They may not be the riders you see competing today in the Olympics but they could well be there someday.
Over the weekend the Saskatchewan Riding Clubs Association (SRCA) are holding their provincial finals at the Golden Mile Arena located on the Moose Jaw Exhibition Grounds (250 Thatcher Drive East).
“We are holding this event for beginners to have an opportunity to compete,” said Corrina Cunningham SRCA president in an interview with MJ Independent.
“We pride ourselves in opening our doors for everyone,” Cunningham said, adding the age range and skill level varies with the SRCA’s emphasis not only on competition but also helping to develop skills and horsemanship throughout the year at one of the Association’s 10 clubs.
A total of 137 horses have descended upon Moose Jaw from Friday to Sunday for the competition. Competitors have come to Moose Jaw from the SRCA’s 10 clubs which are located as far north as the Nipawin’s Northeast club to Weyburn’s South Country club.
“Anything equine is welcome. Mules, percheron, gypsy banner (a breed which is a cross between heavy and lighter horses) and ponies.”
The range of horses also varies with some horses bought at auctions with other horses higher calibre with a lot of money and time put into their training.
On Sunday the SRCA will be featuring “91 years, eight months and how days old” Chris Perry from Weyburn. Perry has been a member of the SRCA since its start 55 years ago in 1966.
“She is not riding anymore but will be a spectator. She has has been in the club from the beginning 55 years ago sine 1966…her passion for horse though extends to her granddaughter and daughter who are both active riders,” Cunningham said.
The competition is based upon two disciplines — Western Performance and Gymkhana.
Western Performance is based up Pleasure (showcasing how much of a pleasure the horses provide to the rider), Horsemanship (how the rider handles their horse and how it responds) and Reining (how well the horse and rider work together).
Gymkhana is riding around obstacles such as barrels, pulls and quadrangle patterns set up through a course which consists of patterns around poles set up in a timed course.
Winners in each age group and category receive high point buckles which are championship belt buckles similar to ones given to championship winners at rodeos.
“We only have the show because of the sponsors,” Cunningham said, adding “the SGEU (Saskatchewan Government Employee’s Union) sponsor the King or Queen competition and they receive a trophy saddle.”
The value of the trophy saddle is more than $2,000.
The King or Queen event is similar to a 4-H event with entrants declaring their intention to enter months in advance. The maximum age for entrants in the King or Queen competition is up to age 21.
Once a rider enters the King or Queen event they must do a series of activities which go far beyond the actual riding of their horse.
Entrants must promote the SRCA and try to get sponsors (it is OK if no sponsors are found), promote their local riding club, do a horse component, talk to the competition judges and answer questions, groom and get their horse ready for riding and finally volunteer in the community.
Points are awarded for each activity with the person with the most points declared king or queen at the annual competition.
The King or Queen will be announced this Sunday at approximately 3 p.m..Last year the event (which rotates between Saskatoon and Moose Jaw on an every other year basis) was not held due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The competition was held despite the province’s announcement of the mask mandate in response to the rising number of cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant with organizers having to quickly find out the rules and then making sure everyone connected with the show following the rules.
“It did catch us off guard so it was a bit of a scramble but everything worked itself out…but this is our life right now and so we have to pretty much deal with it,” she said.
About the pandemic, Cunningham said the SRCA is happy to be holding the event. Riders are allowed to remove their mask if they are sitting in the saddle while all others — including those running beside their children riding in the ring — must wear non-medical masks.
The pandemic has slightly affected the SRCA’s competition this year with the numbers of riders entered this year down from two years ago. Prior to the pandemic the membership was growing over the past 15 years, she said.
Asked how many competitors in the event were from Moose Jaw Cunningham said none.
“They all come from out of town…up to 250 people are here from all over the province, the majority of people here are from farms,” she said, adding usually half of the people competing stay on the Exhibition Grounds camping out for the event. The rest stay in local hotels.
“I have never seen a turnout like this for camping this year. The campgrounds are full and people are setting up elsewhere.”
As far as an economic impact on Moose Jaw, Cunningham said she could see it being really positive for the city as a whole economically.
“There is definitely a lot of money coming into the city…even if it is people just getting up in the morning and getting a Tim Hortons, that is a lot of coffee.”
The SRCA provincial finals wrap-up Sunday September 19th from 9 a.m. until approximately 3 p.m. and are FREE to attend. There is a paid canteen on site as well as 50-50 draw everyone is welcome to enter.