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HiDHA show season offers variety, competition — and lots of fun

Photos by Evon Kurtz Photography
EXCA Hall of Famer Bill Cameron enjoys participating in and contributing to his community’s shows. (Evon Kurtz photo)

PALMDALE — Obstacles play a big part in today’s popular horse show classes, but this year, obstacles also have gotten in the way of many 2020 shows. Eight months after COVID’s kickoff in March, some lockdowns remain in place at municipal show facilities, but like a clean trot over poles, some clubs managed to navigate problems and stitch together their show seasons.

Much to its members’ delight, the HiDesert Horsemen’s Association is one of those associations, and after two early-season shows were canceled, a pair of double-point events in September and October were heartily welcomed – and attended. Along with a single-point event, the club totaled five 2020 shows. Even before this crazy pandemic year, HiDHA events had seen increased popularity – a good sign that equestrian life is active and vibrant in this part of the Inland Empire.

“We did have to postpone the start of our shows due to COVID, but once restrictions lightened up we’ve had an outpouring of excitement and very successful shows,” said Bunny Mullins, the current HiDHA Vice President who has been on-and-off the board since the 1970s. “Our whole show is growing. Exhibitors are coming from as far as Bishop, the coast, Apple Valley, L.A. area and other surrounding areas.”

The wide range of HiDHA competition spans across ages, breeds and disciplines in a community-friendly environment that resembles large open shows of decades past.

Heading the HiDHA, founded in 1973, is President Evon Kurtz, a ranch horse exhibitor and Extreme Cowboy competitor who is in the EXCA Hall of Fame.

“Its a team effort, and I am proud to be the leader of great group of board members with diversified backgrounds and a variety of ages,” said Kurtz. “We take great pride in how we all get along as an effective team running the association.”

A wide range of breed and discipline classes at HiDHA events make for a variety of horses and action. (Evon Kurtz photo)

The board delivered this year when the heat was on, overcoming COVID as well as the challenge of smoke from California’s wildfires, and then planning safe, rewarding competitions for its 2020 season finales.

“The 2020 show year has been tough on our equestrians, they’ve been crushed by the political and COVID climate,” said Bill Cameron, HiDHA board member and, like Kurtz, a ranch horse exhibitor and an EXCA Hall of Fame inductee. “HiDHA has been a great outlet for them. It’s wonderful to hear how glad they are that we are able to put on shows. The ranch horse classes have been huge, and I predict next year they will be even bigger. We hope to introduce a few more classes for the 2021 show year, and we plan to put on a minimum of six shows next year, starting in March.”

Board member Candace Carrillo, a HiDHA member since 2002 who rides English, has “high-risk” health factors that were accommodated.

“I love the fact that despite my physical limitations I’m still able to show and compete at a regular horse show,” she said. “I’m very excited with how our club did this year. It has been challenging working around the restrictions especially with being high-risk myself. The club has worked around my needs including adjusting our meetings and helping to ensure social distancing while my son and I are working the in gate.

“People are always willing to lend a hand and help their competitors,” she added. “I consider this group family and look forward to our shows more than anyone could ever know.”

HiDHA Secretary Hayley Palmer started showing western in 2004, and seven years ago became hooked – like so many others – on ranch horse classes. From the AQHA level down to open breed shows, you see a huge demand for ranch horse classes, and HiDHA is no exception, she says.

“Here at HiDHA, we have seen a huge jump in participation in the ranch horse classes, and that has allowed us to add more divisions and classes like ranch reining and ranch halter to our premium,” said Palmer, who joined the HiDHA board in 2019. “Our open walk/jog ranch rail class has had 20-plus competitors! This year were approved to be sanctioned by West Coast Ranch Horse, and I believe that has drawn in more ranch horse exhibitors, too.”

This year also marked the addition of the newest division, the Ranch Horse 12-under walk-trot, giving youth a chance to show in ranch horse classes.

Young, not-so-young and everything in-between have their places at HiDHA shows. (Evon Kurtz photo)

“The kids really seem to enjoy the patterns and the ranch attire,” said Palmer. “Our hope is to keep our youth involved in horses and enjoying the show ring.”

Heather Mathews first rode in a HiDHA show ring as an 8-year old in 1992. Today, she is HiDHAs Treasurer.

“Even though this year has been tough on everyone, I love that exhibitors are still coming out to enjoy time with their horses,” said Mathews. “Regardless of the restrictions the state has put on everyone, they can’t restrict one-on-one time with their horses and the beautiful outdoors. We have seen an uptake in the amount of exhibitors at our shows this year. I believe that is because people have had more time to ride and practice at home, and they are itching to get out and show off their horses.”

One of those eager competitors is Katrina Jackson of Apple Valley who went home after the Oct 18 double-point show as the Western Walk Trot – Open Division High Point winner. She and her 12-year-old solid-bred Paint mare, Bailey, train with Marjorie Coulter of Coulter Performance Horses in Apple Valley.

“It’s a wonderful place to show,” she said of HiDHA. “We had limited opportunities to show this year, and it was nice to be able to show.”

More online: https://bit.ly/011HIDHA

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