The Hudson Valley Arabian Horse Association (HVAHA) held their annual show May 13-15 at the Eastern States Exposition Fairgrounds in West Springfield, MA. Many New England riders use the three-day show to qualify for regional and national shows.
As part of this year’s show there was a Special Benefit class in which bidding took place on riders. The HVAHA were able to raise $1,348 and all the proceeds went to After The Storm, Inc., a non-profit organization in Connecticut whose mission is to assist cancer survivors as they heal physically, emotionally and spiritually from the aftermath of their diagnosis and treatments and help restore balance to their lives.
The largest divisions of classes at the show were Sport Horse, Hunter Pleasure and Western Pleasure. This show had unique Arabian costume classes in which both horse and rider dressed in various native costumes and are judged on costume design as well as performance. This was also the first year that the show had All Breed Western Dressage classes. The addition of these classes gave HVAHA the distinction of being the first Western Dressage Association of America (WDAA) affiliated Arabian horse show in New England.
The HVAHA is a regional club in New England, which is a part of the larger national association known as the Arabian Horse Association. The New England club was started in 1970 when a small group of dedicated Arabian horse lovers came together in the Hudson Valley to form an association
The Eastern States Exposition has been the location of the show ever since it began back in 1982 when, according to the President of the HVAHA, Rob Bohl, the Arabian horse market was booming.
“We may have had as many as 500 exhibitors back then which is three times what they have now,” Bohl said. “Arabians are a very personable breed and people fell in love with them.”
Show manager Michelle Laudano said there were 145 horses entered in this year’s show, 90 percent of which were Arabian horses.
“Arabians are the oldest and purest breed and every horse has Arabian blood in them,” Laudano said. “Arabians are the most versatile of all breeds. They can do anything and everything and their known to be very personable.”
Laudano estimated there were approximately 750 people in attendance during the three-day event to watch about 180 different riders, some as young as four years old and others well in their 70s. While most participants were from New England there were some from as far south as Pennsylvania and Delaware.
Nine-year-old Blake Allen and his trainer Cathy Vincent were first time participants from Bridgeville, DE. They came in order to qualify for the Region 16 Arabian Horse Association Championship Show which will be held July 20-23 in Syracuse, NY. Allen participated in the Walk/Trot/Jog Equitation 10 & under class where he received a 5th place ribbon. In this class riders are judged based on their position and posture and how well they control their horse.
Young riders such as Allen who develop a strong personal interest in a sport such when they are young will most likely take part of it later in life as well. According to Bohl this is something that horse business needs right now as it has declined considerably in the last 35 to 40 years. Some of the reasons for this downward trend are because there are a variety of different horses available to people now and a variety of different recreational activities that people can take part in.
Bohl, who has lived in New England most of his adult life and has been involved with Arabian horses since the age of 10, continues to actively promote the show.
“We need these shows to keep up the interest,” Bohl said. “Through the hard work and effort of show promoters and managers the numbers for this show has picked up in the last three to four years.”
Show manager, Michelle Laudano of Clinton, CT, has played an important role in helping to bring the show numbers back to where they once were. She credits her success to being able to work closely with HVAHA committee members and her keen attention to detail.
Laudano started as an exhibitor and volunteer with the HVAHA.
“Coming up through the ranks gave me a broad spectrum because I was able to see it from all aspects, from the first time exhibitor to the one that has eyes set on nationals,” Laudano said. “I like that the competition is both important and about having a good time and enjoying the show.”
One way Laudano has helped make the experience more enjoyable for participants is by incorporating random draw prizes into many of their classes. The way this works is riders can win prizes donated by various organizations even if they don’t win the class they are competing in. Laudano said she has seen dejected riders who didn’t do well in competition suddenly pick up their spirits and forget all about their bad ride after winning a random draw prize.
Another way that Laudano has helped to make things fun and more welcoming for exhibitors is through the effective use of several generous sponsors. The Red Solo Cup welcome party took place on the evening prior to the shows first day sponsored by Hawk Haven Farms, LLC. This was fun idea started by Laudano based on “Red Solo Cup” a song recorded by American country music singer Toby Keith. During the welcome party pasta is served out of a red Solo cup while Toby Keith’s song plays in the background.
The future success and continued growth of the HVAHA looks promising behind passionate show organizers such as Michelle Laudano. Ideas such as fundraisers, the addition of new disciplines and various exhibitor accommodations are helping to retain current participants and draw future up and coming young riders like Blake Allen.