One of the highlights of my year is my annual trek to Texas for the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show just outside of Houston. This year marked its 71st year and my third year in attendance producing daily coverage in words and photographs.
This is one of the few multi-breed, old-fashioned horse shows left in this country that’s still run by volunteers and for the benefit of charity. Pin Oak has now donated millions of dollars to the Texas Children’s Hospital and associated charities, with almost $250,000 donated in 2015 alone!
Each Saturday night during the Grand Prix festivities, the show celebrates an Honored Hero, one of the children who has overcome great odds with help from Texas Children’s. It’s amazing to witness the smiles and joy that emanates from them and their families as they meet and greet the horses and riders and take their “victory lap” around the arena, with the capacity crowd cheering them on with a standing ovation.
I’ve attended horse shows all my life, from coast-to-coast and around the world, and Pin Oak truly stands out. Yes, there are moments when the drive to succeed and win that blue ribbon take center stage as happens at serious competitions, but that’s not the predominate atmosphere at this show. It’s the camaraderie between competitors and the compassion for others. From the grand prix riders in the stands who didn’t make the jump-off, gathered together whooping and cheering on those who did, to the hunter rider offering an apology at the out-gate to all in earshot for a brief moment of poor sportsmanship—it’s all about gratitude and acknowledging how fortunate we are to spend our brief time here on earth doing what we love together.