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Charlie Cole’s Virtual Horse Show – A Popular New Way for the Horse Show World to Compete

If you’ve spent any amount of time on social media over the past week, you’ve been overwhelmed with numerous reports of illness cases increasing, product outages, and stock markets dropping.

Through the negative topics sweeping our nation, an enormous bright spot has occurred, and it’s coming to us virtually.

As we are quarantined to our homes and adjusting our routines to live in this new “normal,” the horse community is coming together in the way of a Virtual Horse Show.

This concept was developed by Charlie Cole from Highpoint Performance Horses, along with some brainstorming from his close friends and industry colleagues. Within a day, the Virtual Horse Show idea and Facebook Group was born.

Cole told us that because everyone is stuck at home and couldn’t go to a horse show, he wanted to create something where everyone could participate from home, have fun and work on their skills.

Exhibitors pay a small fee, post a video of their run to the Virtual Horse Show group page by the deadline, and Charlie will judge the run and post the scorecard. No fancy show clothes needed, just a long sleeve shirt, jeans, and boots are all you need to participate. You will also need someone to video you, and in the showmanship class, act as the ring steward during cross-overs.

Petting your horse is always a required maneuver in these patterns, and positive comments are encouraged…negative comments are not allowed. Charlie will provide a private critique for an additional fee, which he said has also been popular.

The entry fees collected are jackpotted back to the top in the class, but also, companies and individuals are stepping up in a big way. There have been donations of jeans, boots, ad designs, GoMag certificates, and many other items that have sweetened the pot for participants.

Additional divisions and classes are being added as this fascinating and ever-evolving concept continues to be popular with competitors across the globe.

We talked to Charlie about the Virtual Horse Show and he told us, “I expected that people would like it, but I didn’t think it would catch on this fast.”

The participation continues to grow, but the first couple days, he spent his time until the early morning hours, judging runs because the response was so tremendous. There are over 7,000 members and growing who have joined the group, and because it is private, Charlie approves every one of them. Cole will rough out the patterns and have Tim Kimura help him bring the vision to the competitors by formalizing and adding the instructions for the patterns.

The participation from the horse show community has been astounding including 150 showing in the Showmanship class. There have been videos posted from all over the world, including Belgium and the Netherlands. Competitors have been borrowing horses, pulling horses out of retirement, some who were pregnant, and even using stick horses when they are unable to ride a real one. One creative exhibitor even used her dog.

From paints to quarter horses to minis, to indoor and outdoor arenas, to those riding in the rain, rough terrain and against beautiful backdrops, the determination and dedication of the exhibitors are incredible.

A fan favorite and an awe-inspiring run came from Savannah Minkler and her horse, An Absolute Machine (pictured main), who executed an excellent pattern in the snow from Alaska.

We spoke to Savannah about why she was drawn to participate, and she told us, “I became interested in the Virtual Horse Show because it opened up an opportunity for me to practice for our shows here in Alaska. I won’t ever be able to take my horse to the states to compete, so it has been super fun to see everyone’s videos of their patterns and to see so many encouraging comments.”

Carey Nowacek and Certify This Chex, the 2010 AQHYA World Champion duo in the Horsemanship (pictured left patting her horse at the end of the pattern), proved they still had it as this semi-retired gelding was pulled out after four years and laid down a fantastic pattern.

Nowacek told us, “When I saw the Virtual Horse Show was doing a Horsemanship class, I couldn’t help but want to try it on Lugnut (Certify This Chex.) I thought it would be so fun for people to see how he looks at 19 years old. I think he had so much fun getting to do a horsemanship pattern and feeling like he was showing again. The response was so neat, and I think people have enjoyed getting to see some older show horses still looking great.”

Working with some uneven terrain, Shannon Brown and Huntin A Gal executed an incredible showmanship pattern. This pair won an AQHA World Championship in this very class and has since retired the gelding, Ryan.

Shannon told us why she felt compelled to pull him out, winter coat and all, and give it a go. “I was enjoying seeing everyone and some of their retired horses. Huntin A Gal has not practiced showmanship in five years, but I thought it would be fun. I thought maybe it would bring a smile to others,” she said.

Youth, Amateur, Novice, and now even trainers can participate in the Virtual Horse Show. Charlie told us that we can expect some guest judges, including Jimmy Daurio, who will be judging the Ranch Riding classes.

An equitation pattern is in the works and perhaps even a class where horses that are for sale can execute a pattern and exhibit their skills for buyers to view. The Virtual Horse Show concept is developing as the response continues to increase.

“I am extremely proud of the positivity and encouragement that is being passed around,” Charlie told us. He intended for this to be uplifting and a way to connect us all when everyone is forced to stay home.

“People are using this as an educational tool and to learn,” Cole said.

Brown agreed, “This has brought a lot of light and happiness in a time that is very hard for many people. This is also a great opportunity for people to receive help and guidance that they may not normally get.”

From top competitors to the most novice exhibitors, the horse showing community is posting praise, engaging, and encouraging each other, which is creating much happiness during a time in our lives that we need it the most.

For more information, please visit the Virtual Horse Show Facebook page.

About the Author – Julie Hoefling was born and raised in Akron, Michigan but now resides in Cave Creek, Arizona with her husband, Jerry. She works at Central Garden & Pet (Equine Division – Farnam) as a Brand Manager over-grooming, wound, and leather care. Julie shows her horse, Movin The Chains in the Western All-Around events under the guidance of Ryan and Andrea Kail.