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Prairie State Hosts An Energetic Competition

by Susan Jansson


MADISON, Wis. - The Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisc., is an energetic place to hold a horse show on the first full weekend in June. Not only do Morgan Horses and American Saddlebreds populate the barns on these grounds, one of the competition halls at the facility are hopping, rather, dancing with the likes of hundreds of Irish dancers in town to participate in their annual Irish Feis. Also on foot that first Saturday in June is the annual Susan B. Komen Walk for the Cure when thousands of dedicated walkers and runners and babies in strollers put on their walking shoes for a worthy cause, which makes the 14th annual Prairie State Classic fit right in with those crowds. For many, riding horses is a lot like dancing, and competing in something they love makes it so much more fun. Add to that the beneficiary of this horse show is the Saint Anthony’s Center for Cancer Care and that make it all the more worthwhile.


Officiating this year’s ‘A’ rated Morgan division was Daryl Hopson from the far away and fun to say Walla Walla, Wash. Steve Old from Carterville, Ga., judged the ‘B’ rated Saddlebred division and huge academy classes. President of the Mid-States Club Shirley Orlando along with former show manager Gail Kelce shared managing duties while Cheryl Rangel, who spends so much time from one show to the next in this particular show office that she may eventually save the commute and move in, handled the entries.


Like many smaller shows in the country this one is powered by volunteers. And it’s their power that really makes this show work. Everyone that could pitched in to keep things running. From the barn help who went to Staples for ink toner so the office could keep printing, to the pediatrician in an exhibitor’s family who, learning of a trainer’s young child’s fever, went himself to the drugstore for the proper medicine, to barn announcers, gate keepers and ribbon presenters, it seems as though everyone took a turn rowing to keep the boat afloat. It’s a good thing too, as the weekend progressed the weather got a bit wet and raucous.


Saddlebred trainers and owners from the area brought a nice number of horses to the show to round out the Saddlebred division. Instructors from both breeds took advantage of the large academy division and brought along a string of academy riders to compete. The division was so large, in fact, that many of the classes were split with 20 or more riders competing for the championships in the various age groups and nearly all the qualifying classes had at least a dozen horses in each. This was a show within a show with an entire session devoted to the horse owners of the future. The horses in these classes are the ambassadors of both the breeds and instructors kept a quick pace with nary a delay in the opening of the gate in spite of multiple changes of tack and rider. Getting all those young or inexperienced riders safely in and out of the ring and helping them have a positive experience at a horse show is an important aspect of an instructor’s job and though the weather threatened to burst into torrents of rain at any moment, not a single instructor was reported to break down and cry. At least not that anyone saw.


Savanah Nickey, Sydney Budzinski,

Hailee Wegner and Hannah Shepherd

enjoyed showing in the large academy division.


In the fun and unusual division, the annual ‘Blind Buggy’ race was amusing. And humbling for those who choose to be the ‘horse.’ No horses were harmed during this event and even a few may have been amused; some said they heard horse laughs coming from the barns. The human horse in this event is blindfolded with a relatively clean leg wrap and pulled the cart through a course of cones and trash receptacles. The other sits in the cart and drives. Participants come away with a greater appreciation of their horses’ job and the importance of knowing one’s left from their right and the audience enjoyed a good laugh at their friends’ expense. At least until the next year when they think, it can’t be that hard, can it?


Competitors in the Blind Buggy Race
had a great
 time as did the
spectators cheering them on.


The bleachers were chock full of spectators all weekend and the many vendors did brisk business throughout the show. Another unexpected highlight of this year’s show was the Ben Franklin Mystery class concept. Before each session three class numbers were drawn at random and held secretly at the judge’s stand until that particular class was pinned. The winner of those classes not only came out of the arena with a satiny blue ribbon but a crisp one hundred dollar bill (Ben Franklin)!  In all $1,500 was awarded, adding a bit of joy to the hearts and pockets of the winners.


Though the weather was a bit tenacious with frequent downpours which flooded out most available warm up space, show officials made it work by allowing exhibitors a two minute warm up in the show arena before calling the class to order. This worked so well with junior riders, horses and amateurs that some trainers and instructors actually welcomed the rains. Prairie State Classic is a great season starter and Madison itself offers many great diversions, but hey, who in their right mind wants to be diverted from a horse show?


Complete show results can be seen and searched by clicking here.


Also seen at Prairie State Classic Horse Show:


Dan Lynch and Hylee Galaxy’s Wild Irish

 Western Pleasure Champions


LLL Trotsky and Jessica Cavanaugh

Hunter Pleasure Champions


Buddies Taylor Gruenberg and Anneka Jansson

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