LAKE PLACID - Two major innovations were unveiled at this year's Lake Placid Horse Show, a $1.2 million investment in the footings of seven show rings, and the show extending from two to three weeks.
The investment in the rings was a clear winner, according to officials and riders, with the caveat that the new bedding still needed to get worked in. The third week was less so, appreciated by those farms, riders and trainers who stayed the extra week, but not in the numbers desired and needed.
The footings for a horse show is similar to laying a foundation for a house. First you have to dig down, and in this case about 3 feet. Then two layers of crushed stone are put down, followed by large drainage pipes, more stone, a fabric membrane, and then a mix of cut up fiber and several special grades of the sand. All this is packed down. Then you need a some rain and a few thousand horses running round on it to pack it down further and squeeze out the air - this later pretty well accomplished by the end of the first two weeks, leaving those riders coming or staying for the third week enjoying the rings in near peak condition.
(Photo — Naj Wikoff)
Their conclusion, "Wow."
The extended season is also a wow for the riders as they all had more space to ride in and more time than the packed first two weeks. The challenge for the horse show organizers is that the cost of mounting the third week is not much less than the first two, and they need to attract a certain number of riders to break even. They didn't do that, but it wasn't unexpected. Thus the plans are to give it another year to see if they get the needed riders to make it work. A good omen is that they had to turn down more than 50 would-be entries for the first two weeks as those shows were sold out. If those 50 can be encouraged to return next year for the third week, all will be well.
"The third week is shy of what we expected," said Richard Feldman, chairman of the Lake Placid Horse Show. "I expected to get 60 percent of what we got either the first or second week, and we got 40 percent. We will run the show again for three weeks next year if we get permission from the federation that controls the shows. We had decided to make a two-year commitment, so we will do it again and if just thirty percent of the people who told me before they left that they will come for the third week next year we will be jammed. We just have to wait and see."
"Any time we're at a series of shows, people have to get used to the idea of being there three weeks as we do so many weeks in a row during the winter," said horse trainer Todd Minikus. "You just have to pick which horses you show and when you show them. We showed some of our horses the first and second week and others the second and third. I hate to make plans now about coming next year for three weeks. It all depends on what horses you got. This year it has been very nice, so we will wait and see."
"This horse show has been on top of our show list for several years," said trainer and manager of Beacon Hill Show Stables Stachia Madden. "I think our customers, family, staff, and riders all look forward to coming here. We were extremely excited about the footings improvements as it seemed to be the only real thing separating this horse show from some of the other premier horse shows. I think next year will be a fantastic year because the footing will have had a year to settle and get worked properly, and we will have had two years under our belt of having the extra week. For me, the third week has been a real pleasure. While the numbers are down I think more than the horse show would like, it made for a really breath of fresh air for the exhibitors because there was lots of room to ride and we got done early enough to do some stuff in town. But if they can equalize it a bit I think there is nothing else to talk about, the show will be just fantastic."
"I think the horse show is as good this year as it has ever been, if not better," said Tim Hooker, vice chair. "We had great weather, a lot of participation the first two weeks, and I think the third week will grow. I hear that from everyone and the questions were all answered. Will the new footings hold up, the footings held up great. Will the field hold up for three weeks, the field held up better than anyone imagined. I think that will bring people back and that people are going to talk from now to the beginning of next year about how great Lake Placid was."
"I am feeling very good about the horse show," said Feldman. "The first two weeks were the best we ever had. The third was an experiment. The first two were wonderful. People had a great time, the restaurants were full, and I had a great time, which is even better. Plus, the new footings are perfect."
"I love the horse show," said rider Chloe Fields, who has got her first pony at age three and whose dad Marshall has been riding in Lake Placid since the 1970s. "We have been here every year. We love the third week. It's fun. It's lovely."