It's an exciting time in the equestrian world, as the two-week event known as The Pin Oak Charity Horse Show is almost here. There won't be any divot stomps, but we're always amazed at the high-flying show jumpers – where the horse with the fastest time and the fewest faults takes home the win – and the elegant hunters, who traverse a course that mimics the speed and hurdles of a typical foxhunt (posts, rails, brush and stone walls). The challenge here is to maintain an even hunting pace, as in a real foxhunt the horse would need to keep up with the hounds and other horses.
We spoke with Lynn Walsh, president of the horse show, who shows in the amateur owner hunters division. Walsh says that she shows “pretty much all over the country,” and that Pin Oak is “absolutely one of the nicer ones.” She says that so much planning goes into the event year-round that, by the time March 22 gets here, all she has left to do is enjoy the event. (That work entails fundraising, strategy development, sponsors, exhibitors, prize lists and coordinating with executive committee members.)
Walsh owns four horses in all, including Ocean Park. "He's the oldest; he was a wonderful horse, very, very competitive, she says. "But he's retired now." There's also MacArthur Park, who has been sitting out this past year because of an injury, and Out of the Park, a "wonderful amateur horse" that she says is a champion and who placed "third in the big championship hunter jumper classic" in Florida's Winter Equestrian Festival. She has a new horse that's coming up in the ranks, Hollywood Park. "I've shown him some, and I'll probably start showing him more; he's younger, he's from Germany," says Walsh. "We call him Woody."
At Pin Oak, there are six competition rings going from 8 a.m. until later in the afternoon, so Walsh says that “there's lots to see and do,” including concession stands and shopping (jewelry, clothes, equestrian products), and on high-traffic days (Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays) they bring in different food trucks as well.
The annual event has been instrumental in raising funds for Texas Children's Hospital (main and west campuses), Ronald McDonald House Houston (the family rooms) and Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Family Alliance. "This year will be our 71st year, and Pin Oak was started to fund seed money for Texas Children's Hospital," says Walsh. "We've given millions to Ronald McDonald House, Candlelighters, and we all support Texas Children's. We're a 501(c)(3), and our goal is to raise money for [these charities]. Last year we raised almost a quarter of a million dollars from one horse show."
Walsh also credits the sponsors and their continued support for the event. "We have people who've been with us many, many years," says Walsh, adding that new sponsors join every year. "We're proud that we're making our goals in spite of the oil and gas market, and a lot of people have stepped up." She says that even those corporations suffering from the lower price of oil still manage to give something to support these worthwhile charities.
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Pin Oak is a two-week affair, with three ticketed events: the Hildebrand Fund Grand Prix event on Saturday, March 26 at 6 p.m.; the USHJA International Hunter Derby (and Hatter Derby Night) on Friday, April 1 at 6 p.m.; and the Walter Oil & Gas Grand Prix event on Saturday, April 2 at 6 p.m. The price for ticketed events is $10 per person; on all other days, the show is free and open to the public.
Walsh says that it's a great opportunity to go and watch the different kinds of horses. The event is unique in that it is only one of a few shows in the country that feature multiple registered breeds and various equestrian disciplines (riding and driving). Visitors will see American Saddlebred horses, known as the "peacocks of the show ring"; and they'll compete in several types of classes, including Pleasure, Equitation, Three-gaited, Five-gaited and Fine Harness. Pin Oak also features Andalusian horses, one of the great ancient breeds, known for their intelligence and kind disposition.
Visitors to the event will be able to see the horses up close. They are all comfortable being around people, and Walsh says we'll see them walking around the grounds with their trainers.
Pin Oak runs March 22 through April 3, Great Southwest Equestrian Center, 2501 South Mason, Katy, 713-621-6290, pinoak.org. Free to $10.