By Chrissie Kear
I hear riders talk about “Indoors” all the time. Can you explain what it is and what shows are considered Indoors?
Indoors is essentially the Pennsylvania National Horse Show (PNHS) in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS), historically held in downtown Washington, D.C. but held in Tryon, North Carolina, this year and last year; and the National Horse Show, now held in Lexington, Kentucky, but the history of this show is that it used to be held at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Many riders now consider Capital Challenge as part of Indoors because it’s the first show in the vicinity of the other shows. This show doesn’t have the same qualification requirement for most of the show that the true Indoors shows do, but it’s the first show that brings most horse-and-rider combinations that are here East for the other shows, therefore garnering a very prestigious aspect as well. The World Champion Hunter Rider Program has its finals at Capital Challenge, so the best hunter combinations usually arrive to vie for their title at this show before heading to the Indoors shows.
The prestige of Indoors is the culmination of your hard work and validation of your “success” by the qualification aspect of these shows. These shows take your best 15 shows and tabulate your points against everyone in the rest of the country that has entered, and they only accept the top 20ish horse-and-rider combinations with invitations to participate in these shows. These invitations are coveted as success and, many times, used as an indicator, by riders, parents and trainers alike, of horses’ value and predictor of the future successes.
This will be my first time to show at Indoors. What should I expect and what do they offer?
As a first-time participant at Indoors, preparation is required. Many times, it’s the first time that riders from all over the country go head to head with riders and horses that they have only heard of. As a young rider myself, before social media, we came to Indoors to ride against horse-and-rider combinations that we only read about! As a trainer, we drill and prepare our riders and horses. I find myself telling my riders in my lessons that I will ask more questions in our lessons than you will see at Indoors—so they can head east with a peace of mind that they’re prepared for every question that may be asked and their horses are also tuned and ready to answer the same questions. What these shows do not offer is last-minute preparation. Time to get acclimated to the rings and have lessons are few and often at very inconvenient times of day. Given that “the show must go on,” many schooling times are after hours from 10 p.m. through to 2 a.m. Sleep is a hard commodity to find during these championship horse shows!
What kind of classes do I compete in at Indoors?
The answer to this question seems to be changing. Historically, only 3’6” horses (i.e. professional division, Juniors and Amateur Owners and Pony hunters at PNHS and WIHS) competed at Indoors. After the COVID-19 pandemic and with the cost to run these extravagant single shows, managements have opened up classes for the 3’ hunters (i.e. Green Hunters, Children’s Hunters and Jumpers, and Adult Hunters and Jumpers). This means that many more riders have the opportunity to compete above their zone level.
If my trainer doesn’t go to Indoors, how do I get there?
If your trainer doesn’t go to Indoors, I suggest network, network, network! Most trainers have a personal mentor or professional barn that they do business with that they would suggest you follow to attend these shows. If that’s not the case for you or your trainer, research is key. At Ashland Farms, we often get calls or emails from trainers and riders asking us if we would groom and train riders from other areas. We always take a large number of horses and riders so our staff is happy to accept riders unfamiliar with the Indoor showing experience.
What does competing at Indoors do for my riding career and why is it important?
I believe this question is the most important one of all! I’m going to take the motto from another prestigious show, Devon, to make my point. As you enter the Dixon Oval at the Devon Horse Show, the arch says “Where Champions Meet.” I believe this is true for all Indoors shows as well. As I said earlier, many times these riders don’t get to compete head to head with these other combinations from around the country. We tell all our customers that you are only as good as your competition. I believe that every zone or local community has their horse/rider combinations that are successful in their area, but we try to take those combinations and prepare them to compete at a truly national level. These shows provide that opportunity to compete, learn and grow!
Growing up in Pennsylvania at her mom’s Wood Lea Farms, Chrissie Kear found the love and drive to want to ride to the top of the hunter ring. As a Junior, Chrissie spent time working and catch riding for Louise Serio at Derbydown in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.
After earning a college degree from Penn State University and then a law degree from Widener University, Chrissie became a working student for Rodney Bross and Elizabeth Solter at Independence Hall, where she had the pleasure of interacting with the great Hunter Rox Dene.
She currently manages and teaches at Ashland Farms, owned by Ken and Emily Smith, where she works closely with the working students to help them realize their dreams and become well-rounded horsemen.
Abigail Gordon and Heartbeat Z won the Taylor Harris Insurance Services National Children’s Medal at the 2021 Capital Challenge Horse Show. Photo by Jump Media