Catalpa Corner Charity H.T. Honors the Unsung Heroes of Eventing: Lesson Horses

Lesson Horse: Hummingbird’s Sheeza Easy Dream (“Lucky”) with Leila. Photo by J McPherson Photography.

There are many special awards each year at Area IV’s Catalpa Corner Charity Horse Trials in Iowa City, Iowa … but this year there is a special award for those saintly lesson horses who are the unsung heroes of our sport. This year, CCCHT presents the inaugural “Area IV Academy Horse Award!” The idea came to me at a recent mini event, when at the end of an exhausting day I saw the utter joy our Hummingbird Stables’ lesson horses brought to my students. There needs to be an award just for them.

Lesson Horse: Hummingbird’s First Commander and Dena. Photo by Amy Nelson.

The riders at this particular mini event ranged from an 11-year-old who started out riding western at her grandmother’s farm, to an adult mom with four kids of her own, a teen rider who came from the Arab Hunter world, and an adult with a job in the medical field who started beginner riding lessons as a 30th birthday present to herself. These riders put in the work each week, but do not have a horse of their own. Thanks to a lesson horse, they get a chance to compete in our sport of eventing!

The horses have varied background stories of how they came to be a staple in our lesson program, but they share one common quality: While they won’t do the work without being asked correctly by the rider, they will never punish a rider for making a mistake.

Week after week, these lesson horses jump the things, attend the schooling days, stand patiently while riders learn how to tack. They sometimes pretend they don’t understand a canter cue on a hot summer day, and periodically refuse to lift a hoof for picking. One even seems to actually be able to read the letters on the wall, when I say “let’s pick up a trot at A,” the rider starts giggling and admits that they didn’t ask her to trot. Maybe they paddle in dressage. Maybe they have the conformation of an emu. Maybe they have to be bribed with a bucket of treats to get their mane trimmed. But we forgive these quirks because at the end of the day, riders are certain that when they swing a leg over these lesson horses, that they will be safe and having fun all the way to the finish flags.

Crossing the finish flags. Photo by Amy Nelson.

When I approached Area IV and Catalpa Corner Charity Horse Trials about the idea of a special award just for lesson horses, they quickly got on board. CCCHT is a small, family event, with big goals and a big heart. This year, owner Susan Bringham is ensuring lesson horses have a chance at an award, even if they might not otherwise be in the ribbons. The Low Scoring Academy horse will receive a plaque, champion ribbon, and a prize! All riders have to do is sign up with the show secretary, Megan Clement. The horse must belong to a riding program and used for lessons to be eligible.

We are hopeful this idea will catch on with other regions! These lesson horses may not be getting scores in the 20s, but you can bet the smiles they bring to riders who might not otherwise be able to participate in the sport are worth more than any ribbon.

The deadline for signing up for Area IV’s Catalpa Corner Charity Horse Trials is July 16, 2019. The event is held at Catalpa Corner Horse Park August 3-4, 2019, and they offer Starter Level (2′ max) through Prelim. The course is set in the beautiful rolling hills of Iowa. Additional awards include a trophy and eight ribbons per division, Madison Brigham Memorial Award Low Point Overall Junior, Amanda Johnson Memorial Low Point Adult Dressage, and Iowa Pony Club Low Point Award. They have a wood fired pizza party on Friday night along with the Area IV Adult Rider Wine Social. You can follow them on Facebook for updates.

3 … 2 … 1 … (kick kick kick!) have a great ride.

Lesson Horse: Hummingbird’s Keikilani (“Lani”) with Kristi. Photo by J McPherson Photography.