Event brings more than 150 competitors from around the nation
The Santa Barbara National Horse Show, now in its 102nd year at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, kicked off Hunters and Jumpers week on Wednesday, with more than 150 competitors from around the country and a variety of fun events for the whole family.
“This is a longstanding social event and tradition for Santa Barbara,” Show Manager Lance Bennett told the News-Press Thursday.
“It’s one of the oldest shows in the country, and maybe the oldest on the West Coast,” Lynne Sherman, head of the national horse show’s community volunteers, added. “Everybody here is having a wonderful time. People are coming from all around the region.”
The horse show continues today through Sunday at the showgrounds, 3400 Calle Real, Santa Barbara. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission and parking are free. Enter gate B to park and follow the walkway to the equestrian arenas.
“Yesterday was my first day over there,” Mary Rose, showgrounds director and chair of the Horse Show Committee, told the News-Press Thursday. “It’s going very well. Horses from throughout California are competing here, and the competition is very strong.”
The horse show runs for two weeks. It began last week with Breed Week, while this week features Hunters and Jumpers. Highlights include the $5,000 Tab Hunter Memorial Derby, named for Montecito movie star Tab Hunter, who was a rider and exhibitor at the horse show, at 4 p.m. today. And the $10,000 National Grand Prix will take place at 5 p.m. Saturday.
“With jump horses, what you’re looking for is can they clear the jump and how fast can they do it,” Ms. Sherman told the News-Press. “Each round they raise the jumps higher.”
And each round requires horses to move faster and make sharper turns, without touching or knocking down the jumps, she added. “The one that does it the fastest wins.”
Competition watchers, meanwhile, remain quiet throughout the event, she said. “It’s very exciting to watch. Everyone has their heart in their mouth.”
There’s something for everyone at this year’s show, even if it’s their first time attending, officials said. Saturday will feature tours from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., during which show docents and equestrian volunteers will be on hand to answer questions and share more about the background and history of Santa Barbara’s equestrian culture. Attendees should meet at the Laughing Dog Ranch pop-up tent.
“The docents will explain what’s going on there,” Ms. Rose said. “It’s a good opportunity to see what the equestrian tradition here in Santa Barbara is all about.”
Children won’t be ignored, either, because a “Picture Perfect Pony” will be on hand at 3 p.m. Saturday to meet any kids (and adults) who want the opportunity to pet a horse. Show guests are invited to bring their cameras and enjoy a slice of pizza, courtesy of Laughing Dog Ranch.
For those who couldn’t make it, Breed Week featured a 10-breed horse show that Mr. Bennett called “very successful,” with horses coming from all over California as well as Arizona.
Sir Walter III, a 7-year-old Kentucky Mountain Horse, owned by trail riders Susan Bruch and Cynthia Tippett of Montecito and trained and ridden by Mindy Smith, won Best of Show and High Point Champion in the Open Gaited Breed category.
He was the only Kentucky Mountain horse competing against a group of Rocky Mountain, Tennessee Walker and Paso Fino horses. In this category, horses display a “very still, very smooth gait,” so their riders, sitting Western style, don’t bounce, Ms. Bruch told the News-Press.
“They put them all together in this particular event to see which of them was best of show in this category,” she said.
She praised Ms. Smith for training Sir Walter III in a very short period after he arrived from eastern Kentucky, where he was barely trained. “What she could do with this horse was unbelievable,” she said.
Ms. Bruch has nothing but praise for the showgrounds and horse show.
“What I noticed this year was the families that came. That’s exciting. Young people are being exposed to the world of horses and realize this is a sport they can take upon themselves and enjoy. It’s a gift to those who would want this to be a part of their lives.”
The Earl Warren Showgrounds was built originally to house this show, “which used to take place down at the beach,” Mr. Bennett said. “They wanted a permanent home for this show. Money was raised and they built this facility,” which opened in 1958.
It remains a cornerstone in enabling Santa Barbara and surrounding communities to celebrate and experience the deep agricultural and equestrian history of the area. The showgrounds also serve as a key location for the safe keeping and care of animals in the event of wildfires and natural disasters, as it is the only facility that can facilitate more than 1,000 large animals.