Congress: Las Vegas of the Horse World
by Gabrielle Sasse
Ah, October. Fall weather is finally approaching. Leaves are changing color. Halloween is in the air. But more importantly, in my mind, it is the time of The All American Quarter Horse Congress!
This 2011 Congress was my sixth or seventh time attending. It was supposed to be my third time showing, but an unplanned and ill-timed surgery on my part (think akin to colic for humans) prevented that. As disappointed as I was, it gave me a change to re-experience Congress as a spectator/shopper. This year however, I was also going to experience the show as an employee.
The University of Findlay has become known for hiring out students at Congress for the trainers to use (and sometimes abuse, or so it feels.) We clean stalls, feed, lunge, bathe, administer meds, lunge, saddle, stand in the lunging lines for hours, ride down frisky horses, set trail courses, lunge, run last minute “oh my god we need this bridle” errands…you name it. In return, the trainers provide lodging, parking, a lack of sleep, sore feet, a whole new network and an insight into training at big shows such as this. Friends of mine have gotten summer jobs and employment after college from the trainers they worked for at Congress. The horse world is even more about who you know than the average person can believe.
I was a bit too late to be hired by an “unknown” but my trainer from home in Wisconsin, Jenny Welhouse, welcomed my help gratefully. They were going to be there for two and a half weeks, a long haul so far from home. Findlay lets students miss a week’s worth of classes, excused. I drove back and forth on weekends, and spent a Thursday through Wednesday at the show. I fed, bathed, lunged, ran emergency golf cart errands, kept Jenny on track, cleaned stalls, endlessly swept the aisle, kept our newbie show-ers calm… and managed to get a little shopping in. Word to the wise – anteater boots are not only pretty cool looking but super comfortable. Nothing like breaking in new boots walking around concrete for days and days! Especially when stalled way back in the Swine Barn…
I was also able to watch quite a bit. Working hunter, equitation over fences, trail, showmanship, hunter under saddle, halter, horsemanship, western pleasure, the Super Sale, the Queens Contest results, stakes classes, youth classes, novice classes, the practice pens… and that was only what I had time for! The thing I love most about Congress is the sheer variety. It’s a bit like Vegas. There is something for everyone; at least as much bling, and something going on all hours of the day. A few show days went on well past midnight. I, myself, was lunging horses at 2:00 a.m., and waking up to feed at 7:00 a.m. And people think showing is easy.
The quality of horses you see is just outstanding. They make you stop what you are doing to watch them float around the pen. Until you realize your horse is eating his lunge line. Oops. You’ll see multi-world and Congress champs working next to the National Youth Activity Team Tournament (NYATT) kids who may have only been to one or two Quarter Horse shows. The great thing about Congress is: if you can pay the entries, you can be there to show.
Essentially, Congress has everything every horse enthusiast of any caliber could hope for. Something my fellow students and I, as the aspiring future of the horse industry, can look forward to living year after year.
I can’t wait for next year’s Vegas.