Inspired by the formation of an Area I Schooling Horse Trials Championship, EN is featuring more awesome local eventing organizations that are recognizing and celebrating low-level eventers in our series Schooling Horse Trials Spotlight. Know of a great local organization or schooling horse trials that deserves some love? Tip us at [email protected].
Terri Miller has a soft spot for the Greater Houston Combined Training Association (GHCTA) and it’s people. As a former triathlete she has previous experience with three-phased sports, but when eventing was still new to her the members of GHCTA helped her through one of her first competitions, which didn’t go quite to plan.
With just four fences left on cross-country, Terri took a tumble and the dreaded “Loose horse!” shout rang throughout the showgrounds. Watching as her horse ran for the barns, she realized that since she hadn’t fallen at a fence she could technically be allowed to continue. At the edge of the woods Terri ran into property owner, Phil Sawin, and after pleading with him he said she would be allowed to continue if she could catch her horse.
“At that moment I saw someone jogging my horse towards me and within seconds I was heaved back in the saddle by strangers and cheered on my way,” Terri recounted. “It was GHCTA members that saw the situation, rallied to get me back on my way, and I crossed the finish line to a roaring crowd. To this day I still thank those random strangers for helping me.”
Terri is now the president of GHCTA and works alongside some of those no-longer-random strangers that assisted her that day. She has many official duties – presiding over meetings, enforcing bylaws, rules, and regulations – “But in all honesty,” she said, “my role can be anything from teaching myself how to set up a website, writing dog leash laws, increasing the membership, and trying to create an organization that is more than just ribbons and a banquet.”
GHCTA has been around for over 25 years and was created to support local venues and riders, focusing on horse and rider safety with an emphasis on education. They recognize around 15 schooling shows per year at various local farms and points earned at these events are tracked for year-end awards. GHCTA recognized shows are an assortment of three-phase events, combined tests, derbies, and new this year, an indoor eventing combined test hosted by Snowdonia Farms in Tomball, Texas.
Divisions at GHCTA recognized events range from ‘Green a Grass’ (Starter) through Intermediate, and include a unique ‘Goldilocks’ division which offers riders a bridge between Green as Grass and Beginner Novice. Not to exclude those showing at USEA events, they also track USEA points and award separate year-end ribbons to GHCTA members.
“GHCTA gives people new to the sport somewhere to get their feet wet,” said member Cristie Quidore. “It also provides a wonderful avenue for riders from all walks of life that simply want to go out and be competitive and have fun with their horses, but who can’t commit to traveling around the country or even the Area to chase USEA leaderboard points. GHCTA gives wonderful recognition for their members’ equestrian accomplishments on a smaller (and for many, more attainable) scale.”
“We like to focus on the schooling events, but like to recognize our riders for all of their successes,” said Terri. “One exciting thing about having GHCTA longstanding in the area is watching young riders develop into local trainers. We have a few that are even currently pursuing ICP certification.”
A lot has changed for the organization in it’s 25 years, particularly when it comes to technology. Terri said, “I remember when I would receive a paper newsletter once every three months talking about local events and points. Now, we can reach our membership with two clicks of the laptop.”
GHCTA has also been able to offer some interesting benefits to it’s members lately including clinic scholarships, a $10 reimbursement program for new helmet or safety vest purchases, and a discount on USRider membership.
The organization has seen a growth in membership and participation since it’s inception. “We used to get excited to have 50 members,” said Terri, but this year they have already broken 100 members in the first month of their competition season. Membership is a healthy combination of both amateur and professional riders.
As well as having evented up to Preliminary, Robbie Peterson has experience as an organizer for both schooling shows and USEA sanctioned events at MeadowCreek Park in Kosse, Texas. “Seeing the sport from both sides has been interesting and a huge learning curve,” she said, “I love the people and the ‘can do’ attitude that is so prevalent in eventing. You don’t find that in most other sports, much less horse sports.”
Robbie has been involved with GHCTA for over 15 years as a member and competitor and has served as an officer for the past 4 years. When asked what she thinks local organizations such as GHCTA contribute to the local community she said: “Just that: community.”
“Schooling shows are very inviting for spectators, and offer a great chance for families and neighbors to come and hang out for a day and support their friends or family that ride. Also, don’t overlook the opportunity to make new friends and generally network with people that share a common interest.”
“Affiliates like GHCTA offer a tremendous service to the sport,” said Robbie. “I think the USEA should be promoting that riders benefit from schooling shows to prepare themselves for moving up to the next division, rather than creating a division that will directly compete with the affiliates.”
Terri has very much enjoyed the community that GHCTA has created – she says the very best part of being the organization’s president is being at each horse show. “They feel like family reunion that comes around about once a month. Every competition reminds me why we are part of such a great sport.”