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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

SOTC members enjoy first horse show since pandemic started


by Sylene Argent

For many local horsemen, the Southern Ontario Trail Riders Club (SOTC) is the organization where they go to show off their horseback riding abilities, and the talent of their horses, after years of practice and dedication.

  On Sunday, the local horse club hosted its very first full-scheduled show on its grounds, located on South Talbot Road – nearing Maidstone, since the start of the pandemic.

SOTC offers classic English and Western classes, in addition to speed events. All classes are point-awarded, with top competitors earning trophies at the end of the show season.

  With last year’s regulations, the SOTC cancelled all shows during the 2020 show season, putting a pause on gathering and competing.

  SOTC President, Gary Nelson, and a slew of dedicated volunteers took the time over the pandemic to perfect the footing in the show pens, which helps the horses perform to their best ability, so when the nod was given, the club’s members would return pleased with the improvements.  

  With a hiatus in showing, in addition to this year’s first show getting postponed due to weather, Nelson was not sure how many local competitors would show up on Sunday, but “It was an amazing turnout. It was overwhelming in a good way. We were blessed.”

  Due to rain lately, the show was almost moved to the Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association. Nelson explained that less than a week prior to the show, there were four-inches of water in the show pens.

  The local club dedicated to competitors under the age of 18, the Junior Horsemen Association, did not have a scheduled event last weekend, but Nelson explained silent partners offered to pay arena fees for the JHA to host a show at WETRA on Saturday and SOTC on Sunday.

  After checking the pens prior to the show on Sunday, the SOTC grounds were dried up and ready to host a show. So, the decision was made to move the show back to the grounds. Nelson said WETRA’s staff came out to support the show, which was nice.

  Currently, there are no other local club shows anywhere near the area, Nelson said. As a result, he said there were individuals that came out from the Chatham area to get in on the action on Sunday.

  “It was amazing, having everyone there,” he said. “We had members from many years back come out.”

  The feedback from the members was great, which was encouraging. “They were just saying ‘wow, it was a lot of fun.’ Everything went smoothly.”

Nelson noted the relaxed atmosphere on Sunday encouraged those who typically compete in the classic events to try their hand in the timed events.

  The 2021 show season has been shortened, due to the pandemic. Typically, the SOTC members would also travel to local fairs to host competitions, however, local fairs have been cancelled again this year, due to the pandemic.

  Nelson is looking forward to the club’s second show of the season.

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