The [horse] show must go on online!

COVID-19 restrictions have led to the cancelation or rescheduling of competitions nationwide. But, a new trend is rising in their absence—online horse shows.

Flying Cross Farm

Flying Cross Farm in Goshen, KY is one venue taking competition online. Their first virtual show will be held April 18, offering classes in dressage, show jumping and combined training (dressage and stadium).

“There are so many people riding now who don’t have goals,” explained Mary Lowry of Flying Cross Farm, “so this is to give them a goal [but] help with education, also.”

Lowry plans to host online shows once a month.

“We’ll set up a ring with the judge, film it and post it on our page and on YouTube, to teach people how to set up dressage rings [at home]. That judge will talk about what they look for in a test and how they judge,” explained Lowry.

Show jumping follows the same format and will also include video of the judge walking the course.

Riders then set the same ring or course at home, film their ride and submit the video to Flying Cross for judging.

The virtual show will be judged live with the judge present at the farm. Jenn Boblitt, USDF L graduate, USDF bronze and silver medalist, is scheduled to judge dressage for the April 18 show. Deborah Iezzi Snyder, intermediate level eventer, will judge stadium.

“We’ll sit down,” said Lowry, “just Jenn at a table, six feet away from her will be a scribe. Also in the room will be Rick, our announcer. So, we’ll be Facetiming live, Rick will announce who goes in the ring, we’ll watch the ride, cut out, come back, give that rider a score and watch the next and continue all day!”

Lowry emphasized anyone, at any level, can enter. Once tests are judged, they’ll be scanned and emailed to riders. Ribbons can be mailed or picked up in person. Divisions with more than 20 entries will offer cash prizes.

Learn more on Flying Cross Farm’s Facebook page.

Show Jumping Relief Fund Series

An option for hunter/jumper riders, the Show Jumping Relief Fund series is both a online show and a fundraiser.

Started by Daniel and Ariel Bluman, the fund’s goal is to raise money to help industry employees (e.g. horse show staff and grooms) who have lost their income due to event cancellations, “put food on the table and make rent and car payments.”

Tentatively planned for the week of March 30, the Equitation Classic flips the script on traditional shows and invites the viewers to judge. Top professionals, including Erynn Ballard (CAN), Daniel Bluman (ISR), Lillie Keenan (USA), Lauren Hough (USA), Jimmy Torano (USA) and Peter Wylde (USA), will submit previously recorded rounds to be judged by the audience in a pay to play format. The viewer scores closest to the actual judge scores (to be published 24 hours later) will win prizes.

Viewers may also submit their own rounds for judging via a donation to the Fund. Find more details at the SJRF Facebook Page.

Better Dressage Scores

For dressage riders, there’s also Better Dressage Scores, an online horse show platform designed to help riders save money.

Each month, a show is run in what founder Aryelle Stafford calls a “compete against yourself” format. Riders film their tests at home and submit the video for judging. Ribbons are issued by mail.

Currently, Better Dressage Scores accepts USDF, USEA, WDAA, Cadora and Canadian Eventing tests and scores them, but Stafford added, “we’ve also had people submit tests bareback, bitless, driving, freestyles, etc.”

Better Dressage Scores also offers options for a typical competition format, which can be used by barns or groups wanting to host a show but perhaps not run up the costs affiliated with an in-person show.

When asked if she’s seen more interest in online shows due to COVID-19 restrictions, Stafford said, “there’s definitely been an increased interested in these shows. I know some barns are, unfortunately, closed, but we have a lot of backyard riders who join these each month, too. What better way to quarantine yourself than to compete with your partner?”

Stafford pointed out that dressage is “less risky than jumping and your horse is in a comfortable environment so accidents are less likely to happen for these competitions.

“The last thing we want is for hospitals to be flooded with injured riders in a time like this. If we give equestrians a safe outlet to compete, they’re more likely to want to stay home and not contract or spread the virus.”

The next show is April 30. Videos are due by April 23. Learn more at Better Dressage Scores.

Hosting a virtual horse show? Post it in the comments below!