Across the country on May 30, parents watched anxiously as their children entered competition arenas aboard horses and ponies.   Whether the goal for the day was to pick up the correct diagonal on the first attempt, to have two perfect canter departures, or to go clean in a jumper round, every parent felt the same hopes and fears. “Please let it go well!” “And, PLEASE let my child have fun!” And, riders across the country used the skills carefully taught by their instructors and by their equine partners to reach their goals, to climb the particular mountain that the competition presented. From Devon to Delaware to Indianapolis to Lincoln to Winfield to Bucyrus, riders met their goals and, in the process, they had FUN, just as their parents had hoped.


So, you know about Devon, Nebraska Charity, Delaware Riding Club, Mountain State Charity and Indianapolis Charity, right? You’re thinking … what show happened in Bucyrus? Well, it was another big show day at Heartland Therapeutic Riding Inc., just outside of Kansas City, on the Kansas side. Heartland, which has been in existence since the early 1980’s, is recognized as a PATH Premiere Accredited Center for therapeutic riding.   Each week of session, 75 riders, four instructors, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, approximately 20 wonderful horses, and 120 volunteers work together to utilize the benefits of equine-assisted therapy to address the riders’ physical and cognitive challenges.


The Heartland Horse Show is an opportunity for Heartland’s riders to showcase what they have learned throughout the year. And this year, the “opening acts” in the show were the UPHA Exceptional Challenge Cup class for walk and trot riders without assistance and the new UPHA Exceptional Challenge Cup class for riders with assistance. Three riders competed in the former class and five in the latter!! Julie Kidrowski, who is the riding instructor at R&R Stables in Kansas City, and who turns out top-notch riders from academy to five-gaited divisions, judged these well-filled classes and then provided invaluable feedback to the Heartland riding instructors about “our” shows and which horses might be best suited to those shows. She also gave helpful tips, one professional to another, about transitioning Heartland riders from schooling shows to open shows.


Jan Harvey, one of the movers and shakers behind the Mid-America Saddle Club Horse Show, which takes place in early September at the Longview Horse Park and which benefits Heartland, was also in attendance at the show. Jan cheered on the riders and talked to them and their families about open shows. Jan has already added the assisted rider class to her 2015 show schedule and Heartland riders, families and instructors are planning to use Mid-America as their “dress rehearsal” for the UPHA American Royal Exceptional Challenge Cup Finals!!


Jan was part of a group of UPHA Chapter V Associate Members and Missouri Horse Shows Association (MHSA) members who met with Jennifer Everett MaGee, Heartland’s Executive Director, during the recent UPHA Chapter V Horse Show to discuss how we can be more inclusive as horse people—inviting those with similar interests to join us under the same tent.   Jennifer, whose daughter has had a successful career in the academy division and is moving up to show her own horse later this summer, sees the same joy on all riders’ faces, sees similar benefits to riders, and knows that parents want the same things for their children, no matter the shape or size of the challenges that their children face in life. The visit to the Heartland Horse Show is the beginning of an outreach effort that can be replicated in any community. All is requires is to reach out your hand.


Photographs of participants, spectators, volunteers and instructors at the Heartland Horse Show are available courtesy of Laura and Rebecca Elcock Photography.