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From the Desk of Marty Schaffel: An Inside Perspective

I am very fortunate. I have met so many wonderful people in our industry. One of the sincerest horsemen I have had the pleasure of becoming friends with is John Brand from Houston, Texas. We have shown our road horses in the ring together numerous times. Recently, John kindly shared his observations from inside a horse show he just returned from in Texas.

The below insert is from John – and it illustrates a firm “We Can Do This” attitude. I want to share it with you.

May 22/23, Texas conducted its first horse show since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down our industry. The show was put on by May Chadick of Vantage Point Farm in collaboration with the Great Southwest Equestrian Center (GSEC) in Katy, TX. While small, the show was the first time for all of us to see what things would be like in the “new normal” under the new COVID guidelines for shows related to social distancing, face masks, and other safety precautions. Many people were admittedly nervous about both attending the show and how it would go, trainers, owners, exhibitors alike. My wife Ashley and I had initially decided not to attend the show out of an abundance of caution, but as everyone knows with showing, one day you’re not going to a show, the next day you are.

To our surprise, things really weren’t that terribly different, and it was a great and fun experience. That is to the credit of GSEC and Vantage Point Farm in organizing the show. GSEC has done an exceptional job of literally updating the facility to USEF COVID protocols, which are aligned with the JLC guidance. It is truly amazing the effort the facility has gone in terms of communicating the expectations for attendees in terms of signage, social distancing, marking out of 6’ spacing, availability of sanitizer, etc.  The entire facility is marked out, which made it easy to follow the protocols. Vantage Point did an incredible job putting the show together in terms of the class list, schedule, judges, ribbons/trophies, etc.

Communication and preparation for showing in this challenging time are keys to ensuring that we are all safe while at the same time can enjoy the show. There was early and regular communication on the protocols that would be in place at the show, from social distancing, to barn location, stall configurations, congregating at the barns, entry on to the premises, etc. This came from GSEC & Vantage Point (show organizers), distributed to the trainers and to the attendees. Everyone knew exactly what would be expected of them and so everyone came prepared. The event was closed to the public, so everyone knew the entry gate and check-in process. Everyone brought their masks and understood the social distancing protocol. Folks were asked to bring their own chairs as the fixed seating area was to be closed, but the promenade area was open. Exhibitors wore masks until around the time of their class. Only grooms and trainers/assistants in the warmup rings. No long-term congregation of personnel back in the barn areas should occur, and folks made the best of it by keeping proper social distancing, limiting numbers of people in the area, going up to the arena, or even tailgating out of their vehicles or more. For example, Lone Star Saddlebreds moved the entire social area of the barn outside in the open air and sunshine with canopy tents and barn flags, with folding chairs adequately spaced out, refreshments available, etc. “Just like how we used to do it,” one person said. Everyone there, from the GSEC staff to May who ran the show, attendees all around, came prepared, paid attention to the protocols, were receptive to guidance if folks forgot things, and behaved in a manner that I found solace in that we are all in this together. Everyone has a choice in this, to choose to attend or not based on their comfort level, to attend and choose to comply with the protocols, and in doing so, collectively support each other.

You know what, it was fun. Fun to be back showing again. Fun to be showing for the sake of showing. Nobody really seemed concerned where they placed, and they were just happy to be out there again riding or driving their horses. It was great to see people we hadn’t seen in months. It was great to feel part of something we were all doing together. There was no show hospitality, nobody cared, everyone brought their own. It felt like a cross between a county fair show and a football tailgate. Folks came for the horses, for the show, to see family, friends, and colleagues again. Isn’t that what this really should be about?

It was fun, safe, and whatever fear or trepidation people came to the show with, it was at least proven it could be done in this challenging time. Is it different, yes? Is it so much so that it’s not a horse show and not fun, no.

We really can do this. We can choose to come together safely. We can show our horses. We can have fun. I hope you will join me in moving forward, opening our shows, and adhering to the guidelines for the sake of an industry we all love.

Marty Schaffel, ASHA President

USEF COVID-19 Tool Kit
JLC COVID-19 Suggested Guidance Resources

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