by Charlene Sharpe
There’s Quarter Horse Congress, the American Paint Horse Association World Show, the National Appaloosa Show.
So why not a World Standardbred Show?
Standardbreds will now have the chance to show off their skills at the first-ever World Standardbred Show. The Standardbred Pleasure Horse Organization of Ohio (SPHO) will host the event at Eden Park in Sunbury, Ohio, on Oct. 5 and 6.
“All the other breeds have big shows,” said Debbie Schiff, president of SPHO. “We felt our Standardbreds are at the level that they can compete against them. It’s our way of making sure people know Standardbreds are out there.”
Schiff started thinking about the possibility of a world show two years ago after attending the National Standardbred Show in New Jersey.
“I was just amazed,” she said. “It really was something seeing them all together.”
After discussing it with the rest of the SPHO, a 100-plus member group, she and her fellow volunteers spent the past year planning the inaugural World Standardbred Show. As the organization already hosts a variety of events each year, including six horse shows and two hunter paces, the world show wasn’t much of a stretch. The non-profit racehorse adoption program New Vocations was quick to lend its support to the endeavor as a sponsor.
“Any way we can continue to promote the Standardbred beyond the track we are all for it,” said Winnie Nemeth, New Vocations’ Standardbred program director.
Because many of New Vocations’ Standardbred graduates belonged to SPHO members, supporting the show made sense.
“We thought it would be a win-win for everybody involved,” Nemeth said.
Schiff said many businesses and organizations have stepped up to help sponsor the show, with trophies, coolers and even saddles and harnesses for division winners.
“Our donors have been very generous,” she said. “We’ll have awesome prizes for winners.”
The two-day show will feature a variety of classes and divisions, from basics such as English and western pleasure to some that are less common, including sidesaddle and racking. The show will offer classes in trail, dressage, jumping, barrel racing, saddleseat, showmanship and equitation, among others. Schiff said eventually, once the world show has been around for a few years, organizers will offer a specific division for horses coming from the National Standardbred Show.
“They put on a really nice show and I think this is the next step,” she said.
Schiff expects most of this year’s classes to fill, as she knows of horses and riders that are planning on coming from all over, from Kansas to Canada.
“I think we’ll have some pretty good competition,” she said.
The event will even have classes for non-Standardbreds, as Schiff wants SPHO members who don’t own former racehorses to be able to participate as well. Classes open to those who don’t own Standardbreds will also give those individuals a chance to take part in the show and see the breed at its best. Schiff said she comes across people all the time who aren’t aware that Standardbreds can make good riding horses.
Nemeth believes the show venue alone will draw in some participants. The Eden Park Equestrian Complex, site of events like the Buckeye Classic, is home to two indoor arenas and three outdoor rings, as well as stabling facilities.
“The park is a draw,” she said. “It attracts a lot of people.”
Kansas resident and Standardbred owner Marcia Harmelink will be driving 700 miles to compete in the world show.
“I would not miss this show if my life depended on it,” she said.
Harmelink will be bringing her horse of four years, free-legged pacer Cleopatra Saluki, to compete in showmanship, trail, and western dressage, among other events. A longtime equine enthuisiast, Harmelink found herself looking for mount to replace her aging riding horse in 2009. Deep in Kansas Quarter Horse country, Harmelink was looking for something a little different when she stumbled upon an ad for a Standardbred. Having grown up with harness racing in northwest Iowa, Harmelink was thrilled to purchase a pacer of her own.
“People think all they can do is pull a cart, but they’re fantastic to ride,” she said. “I wouldn’t have any other kind.”
After coming across the SPHO online a few years ago, Harmelink has made an effort to go to a few of the group’s shows every year, despite the distance. She says she loves competing against people that understand the breed.
“There are no questions about why she’s moving the way she’s moving,” Harmelink said. “All the horses move like she does.”
Harmelink said the world show’s more than 100 classes prove the versatility of the breed.
“I think it’s fantastic,” she added.
Nemeth and Schiff expect Harmelink to be just one of many that will travel to Sunbury for the first-of-its-kind event. Regardless, she believes the show will do just what it was intended to.
“Our whole goal is to bring attention to the breed,” she said.