The Santa Barbara National Horse Show wrapped up the final competition day of its 101st year on Saturday, awarding its last set of blue ribbons to the show’s top horses.
Saturday’s events concluded four days of competitions at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. This year’s show featured 10 different horse breeds that competed in events that judged the horses’ gait, trot and walk.
During Saturday’s line-up, horses competed in a variety of events, which included championships for pleasure riding, two gait, open gait and saddle riding.
Lance Bennett, the show’s manager, reflected on the competition week on Saturday, noting that the show saw a return to pre-pandemic numbers in size and participation during this year’s show.
“Santa Barbara National is back and it’s alive,” Mr. Bennett told the News-Press.
“Our numbers are right where they were in 2019, pre-COVID,” he later added. “We are right where we were before everything changed. We’ve got new exhibitors, which is promising for the industry and for the business. (We have) new horses that we haven’t seen before, new barns that we haven’t seen before (and) new riders that we haven’t seen.”
Nadine Tilley, the owner of Tilley Andalusians in the West Lake Village and long-time participant in the National Horse Show, said she was very excited to be back at the horse show once again. With last year’s Santa Barbara National Horse Show cancelled due to the pandemic, Ms. Tilley said it was good to be back showcasing her eight Andalusian breed horses.
“We are so glad to have Santa Barbara open,” Ms. Tilley told the News-Press. “It’s such a pleasure to show here.”
Since the 1980’s, Ms. Tilley has brought horses to show in Santa Barbara. She said throughout her years involved in the show business, Santa Barbara is one of her favorite locations to participate in shows.
After a year without a show, Ms. Tilley said being back with fellow equestrians and exhibitors feels “freeing.”
“It’s exuberant, it’s wonderful to be able to be out and get together with people who enjoy horses,” Ms. Tilley told the News-Press. “During the pandemic, we could go out and ride and enjoy horses outside, but It’s wonderful to come back to a competition and the closeness that we all share with the love of an animal. No matter what breed you’re in, we all enjoy doing the same thing.”
Various family members, friends and equine enthusiasts were in Saturday’s audience, taking in the day of events.
One audience member, Gale Lucas, traveled up from Los Angeles to show her horse, Sky, during this week’s showcase. Her horse, a 9-year-old Missouri Fox Trotter, was the sole representative for its breed at this year’s horse show.
It’s been three years since Ms. Lucas has attended the horse show in Santa Barbara, and she said she sensed a very positive energy among competitors this year. Without a horse show to attend last year, Ms. Lucas said she feels that equestrians have a new sense of appreciation for the sport.
“I think a lot of people are going to more (shows) than they would have because they kind of missed it last year,” Ms. Lucas told the News-Press. “So I just notice this sense of, ‘oh, thank goodness we can go back’ and the two shows that I’ve been at (this year) are bigger than they have been in past years. So there’s kind of a renewed excitement of like, wow, I want to get back in the show ring and be able to do what I think is fulfilling and exciting.”