by Emily Baker
As an equestrienne for 20+ years now I have only recently started to venture into the world of shows outside of Colorado. Reason being: I am footing the bills myself these days and not having to convince my parents of the benefits of a shipping bill that is twice the cost of the show itself. That said, this was one of the greatest draws of the HIPICO Santa Fe horse shows as it was reasonably inexpensive to get there from Colorado - relatively speaking of course. So with my checkbook in one hand and a regrettably flimsy rain jacket in the other I set out this past week on an adventure to New Mexico.
The town of Santa Fe itself has a western vibe that is quite charming. All of the buildings are modern recreations of the Native American structures that dominated the area historically. In fact, not only is this the only city in America that can claim such an abundance of this style of architecture, but the town enacted an ordinance in 1957 requiring all architecture to maintain the historical integrity of the town and keep up the adobe style.
The horse show also had this distinctly Southwestern flair. Many of the permanent structures resembled the adobe architecture in town. Country song-esque red dirt roads weave around the property, and the show sits in the middle of the New Mexico desert. It, too, was very charming and aesthetically appealing especially to a western enthusiast.
Cost of shipping aside, the main pull factor for the Santa Fe horse show was the grass. I had heard incredible things from exhibitors last year both about the size and quality of the field. And in fact, they certainly lived up to the hype. They took great care of their grass fields, alternating use on certain days and saving the largest field for the weekend only. Unfortunately, I never did get to show on the grass.
Lo and behold, it was monsoon season in Santa Fe at this time of year and it was not about to disappoint. Around roughly the same time every day that we were there a monsoon would roll through the horse park sending soaked horse and riders fleeing to their barns and shutting down the horse show for at least an hour. As a result, my class on the day shown above was actually cancelled. In addition, the rain so badly flooded the grass fields that ALL jumper classes on the days subsequent were held in the much smaller and less impressive Jumper 2 arena (including the Grand Prix.) This did not come without it's own share of challenges after the rain.
One entire corner of Jumper 2 had formed it's own Lake HIPICO after Friday's monsoon and the ring crew worked tirelessly to correct it. It was an all day process which included pole rolling, excessive raking, cordoning off the corner of the arena entirely (giving riders only one option in a rollback turn on course that caused quite a few rails and refusals on course), and then eventually bringing in tractor loads of sand to soak up the water. By the time my class went late in the afternoon the ground was dry and we were no longer restricted from using that part of the arena.
By far the horse show's most commendable quality was the VIP tent experience. For the price of a few pretty pennies you were given a table in the tent which included breakfast, lunch, open bar, complimentary 15 minute massages, a pool and ping pong table, and comfortable shaded viewing of the arenas. Not only did the tent provide us shelter from the storm but it afforded a comfortable place to watch much of the horse show action.
The show had many ups and downs beyond the VIP tent and the storms. There were countless other amenities around the horse show. On the down side many exhibitors were still upset about the footing situation particularly in the warm-up rings, which was a complaint echoed from last year. Not to mention, those warm-up rings were perilously small. In addition, quite a few barns were housed in stalls in the stuffy indoor arena as a result of a tenting faux pas, which caused us to pack up and leave the show a week early.
On the upside, vendor's row had numerous different merchants, a HIPICO merchandise shop, and stands from many of their sponsors including the circulation chairs above which were enjoyed by many drowsy exhibitors. In addition, the show had an art walk which featured sculptures and paintings from many local artists available for viewing and purchase. Further, the show was also well-outfitted with helpful signage including these "Future Shade Tree Do Not Eat" signs that were placed nowhere near an actual tree. I'm still pondering the purpose of those signs.