Hunter/Jumper horse care pressures and priorities take various shapes across America. I have lived in many states around the country and have always found the horse boarding, training, and showing communities so very different. Here are my observations:
Upper Midwest Horse World (Illinois & Wisconsin Vicinity)
Boarding here is straightforward. Priorities are very strange. The cost of board is relative to the amenities (indoor arena size and heat). Oddly, location doesn’t play much into the cost. Even if a barn is close in to a metro area, if they don’t have specific amenities or facilities, or a big show clientele, the cost of board is generally less.
Trainers here have very specific goals (or call them requirements). A shows, Open shows, no shows. Most of the time, you gotta fit within their regimen or else.
Big emphasis on coolness is the Midwest. Big thought that good riders are made by fancy tack. No, not just fancy tack, trendy, expensive tack. It’s gotta be an $800, brand new Edgewood bridle or the trendy saddle of the times (I think that’s Antares right now). One obviously can’t have that cool of a jumper if one doesn’t have cool jumper boots or the figure eight noseband. In the Midwest, “great” riders are not made by skill, talent, drive, or even major riding accomplishments (such as winning in Florida), it’s really about how cool you look.
Texas is a country onto itself, and though there is much to deservedly hate about Texas, they have a pretty well rounded, and large, Hunter/Jumper community. In Texas, there are many different boarding options depending on budget, and with trainers and barn, there is room for all different goals and budgets.
Texas, not just for cowboys or Western riding, has some really nice Hunter/Jumper barns. They don’t always LOOK that nice, in fact, some may even look quite scary, but overall the people and horses are more reflective of the actual Hunter/Jumper “quality” of the region.
Atmosphere is barn dependent. Super snobby, gossipy barns aren’t necessarily the bigger A show barns. Lots of room for the super laid back, do whatever, wear whatever, look however rider, and those aren’t even the backyard, Open show barns. When it comes to riding horses in Texas, there are lots of choices that don’t mean sacrificing quality for sanity.
So, good for Texas.
That being said, I hate Texas. Don’t move there.
The Rocky Mountains, or basically, Colorado
One of the most interesting areas of the American horse world. Actually more “cowboy” than Texas, it is also more laid back than anywhere else I have been.
The show community is unusually laid back with a very, very informal air. More of an emphasis on riding, having fun, and reaching goals than material objects, who you know, and talking bulls**t. Most importantly, even the well-to-do’s didn’t act as such and were always very respectful and helpful to those who weren’t.
That’s not to say there isn’t politics, backstabbing, and gossiping in Colorado. I mean, come on, we’re talking American women in the horse industry, right? But in Colorado, the great thing is one CAN actually stay out of snarky environments, where in many other areas it’s unavoidable on some levels.
One Rocky Mountain caveat though; lots of spoiled rotten California girls sent to Boulder for school with their “Colorado” horse. Yeah, I said “Colorado” horse. While not every one of these girls is intolerable, most of ‘em are not horse people, and more importantly, not riders. Simply the California influx into Colorado are good at sitting atop well schooled, very nice horses. Their numbers are growing exponentially.
All in all, the Rockies are a great place to ride and show horses. Outside of the West Coast transplants, the Colorado riding community is definitely a draw, but the drive to the barn is an absolute chore.
Saddest state of American horse world. Completely divided quality, care, facilities, and amenities. No such thing as middle ground. Lots of money in hoity-toity A show barns, also lot’s of scary, backyard places. Middle places trade off amenities. 40 acres of great turnout, no ring. Huge indoor, terrible footing, scary turnout. Wonderful outdoor (six months a year), 80′x40′ indoor “arena”, no turnout.
Atmosphere in any case is completely intolerable.
Maybe it’s the influx of California blood. Yes, that is a huge negative. Even more-so than Colorado, The Pacific Northwest houses tons of spoiled California girls who suddenly aren’t in California anymore.
It rains a lot in this area, and older barns have not held up well. The strangest thing about the American Pacific Northwest is the amount of horses; they’re everywhere. Barns are everywhere, but, the knowledge is questionable at best. This poses a problem when you don’t mind being at a barn that isn’t “pretty”, the care isn’t all that pretty either. Not a good mix.
Can’t emphasize how much there is no middle ground in this region. You either are at THE Hunter/Jumper barn where you and your horse are only measured by your monthly budget (which better be large), or you are at a sh**hole.
New England Horse World
When I think of the east coast, I think HUNTER JUMPER CAPITAL USA! Barns here are very established, very limited new construction. Also like the Pacific Northwest, barns between A show crazy and backyard boarding are almost non-existent, but horse care and knowledge is much better.
Most all horse people in New England are nice, straightforward, and to the point (Citizen Horse doth appreciate highly!)
I see a lot of lower level Hunters with a bit of an uppity-tude. But generally, New England barns seem to lack a lot of personality, not in a bad way. There’s no air of anything in particular at most barns. The New England atmosphere is simple and uncomplicated, much like the people. There are horses, and barns, and people, and riders. Very little B.S. in this area.
Also, more part-time riders in New England; more leased horses.
Also, there is a FANTASTIC vet in Vermont. Lorie alone could make New England rule, but for the most part, the no-nonsense nature of the North East leaves it tops on my list.
As I said before, I’ve lived all over the place and shown competitively in even more spots. Based on my own personal observations on American horse boarding, showing, training, and environments across the country, your mileage may vary.
That’s YMMV in “intertube” speak.