13 riders and five horses compete in four classes to show off their summer skills
The Progressive Equestrian Therapeutic Services (PETS) Inc. held the season ending Show Off event Saturday underneath the brand new covered arena at the Prince George’s County Equestrian Center, Showplace Arena, highlighting the culmination of months of rider lessons.
The wind was steady and the skies threatened rain, but underneath the center’s newest riding ring volunteers, riders, family and friends enjoyed a full day of watching individual demonstrations of skills taught and learned since May. A total of 13 riders were divided among four classes for the event and each competed in three different courses in front of judges. The large covered arena held an obstacle course, dressage ring and a barrel race, giving family and friends a wide view of the various abilities learned while on horseback.
Volunteers started on Friday evening setting up and decorating the ring and preparing the barn and horses. Early Saturday they returned to bathe and groom the horses and move over to the covered arena. Five of the program’s six horses were used, with one horse kept in reserve. Instructors walked their riders through each part of the course while volunteers double checked tack, horse and rider assignments and prepared fundraising information for the program. A small group of volunteers managed the horses in the barn adjacent to the covered arena and made sure each horse was bridled and ready for its rider and then cared for after competing.
In the obstacle course, PETS’ riders had to negotiate their horse through seven areas that tested their ability to guide their horse with leg, seat and hand movements. Various obstacles required tight turns, backing up and being in the two-point position, depending on the rider’s ability. With an Olympic theme, the last obstacle involved riders picking up a fake torch and riding a straight line toward the audience for a closing act.
The dressage ring tested riders in two ways. PETS’s independent riders were judged riding a typical dressage pattern, highlighting the rider’s ability to focus on memorized direction and keep the horse at a walk, trot and canter. For the more physically limited riders, their task was to use the dressage letters and be the fastest rider to spell the word “hack”. This tested their decision making skills required to plan their sequence of movements as well as incorporating their body’s ability to guide and move their horse.
The barrel race was a fun event for the riders to be timed on while negotiating three barrels in a typical cloverleaf pattern. Each rider had the pattern explained to him or her and once the clock was started, the rider and accompanying leader and side-walkers were off as fast as safely possible.
Midway through the program, three of the program’s independent riders displayed a pas de trios, or “dance of three”, in the dressage ring. Following a practiced pattern, the three riders showed the audience their ability to guide their horses in synchronicity, changing order and direction and direction among each other while in continual movement. Afterwards, the announcement of the program’s first PETS/R&D Cross Horse of the Year award was announced. “Herbie” a retired Maryland Park Police Horse and the most senior horse in the program, was selected by vote and instructor evaluation as the horse that has been the most popular and reliable in this season’s program. The award also highlights a local Southern States business in Upper Marlboro, R&D Cross, which supplies PETS and the Prince George’s County Equestrian Center with many of its horse care needs.
During the Show Off, family and friends were presented with the main fundraiser of the program, SCRIP gift cards. A wide variety of cards of all types were made available for order and volunteers manned a table to show how PETS benefits when people go dining, shopping or to see a movie. The Show Off ended with a fun 50/50 ball toss, where participants “bought” numbered tennis balls to throw and be the closest to the target. Once all the tossing was done, the closest tennis ball to the target was announced as the winner. The winner graciously donated the prize money back to the PETS program.
The PETS community said good bye to Justin this year, as he went home with his owners for the winter break. Justin was a widely popular and new horse to the program this year and was able to be the mount for three riders in this year’s Show Off. The instructors, volunteers and riders look forward to his return next Spring.
The PETS riding season typically begins in late April, early May, with the return and exercising of the horses and the evaluation of returning riders and screening of new potential riders. Three nights a week lessons are given based on the rider’s screening and abilities, with the instructional goals of having the rider demonstrate progress in the end of season Show Off. Since the Show Off is a judged competition, the winners and ranking are announced at the Volunteer Picnic held in September. The evaluations are added to the rider’s progress and file and instructors begin creating goals for the next season when riders return.
Progressive Equestrian Therapeutic Services, Inc. (PETS) is a 100% volunteer, 501(c)3 non-profit PATH Int. Premier Accredited center providing skill-based horseback riding lessons, at no charge, to children and adults of Prince George’s County dealing with physical, emotional and learning disabilities. Sponsored by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, PETS operates out of the Prince George’s County Equestrian Center, Show Place Arena. For more information, view PETS online at pgpets.wordpress.com or contact 301-627-4308.