Horse shows galloping to popularity online
SUDBURY -- It's not the show season that the horse community is used to, but competitors across the globe are still saddling-up and finding a way to test their skills this summer.
"I first heard about the virtual horse shows on Facebook," explained Sandra Duhamel who organized the Summer 2020 Pandemic Horse Show Series in Sudbury.
"There's a trainer in Texas that put one on so I decided to participate myself. I realized that there weren't very many people from Ontario actually participating in the show and I wasn't aware that Ontario had a virtual horse show going on, so I decided that due to COVID-19 and the fact that all of us preparing for horse shows this summer were not going to be able to show, that it would probably be fun to organize my own virtual horse show."
The Facebook group has close to 1,000 members. The idea is that riders can compete at home this summer by taking a video and sending it online to be judged.
"The virtual horse shows are mainly for people who ride pattern classes. So how it works is, I just design a pattern, I post the pattern and then people who want to compete, they practice the pattern at home, they video tape it and then they submit their video online," said Duhamel.
11-year-old Regan Bunnell was saddled up and ready to submit one of her competition videos on Sunday. July 19/2020 (Alana Pickrell/CTV News Northern Ontario)
"Then the judges that I have judge the pattern classes and the results get posted."
It costs riders $20 to enter with the chance to win back some money and ribbons depending on how they place.
"This way we're able to keep practicing and we're able to get experience with our patterns," said 17-year-old Jessica Rudd who competes with her 7-year-old mare Missy.
"Some of the patterns have been quite challenging, so it's been awesome to be able to practice all that and basically keep our horses in shape and it's a great way to motivate us to continue to ride."
10-year-old Alyssa Malmiste says it's all about the experience and she is happy to still compete in some form this season.
"It's been pretty awesome, I've been doing really good and we get more than one chance. So if we mess up or they trip, we get to do it again," said Malmiste.
So far the support has been better than expected according to Duhamel, and the plan is to continue with more patterns next month.
"I wasn't sure the support I was going to get, mainly because I wasn't seeing a lot of support for the virtual horse shows being held out of Texas. So I was hoping if I could get 10-15 people in each of my classes, that would be great," said Duhamel.
"The support I've received is actually phenomenal. My first class had 20 and then my second class had over 60 competitors, as did the third."
Although many riders say it isn't the same as showing in person, virtual horse shows give them the opportunity to get ready for 2021.
"We get more experience I find doing it this way because then we get to practice and do it instead of going to the shows and just figuring each other out at the shows," explained 16-year-old Megan Amyot who would have been showing for the first time this year with her new horse.
"[Now] I get to figure him out here instead."
11-year-old Regan Bunnell was saddled up and ready to submit one of her competition videos on Sunday. She says it is her first year loping and she is happy she can get more practice while still showing.
"I like it at home because I'm comfortable, Cutter knows the place and it's my first year so he won't spook for something different because he's at home, comfortable and he can learn to lope properly."
Coach Laura Snow records video for 11-year-old Regan Bunnell's submisson to the Summer 2020 Pandemic Horse Show Series in Sudbury. July 19/2020 (Alana Pickrell/CTV News Northern Ontario)
Alongside the virtual horse shows that are open for all ages, there is also a "Prince and Princess" competition that is being held.
There are 26 kids between the ages of 2-years-old and 11-years-old who are competing for the final crown.
In June, each rider had to submit a figure 8 video on horse back. In July, there was an interview component and in August each rider-horse team will dress up to try and win best costume.
As many are using these virtual horse shows for more experience and practice for when they can finally get back into the show pen in person, all of them were just happy for another reason to ride.
"It would have been a very sad summer if we didn't have anything to keep ourselves busy with," said Rudd.