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Weekend Warriors Part 1: Who They Are and How They Do It

Spring is officially here, which means that show season has arrived. When you walk around any show, you will see a few different groups of exhibitors – professional trainers, amateurs, and youth who ride with them, and what many call the “weekend warriors.”

Professional weekend warriors, Jill Blieu, Jennie Schut, and Holly Wilson shared some insight into what it truly means to be a weekend warrior.

What is a weekend warrior?

A weekend warrior is someone who, driven by their passion for horses, spends each weekend on the road showing. They primarily show on the grassroots level at smaller shows near their hometown. Many breed and train their horses and typically don’t have time to go to the longer, bigger circuits. Many weekend warriors are DIYer’s that band together and help each other. It is usually a person that indulges in a sport or pastime on an occasional basis, usually on weekends when work commitments are not present.

Jennie Schut, Iowa Quarter Horse Amateur Chair from Indianola, IA, expressed that, “To me, weekend warriors are those amateurs who put in a 50-60 hour work week, then spend their limited spare time riding and preparing so they can hopefully be successful at a breed show.”

Wilson, an exhibitor from Ocheyedan, IA, said that “I show mainly for the love of the hobby. Sometimes, we even keep our horses at home and get help via clinics, lessons at shows, and just by watching and asking questions.”

Whether they are showing or watching, weekend warriors know that there are always more ways to grow and learn.

What keeps you coming back?

“The people! How cool is it that we get to know folks from all over the country who are just as passionate about the animals as we are?” shared Jill Blieu, AQHA All-Around competitor of New Liberty, IA.

For some exhibitors, the opportunity to showcase their operation is a driving force. Schut shared, “getting the first point and winning on a new prospect I trained is a great feeling.”

Although the accomplishments serve as great motivation, they are just icing on the cake for some exhibitors. Wilson expressed, “I love taking my kids to the shows and having a mini vacation.”

What are some of your proudest moments?

Showing on a national level can be intimidating for any exhibitor, especially those competing on their own. However, many weekend warriors have achieved great success despite this challenge.

Blieu has been exhibiting at the All American Quarter Horse Congress since she was a youth. Like many, she dreamt of placing and did so in 2011. “It was an incredible feeling being top ten in Amateur Western Pleasure at Congress. What made it even better was that my mare, One Hot Drama Mama, was one we raised.”

Adding to this, Wilson shared that one of her proudest moments was when she showed her mare, JB Solano Im All In, in Amateur Ranch Riding at the 2016 AQHA World Championship Show. (pictured left)

Schut has also competed at the NSBA World Championship show in Two-Year-Old Non-Pro Hunter Under Saddle with her horse, The Next Hot Thing. Schut echoed the other exhibitors saying that earning the chance to compete at the NSBA World Championship Show was incredibly rewarding.

While these are impressive examples, many weekend warriors achieve success in their local breed organizations as well. All three weekend warriors have received numerous year-end awards within the Iowa Quarter Horse Association and other breed organizations. They know the value of the local, weekend shows.

What are some ways to get started?

As a new exhibitor, it is easy to become intimidated when exploring the world of breed shows. One of the places that many showmen get their feet wet is at an introductory weekend breed show. Blieu stressed, “When I was a youth, weekend shows were all there primarily was, and the only ‘circuit’ we went to was the Iowa Show Circuit (7 Day Run).” These weekend-only shows offer a welcoming environment to new exhibitors and are less stressful than a four or five-day circuit.

Joining a local affiliate organization is another easy way to get involved. Many organizations host educational clinics covering topics such as scribing, show preparation, and class-specific training. Outside of these clinics, some affiliates also offer incentive programs for new members just beginning to show. For those who want to watch without showing, affiliates often organize shows within their state. There is always something to help with and it is a great way to become immersed in the atmosphere without the pressure of showing.

How They Do It

Each weekend warrior has unique challenges to overcome to show. Among the most common is a restricted show budget. However, these exhibitors have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Stay tuned for the second part of this two-part series for Ways to Save Money When Showing on Your Own.

About the Author: Rebecca Ness comes from Muscatine, IA where she started riding at 9-years-old. What started as pony rides grew into her passion. Now, she competes in all-around events with her Gelding CLW Dun In Magic.