Virtual horse shows have become popular for riders to practise their craft and stay motivated
As online interaction becomes the new norm, by nature, there is one competitive club at Ryerson University that has found a unique way to continue.
The Ryerson equestrian team, along with many other universities and colleges that have their own riding team, have taken part in the Ontario Collegiate Equestrian Association (OCEA) Virtual Horse Show Series.
After noticing that many horse shows were cancelled and riding opportunities were scarce, OCEA Board of Directors members Riley Boyes and Tori Turner started looking for other options to lift their spirits. That’s when the OCEA Virtual Show Series was born and opened to both current and past team members.
“The OCEA Virtual Horse Show Series was designed as a way to keep teams connected and motivated throughout the 2020-21 school year,” said Boyes. “While we are unable to travel across Ontario and get together to compete like we usually do, this series offers an opportunity for teams to stay in practice and involved in the circuit from the safety of their home barns.”
So far, two virtual horse shows have taken place. Both shows were based on video submission, where every competitor had to build and then ride the same course depending on their division. After all videos had been judged, the OCEA sent ribbons directly to the winners by mail.
Kathryn West, University of Guelph alumna, won a first-place ribbon for her video submission in the OCEA Open Division.
“The OCEA virtual shows have been a great way to still feel connected to the circuit during COVID-19 and have helped motivate me to work towards something,” said West.
In addition to the video submissions, the OCEA Virtual Show Series also has a photo class members can participate in. This is a submission of photos, new or old, based on different categories. This class was founded on the idea that not all teams would have access to riding facilities and their horses.
Katie Wilson, Ryerson alumna and former captain of the Ryerson equestrian team, won third place in the “Best Groomed” photo category.
“The virtual horse shows are a great way for people and teams to stay connected with each other during a year where shows are cancelled and students can’t be together,” said Wilson
OCEA also donated all proceeds from one of their virtual shows to Ontario Equestrian’s For The Herd foundation. A response from the ongoing pandemic, Ontario Equestrian started For The Herd to support riding school facilities and their horses. OCEA donated a total of $1,000 to help the cause.
Ryerson alumna and former OCEA president Laura Giffen helped judge one of OCEA’s virtual shows. Giffen believes that the virtual show series OCEA created has benefited people’s mental health and wellness.
“It still fosters a community. The OCEA has been bringing equestrians together for over 10 years (and) lasting friendships have been formed through our love of horses,” said Giffen. “COVID-19 has prevented university equestrians from being able to come together at competitions. However, they have found a way to still connect and share their life and riding progress while being apart.”
The last show, which has yet to take place, invites the top 10 riders in each division to complete the final course and compete for year-ending standings.