by Paul Burdziakowski
The Connecticut River Arabian Horse Association (CRAA) held their Summer Spectacular Horse Show June 1-4 at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, MA. This annual four-day show is used by Arabian horse owners to qualify for the Region 16 Arabian Horse Association Championships as well as by Friesian horse owners for their Region 1 Championships with the International Friesian Show Horse Association (IFSHA).
Show manager Jennifer Sullivan says the CRAA horse show is unique because it showcases more than one horse breed.
“This particular horse show primarily focuses on Arabians and half Arabians as well as Friesians and part-bred Friesian horses.” Sullivan said.
Sullivan points out the horse show is not just for professional riders and experienced show horses but for amateurs.
“Part of what we have done here with the show is to try to make it welcoming for horses and riders of all ages and experience levels,” Sullivan said. “We have riders who have never shown before to people who have won national and championship titles. The youngest rider that we have this year is seven years old and we go all the way through to people who are in their 60s and 70s. It’s the same thing with the horses.”
Sullivan says the CRAA continues to accommodate amateur riders by offering more entry level divisions such as the opportunity division which allows various other horse breeds to compete.
“The opportunity division is an open breed division,” Sullivan said. “This is for those horses that aren’t registered and other breeds that we don’t normally have here.”
Going along with exhibitor advice from last year, the CRAA offered several new divisions at this year’s event including ranch horse, opportunity and sport horse divisions. Sullivan says the sport horse division have been especially popular.
“The sport horse division is geared towards Arabians and half Arabians,” Sullivan said. “This division has really grown across the entire country. In the last 10 years it has just boomed and here in the New England area there are a lot of people that compete in that.”
Sullivan says while there were no money awards at this year’s show, participants came away with a variety of different prizes and honors for their efforts including trophies, ribbons, high point awards and ceremonies.
Winners of individual classes earned ribbons while CRAA members taking part in recognized Arabian Horse Association classes built points towards adult amateur and junior amateur high point awards to be presented at the end of the year. There was even a perpetual trophy winner who was honored for points accumulated for the Bob Thomas Ford Top Horse Challenge.
CRAA officials also took the time to recognize one of their long-time members, Mary Kay Newton of New Braintree, MA, for a recent Dressage Foundation achievement known as the Century Club Award. Newton and her Arabian horse, Ganesh, recently joined this club because they have a combined age of at least 100 (Newton is 73 and her horse is 27).
Also worth noting is each year the CRAA selects a charity to support. This year’s charity of choice was a nonprofit therapeutic horse organization started in Sharon, CT known as The Equus Effect. The organization helps returning military veterans to overcome post-traumatic stress disorder by helping them to build healthy, authentic relationships through meaningful engagement with horses.
Money was raised at this year’s show through a silent auction as well as a special opportunity class. The organizations founder, Jane Strong, was joined by several veterans who came to help give out awards to exhibitors and receive the donation check from CRAA officials.
According to Sullivan there were approximately 60 horses and 120 exhibitors.
“We have a smaller show this year because of several scheduling issues with exhibitors,” Sullivan said. “Usually this show averages anywhere from 60 to 100 horses. Every year is different with horse shows.”
Sullivan says the lower numbers did not effect the variety of different people who take part each year.
“We have a variety of people that travel to this horse show,” Sullivan said. “We have a lot of local people from New England. We also have a lot of people that come from further way as well. There are people at this year’s show that came all the way from Kentucky and Virginia.”
Sullivan says one of the main reasons why the CRAA horse show is so successful each year is due in part to the extra amenities and social opportunities exhibitors receive. This year the CRAA had a fun in the sun themed show which featured a beach party at the facilities covered warm-up area.
“We like to do things a little bit differently,” Sullivan said. “We have a welcoming party the first night that exhibitors are moving in and settling in. Every morning we have a hospitality area open with bagels, English muffins, coffee, tea and juices. There will be a beach party with a volleyball net and a cookout in one of the arenas. It’s a way to give back to the exhibitors.”
According to Sullivan another reason why the show is so successful is because CRAA officials take the time to listen to their exhibitors.
“One of the things we do is that we really take into account ideas that our members have,” Sullivan said. “We really want the feedback from them because we need fresh ideas to really move things forward and grow. We want something that helps people feel excited about the show like new classes or putting them in different places in the schedule so more people can compete in them. We already have ideas from people for next year.”
The CRAA is a club formed in late 2006 and is recognized by its national affiliate the Arabian Horse Association. The CRAA has a broad membership base of people who own a variety of different horse breeds but are united by common activities and disciplines within the horse industry. For more information about the CRAA visit http://tinyurl.com/y8tao7qn .
For show results of the IFSHA Region 1 Championships visit www.friesianshowhorse.com .
Connecticut River Arabian Horse Association Summer Spectacular
by Paul Burdziakowski