BY JACQUELINE RUPP
Perfectly groomed show horses, jump gracefully, almost without effort, over high hurdles, as their perfectly paired riders, in their traditional tailored boots and jackets, ease them into the perfect landing — If you’ve never stopped by the PA Farm Show Complex for the PA National Horse Show (PNHS), you’re in for a treat. This is one of the largest and most prestigious horse shows in the U.S. It’s where numerous future Olympians have competed. Whether you are an avid horse-lover or have never ridden in your life, there’s something for everyone at the PNHS — from the grace and beauty of the majestic show horses to the shopping, food and entertainment. With 1,400 horses competing for over $500,000 in prize money, it’s definitely one of the most exciting times to be in Harrisburg.
The Show, which attracts the best equestrians from around the world and showcases the world’s best from all age groups runs from October 12-21 and features the Junior Weekend, October 12-15, a Family Fun Day on Saturday, October 14 with lots activities for the entire family and Senior Week running from October 16-21.
A Good Cause
Presented by The Lindsay Maxwell Charitable Fund, PNHS isn’t just about the horses and their riders competing, it’s also about charity. Each year, the charitable Foundation accepts grant requests from therapeutic riding and equine rescue groups. “It’s amazing to see the impact that horses have on a child’s life, an adult with PTSD or a terminal illness or someone in a wheelchair or with autism,” explains Susie Webb, Executive Director of PNHS.
“Many programs offer physical and occupational therapy to those in need. It’s heartwarming to watch these youth and families’ lives enriched by these special programs.” Each year the foundation awards their grants and last year they received nearly 50 grant requests. These requests come from all areas of the U.S. to benefit special needs riders and their families. To date, they’ve awarded over $2 million to various charities, including $325,000 to local therapy and equine rescue groups in Pennsylvania.
More than Just a Spectator Event
When you think of a horse show, most think of sitting in the grandstands, watching the equestrian action, but there is so much more. “There is literally something for everyone and every age, male and female.
We attract sports enthusiasts, families, shoppers, athletes, people looking for a unique experience or date night, and more,” says Webb. Over 15,000 people typically attend the event, with almost 1 million viewers watching via live stream. For those who attend, one of the major attractions Webb says is, “Shopping, shopping and more shopping,” with boutiques offering clothing, antiques, jewelry, art work and equestrian products. In addition there are Happy Hours, food concessions, a silent auction, free pony rides, storytelling and a parade of hounds.
The Art of the Ride
“At many different levels, you can see the connection between the horse and its rider, and the dedication necessary to compete at this level. The excitement of naming 8 National Champions… The excitement and anticipation associated with Junior Weekend as these young riders compete for National titles can be felt throughout the Complex. And how great to have a 10-day event right here in Central Pa, destination Harrisburg.
It’s a remarkable Show!” explains Webb. She says that the riders you’ll see at PNHS compete all year long to be “invited” to show at Harrisburg. Harrisburg is the destination for these riders and their families. “It’s years of training, travel, commitment, sacrifice and a real love of the sport that we all get to witness as the champion and their horse take the ring. Their bonds and relationships are incredible.”
And that level of dedication promises some spectacular sights for viewers. “During our Prix de Penn National Grand Prix on October 21st, the audience can see horses jumping obstacles the size of a minivan, with the fastest, winning competing for $100,000,” adds Webb. In fact, last year the show saw 13 Olympic riders compete, with many of the Junior riders preparing to be invited onto the Olympic team.