The Road to an All-Around Title: Getting to the Pinto World Championship

The Road to an All-Around Title: Getting to the Pinto World Championship

My name is Renae Wesenberg and am this week's guest blogger for GoHorse.com. I have been training horses for 20 years. While I specialize in American Saddlebreds, Arabians and Half-Arabians, I also work with a variety of breeds from Paints to Dutch Harness Horses. I have trained horses and instructed clients who have earned year end high point awards with the Minnesota Pinto Horse Association, Minnesota Paint Horse Association, and Minnesota Saddlebred Horse Association, presented the 2007 KWPN-NA North American Champion Harness Horse Mare, and trained the 2016 Pinto World Champion Open High Point Saddle Type Horse. When not training horses and teaching lessons I enjoy hiking with my dog Cole. 

Creating Goals

In 2015 my client Anne Swanson acquired a new horse, a Pinto American Saddlebred named Circus Sideshow whose barn name is Prince.  She went to her first horse show with him in October of that year and did well in her English classes but won a very competitive Western Pleasure class, after which an idea formed in my head, a goal for Anne and Prince, to go to the Pinto World Championship and go for a High Point All-Around title.

What is the Pinto World Championship?

Held every year in June in Tulsa, OK, the Pinto World Championship (or PWC) is the largest Pinto show in the country. It is open to all types of Pinto Horses, Ponies, and Miniature Horses as well as Mules and Donkeys. Even solid colored horses can show at the PWC if they are also registered with a Pinto approved registry. There are no qualification requirements for the PWC, it is open to all comers. All types of classes are offered; English and Western rail classes, Equitation, Horsemanship, Showmanship, Halter, Driving, Over Fences classes, Trail, Dressage, Western Dressage, and Ranch Horse classes.

Conditioning

The PWC is a two-week long show with three arenas going each day. You need a very fit horse to be ready for the rigorous schedule. We decided given Prince’s age (he was 16 at the time) and the length of the show the maximum number of performance classes we would ask him to do in a day was three. Starting in January Prince went on a six day a week work schedule. Three days a week he was jogged, that is driven for conditioning. I opted for jogging over lunging or riding for his conditioning as jogging is less stressful on joints than all the circles of lunging, and it works the muscles in a different way than riding. The amount of time he was jogged was gradually increased until he was trotting for 20 minutes straight, with a walking warm up and cool down. Prince was ridden five days a week, so two of his jogging days he was also ridden that day. Anne took lessons on him three times a week and I schooled him under saddle the other two days. Anne had a Saddle Seat lesson and a Western lesson every week, and the third lesson she alternated between Hunt Seat and Show Hack, or she took him for a trail ride. Two weeks before the start of the PWC I started to taper back Prince’s conditioning work so that he would feel fresh for the show.

Warm-Up Shows

As Prince was still a fairly new horse to Anne (she had only shown him once at this point) she wanted to attend a couple more shows with him before heading to the PWC. We attended a local open all breed show, where a win in Western Horsemanship gave Anne more confidence about her Western skills. We then went to the Minnesota Pinto Horse Association Spring Classic Show, which is held over Memorial Day weekend and serves as a really good warm-up for the PWC. There Anne got to show Prince in classes she hadn’t had a chance to try before and to get additional ring time on him.

Living on Tulsa Time

We departed for Tulsa at 9 pm with a goal of making it there around 8 am. We chose to travel at night so temperatures would be cooler for Prince in the trailer. Every 3-4 hours we stopped and offered him water, and he had constant access to hay. We also took a divider out of the trailer so he could have more room to stand in position of his choosing. Throughout the show, Prince’s well-being was the first priority. He was grained three times a day and given constant access to hay in a slow feed net. Water buckets were kept topped off and daily emptied and cleaned. The stall was cleaned twice a day, with manure piles picked whenever we noticed them, and he was kept deeply bedded on rubber mats to encourage him to lie down and rest. We humans also tried our best to take care of ourselves, remembering to stay hydrated and eat healthy meals. We stayed at the hotel on the grounds and rented a golf cart so we would not have to burn up diesel driving the truck around, and that also made it convenient to go back to the hotel to the A/C and keep track of what was going on at the show with the live feed.

Recap of the Show

Anne and Prince went into a total of 15 classes over the two weeks of the show. She did a few Amateur classes on days that it worked in the schedule, but she concentrated on Open classes to earn points towards the Open High Point. The first week of the PWC is English week, and in that week Prince was Reserve World Champion Open English Pleasure Saddle Seat Saddle Type, Reserve World Champion Open Show Hack Horse, World Champion Open Three-Gaited, 3rd Open Ideal Pinto English Saddle Seat, 4th Open Park Horse, and 7th Open English Pleasure Hunt Seat 6 & Over Pleasure/Saddle Type. The Show Hack class is one I am very proud of Anne for doing so well in, it was only Anne’s second time showing in Show Hack and it was a large competitive class that was on the rail for 22 minutes before the judges called them into the lineup. I was on pins and needles as they announced the placings, Anne had misheard the announcer when he said extended trot first way and had not kicked Prince into high gear right away, and at the extended canter at one point another horse passed Prince close and he swapped leads, luckily Anne caught it right away and swapped Prince back within a few strides. At the end of the first week we were ahead in the High Point standings but by just a few points. Western week also included our halter classes, in that week Prince was World Champion Open Halter Gelding Saddle Type Horse, World Champion Open Tobiano Color Saddle/Pleasure Type Horse Geldings, 3rd Open Western Pleasure Pleasure/Saddle Type 6 & Over (a very close class, Prince was tied for second and the tiebreaker judge’s card decided the class), 7th Open Supreme Color Championship, and World Champion Open Western Pleasure Saddle Type.  All of our preparations had paid off, we had done it and Prince was the 2016 PWC Open Saddle Type High Point Champion.

What Does It Take

To go for an all-around title at a competitive show first off you need the right horse. Does the horse have quality conformation and quality movement; is it a national level horse? A trainer can help you identify what level they think your horse can compete at or advise you on purchasing a horse that can help you meet your goals. Does the horse have the training to excel in a variety of classes? A trainer can help identify and finish your horse in additional events that it may be suited for. Is the horse sound enough to hold up to showing in multiple classes a day at a show that may last up to two weeks? A team including a trainer, veterinarian, and farrier often must work together to keep a show horse in top athletic shape.   Secondly are you the rider for the job? If there are classes where you feel you are not a strong rider, take lessons. Your instructor may even recommend you ride their school horses rather than your own horse while you are learning new skills. Six months out from the date of the show you should be locking in who you are working with as far as a trainer or instructor and your horse’s routine to getting physically and mentally in shape for the big show.

Enjoy the challenge from start to finish

The biggest challenge during the show was keeping both Prince and Anne's energy level up. On days that Prince did not have classes, we turned him out in one of the many round pens to play and roll (although that meant giving him an additional bath). It's become almost a given that when I pack for a show I forget something, what I forgot at that show was bell boots for turning Prince out. Good thing there are several well-stocked tack vendors at the show! I made sure Anne got a chance to enjoy her downtime with everyone who came to cheer her on; her husband, her horse's former owners, and several friends from Minnesota came just to watch.

Overall, it is important to remember that if you don’t meet your goal for the first time, to not be discouraged. Remember to look back at all the things you have learned and enjoyed the progress you have made.  Then set a new goal and go toward that. The rewards are found in the process, as much as the end result.

Contact Renae Wesenberg on her Facebook page.


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