It takes many hours of planning to make an amazing horse show, and this year’s Region XI Sport Horse Championship show did not fall short.
As a first time visitor and exhibitor in Region XI, I was unsure what to expect and pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome, efficient show, beautiful grounds, and great class numbers that awaited. It’s clear the show committee, volunteers, admin staff and countless others, worked extremely hard to create an experience no one would forget. From the coffee and donuts provided each day, to the efficient and welcoming show office skillfully captained by Ryan Chambers, and the meticulous running of each of the different rings, the show was fun, and for me, fruitful.
The spirit of the Arabian horse community is strong amongst Region XI’s Sport Horse exhibitors. Frantically looking to hire a braider in an unfamiliar area, I was surprised how quickly someone stepped up to give me a great recommendation. Kassidy of Tiefenauer Training happily slotted me into her busy schedule, making sure my colt was impeccably braided with plenty of time to spare each day, even answering my questions and offering for me, a total DIY amateur, to stall with her barn next time we show in the Region!
Many other trainers and exhibitors stopped by our stalls to visit with my amateur owner trained and shown two-year-old, Dartagnan SBA (affectionately known as ‘Dart’) and his hackney pony travel companion, Oreo. As we prepared for the preshow, I was flattered by constant compliments on Dart’s laid back approach to life. Many took the time to brighten my day by congratulating me on his good manners or taking the time to share how cute they found him. This uplifting atmosphere was rampant in the barn - it was a joy to see youths helping each other prepare, trainers lending a hand, big smiles, and lots of kind words in the midst of competition.
Though we have showed at a number of Fairgrounds, I’ve never experienced anything quite like Illinois. Perhaps atypically, my show stallion lives at home with me, his pasture backs right up to my porch, his gelding companion, my goats, my cats, all live alongside him. Aside from bad weather, he’s unaccustomed to spending long periods in a stall or alone, so naturally for us, we spent a lot of time with Dart and Oreo walking, exploring, and hand grazing - this turned out to be one of the best parts of the trip. An American Kennel Club dog show was also being hosted on the fairgrounds, affording us some wonderful meetings with canine enthusiasts who were very excited to talk about our similar-yet-vastly-different passions and learn more about Arabian horses and our shows. Naturally people reach out to pet the pony, yet it’s Dart, my two-year-old colt that we bring forward for them to meet. Uncommonly gentle and kind, he happily accepted pets and scratches while his friend, a rescue pony with an unknown past and uncomfortable with strangers, stayed back.
In addition to the dog show, we bumped into many families attending a bird fancier’s event, a few stray guests from a wedding, and construction workers busy rebuilding the beautiful coliseum who wanted pictures for their horse crazy daughters (Dart was happy to stick his head in their truck for a selfie), and even visited with the lady at one of the food stands who asked me to bring Dart back to see her again. Being an Arabian Ambassador comes easily to Dart who adores just about everyone and is curious about everything. He, and the rest of the Arabian horses competing, were unphased by the construction of the coliseum happening very close to the barn and show rings - a wonderful testament to the adaptive and willing nature of the breed.
By the time my Regional classes came around, the trip from Texas had already been worth it. I was pretty excited to have some awesome t-shirts as souvenirs of the show and to have talked to so many people about my horse and Arabian horses in general. Being Dart’s first Regional show, and my third, with neither of us ever having been to Nationals, I expected very little other than a hope we would have fun. When I saw the schedule, I expected even less and was excited and flattered just to be there to compete alongside National Champion horses and handlers in our two-year-old class. Dart gave me a fantastic triangle, the judge was warm and kind, and we enjoyed more compliments from trainers and exhibitors that I genuinely admire. I was surprised to pick up my score sheet and see there had been a mistake - our score sheet was laying under the Championship garland. I was truly shocked after one of the very kind show staff had the results rechecked at my request and assured me that we had in fact won the class, and Dartagnan SBA was a Regional Champion.
It takes so many things to make an amazing horse show. It takes great show staff, camaraderie between exhibitors, the right venue, and the right spirit in the hearts of everyone involved. Region XI Sport Horse Championships nailed it, and for me, was the Arabian horse community in action, thriving. We came alone and left with so many friends, well wishes, and invitations back - plus a positive experience guaranteeing that we will certainly try. Kudos to everyone who made the show possible and took it to the next level. The date and venue created so much exposure for our horses, as well as a beautiful setting so efficient for purpose and fun to explore. The entire show staff and committee and exhibitors and volunteers who turned up to support, hit it out the park.
Personally, for me, the show was a fairytale. As much as I believe in my young horse, I also fully believed it would be years before the rest of the world would truly see what I see, that it might be difficult as an ‘outsider’ in a brand new Region, and that it was impossible I would show in an open class with National-caliber horses and handlers, and win. The warm congratulations, the fun, the jokes, the youth exhibitor’s smiles, and the laughter and encouragement in the barn will stay with me and remind me that in our community, there are no outsiders. If you love Arabian horses, or even have some interest in learning about them, you’re in. Region XI turned strangers into friends, and for me, created an opportunity for a dream to come true. Rushing back to my stalls with tears on my cheeks to put roses around Dart’s neck was certainly a highlight of the trip, but there were many, many more.
Many thanks to Arab Inc., and all involved, for a fantastic show. To learn more about the Region XI Arabian horse community visit their website.