Over the last few years, a new set of prize campaigns has arisen in an effort to further commemorate and celebrate the efforts of exhibitors at U.S. Nationals. Spearheaded by members of the community, these campaigns focus on collecting sponsorships and using the proceeds raised to purchase additional prizes for winners in certain divisions. Currently, Prize campaigns have been held for Working Horse classes, and there are also plans for a new Showmanship campaign, the first for Main Ring, to begin this year.
These prize campaigns give back in many ways, not only providing additional prizes for winning exhibitors, such as buckles or plaques, but also driving entries, and helping community members by providing sponsorship and advertising opportunities at U.S. Nationals.
One of the first prize campaign efforts was spearheaded by Melinda Lawrence, in 2016 for Reining. “The Open Reining Derby for 6-8 year-old horses made its debut and I wanted to help build entries for that class.” Melinda shares, “Individuals donated a trophy saddle, a couple of buckles, a couple of saddle pads, a bridle, a pair of custom spur straps, a couple of rope halters and cash which I used to buy some cool wood saddle racks and wood totes for some of the other reining classes.” The program was so well received that Melinda was asked to expand it further. “Everyone loved it”, she explains, “A group of folks asked me to do the cattle classes for 2017. I did buckles and because that was such a hit, I decided to go for it again in 2018.”
Coordinating prizes, collecting sponsorships and advertising the campaign is an undoubtedly a large undertaking. When asked why she began prize campaigns, Melinda explains, “Honestly I wanted to build excitement for these working horse classes, and be a "doer" not just a talker. With our shows struggling with declining entry numbers, I felt like starting at the top at U.S. Nationals would be an inspiration. If I could do it at that level, why can't someone else be inspired to do it for Regionals or a local show, and help create incentive for entries across the board?”
The current Working Horse prize campaign finalized for 2018 US Nationals, includes 100 commemorative buckles to be given to the National, and Reserve National Champions in each class in Reining, Working Cow, Reined Cow, Herd Work and Cutting. While the buckles act as an additional incentive for entries, those who sponsored them will have their programs recognized in the show program and three large posters to be displayed at the show, and posted on social media.
The Trail prize campaigns also began in 2016, with Dr. Karlan Downing at the helm. Speaking about the 2018 campaign, she explains,“Belt buckles are awarded to the Arabian and Half-Arabian National Champion, Reserve National Champion and Top Ten riders in the AAOTR and Select Western Trail and the AAOTR English Trail. This year we also added the Ranch Riding ATR to the list for trophy buckles. For Trail and Ranch Riding both Arabian and Half-Arabian the Champions and Reserve Champions in the Open, Derby, Junior Horse and Futurity will get trophy headstalls and the English Trail will get presentation Halters with engraved brass plates. We will also be continuing to give awards- this year it is embroidered garment bags- to the High Point and Reserve Trainer, single high score winners in Purebred and Half-Arabian English, Western, AAOTR English and Western, Select Western, Junior Horse and will also give thank you Awards to our judges, scribes, paddock and ring men. That is a total of 80 buckles, 18 headstalls, four Halters, 14 garment bags, ten awards for judges, ten for scribes and four for our paddock and ring personnel.”
When asked why she thinks prize campaigns are so important, Karlan shares, “I have really enjoyed being able to have these awards for our Amateur and Open exhibitors for the past three years and adding our judges and show staff this year is our way of thanking them for the tremendous amount of work that their jobs entail! My job has been made easy by the literal hundreds of people who have so willingly donated to finance the prizes. They are the real heroes of this project! Seeing the expression in the faces of our winners as we hand them their award makes all of the work worthwhile and I think it has helped encourage participation in our discipline!”
The Arabian Horse Association is a member driven organization. By taking initiative and contributing to the community, members like Melinda and Karlan are creating positive change and enhancing the experience for other members, and the organization as a whole. For more ways to get involved in the Arabian horse community, contact your local club or local show staff, and ask how you can contribute.