing at first. It took a lot of hand holding by my trainer to calm my nerves and make hunter/jumper shows seem like the relaxing norm instead of a brave new world.

My showing life before hunter/jumper almost entirely consisted of open shows.

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They are just as all encompassing as they sound, depending on the show circuit. Hunters? Sure, kinda. English pleasure? Tons. Western? A bunch. Throw mini horses, saddle seat, trail classes and more flat classes than you can possibly imagine and you’ve got yourself a proper open show.

Bad braids and all

Elvis was my open show extradinaire. He was a jack of all trades, master of none type… but we had a lot of fun together. I started showing Elvis a lot after I graduated from high school, and the graduation present I was VERY fortunate to have was a 2 horse aluminum horse trailer. I would wash and braid Elvis the night before, put him in a very attractive sleezy and load up early Saturday morning to head to the show.

We would haul for about an hour and spend all day at the open show. Elvis tied like a pro, and it didn’t take too long for us to get a routine together. No trainer, no groom or parents to watch. Just me and my red Quarter Horse.

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Our favorite show, Johnston County, would start with “hunters”. The courses were ridiculously simple with questionable striding and almost all plain, white verticals. I was no hunter pro, but the adult 2’3″ – 2’6″ hunters were a small division at that time. Even though we had no lead change and questionable distances, we usually got some kind of points over fences.

After hunters, they had a schooling break where I would change for halter. We typically showed in Hunter Halter and Gelding Halter, although at some other shows we tried Western. Halter was my favorite, because I loved shining Elvis up. Judges either loved him or hated him, so we typically came home with nothing or some kind of halter tri-color. Still miss halter classes to this day!

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Post halter there was a schooling break, where the ring turned into a mix of western, english, gaited, saddleseat and any other kind of creature that could walk trot canter on the rail. This show series had TONS of flat classes, although we typically stuck to the Adult division and the Hunter division. Walk/trot classes could easily have 20+ horses in it and not just kids… adults were welcome for walk/trot as well.

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In the english style flat classes, the mix of horses were stock hunters, show hunters, gaited horses and even some drafts. We were kind of a mix of stock hunter and show hunter, but typically held our own in flat classes.

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I always wanted to try Elvis western, but he didn’t really jog (or lope for that matter) and fancy Western show tack was out of the budget.

Closest we got to western

Though these shows run entirely different from the hunter/jumper shows I now love, I kind of miss my open show days. There’s some universe in the future where I hope I can get another (perhaps more talented) Quarter Horse and go play open/breed shows again.

Have you ever been to a show like this?

20 thoughts on “My Time in the Open Show Circuit

  1. Yup, this is the only showing I’ve done outside of breed shows. Once again, I <3 Elvis. Love me a big, red pony with a star. Copper is really capable of doing both hunter (flat) classes and the western stuff, but I don't fit in my hunter clothes currently, so I'm just doing the western when we haul. I haven't done halter lately because people around here haul actual halter horses in to go in those classes, so we look a little derpy in comparison since he's definitely not carrying 100 extra pounds of useless weight. 😉

  2. I grew up going to shows kinda like this. In FL around where I lived it seemed like there was always some kind of show that had seriously every class under the sun available going on. Definitely a different experience!

  3. I spent the whole weekend at a gaited show, and there was also a Palomino show going on at the same grounds, so I kind of got this experience over the weekend. Pretty fun!

  4. I grew up showing 4-H, which is open shows for juniors. It still has a soft spot in my heart… but I don’t miss all the patterns!

  5. I started my show career in open shows! My first mare was a saint. We’d do halter and English flat classes all morning (and the obligatory hunter hack class…w/t/c, jump a line, hand gallop, halt.) and then throw on an old, very worn Western saddle for Western all afternoon and then end the day with some gaming.

  6. I’ve spent a good deal of time at those shows, and where the judging was always super skeptical over fences and on the flat I pretty much made fun of the judges by entering Carlos in Halter. Oh yeah, even the western judges couldn’t tell that Carlos wasn’t a QH (proving further the ineptitude at the shows we attended), he regularly beat out QH’s in the stock type halter classes.

  7. Oh my god, yeah, every once in a while I’d take a horse or two to the Bridle & Saddle Club shows. They were nuts, they always started at like 5 PM, there would always be a million people there, and no one had any concept of warm up ring courtesy! I tried my hand at western pleasure once with an Arabian-cross that didn’t walk or jog, and just about got laughed out of the ring.

    My very first ribbon ever was in W/T at a 4H show- I won first place. It’s been all downhill since there! 😉

  8. I’ve only shown hunter/jumper but occasionally when my equine get a little too naughty for my abilities they spend some time at a quarter horse farm near by home. They mostly only do quarter horse shows, but some of their shows are open as well. Definitely a different world, but seems like a ton of fun!
    Elvis is adorable. I really love quarter horses.

  9. I have so done these shows! Only our association didn’t have any jump classes. Just the flat. Which is a shame because I would have loved to do all the jumps. We also had the western games though and one of those had a jump so I always did that class. It was called jumping figure 8. 🙂

  10. These are the only types of shows I’ve done!

    My favorite ended the day with a barrel race. I totally ran Don on barrels in an English saddle. A mom saw me and told her daughter “See, I told you we could enter you in barrels, no one would care that you don’t have your western saddle!” And we made some good jokes about equitation around barrels being a new class.

  11. That sounds a lot like the saddle club shows up here. I really want to enter Tucker in the barrel race sometime. I think we could really kick some butt!

  12. This would be the type of show I did earlier this year (which I kept referring to as “a hunter show” and I hope I didn’t offend anyone with my ignorance!) It was…an experience?

  13. Haha! Yes, I have done these. Many and poorly. Honestly, if I could find a good local series, I’d take Courage now, just for the exposure. It’s a lot hurry-up-and-wait with low key classes, which is perfect.

  14. Those were the only shows I ever knew about before playing with eventing. We did a little of everything, and my husband even played with Pandora in halter and in-hand trail. Those were some fun times as well with some fun people!

  15. Yes! There is an open show series down here at a place called Croft- All the English/hunter classes are in the morning and then western/gaited in the afternoon. They also had barrels and pole bending and I took Gus in my English saddle in those classes for kicks. We only got a ribbon at 1 of the shows- still not sure how b/c Gus wasn’t very fast and it was some stiff competition!!!!

  16. Yes, I showed pinto shows until I was 14 years old… It was just me, my mom, and my wonder horse Benny. I showed mostly youth classes and had a blast doing it…

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