Farm Horizons, February 2015

The WSCA Championship Show showcases the best and brings families together

By Liz Hackenmueller

The door to the biggest open horse championship show in the state, and maybe the country, is governed by the Western Saddle Clubs Association, Inc. (WSCA).

“Last year we had just under 5,000 entries. It’s probably one of the largest open shows in the United States. I don’t know of a bigger one,” said Steven Tibbetts, a longtime WSCA board member and chair of the WSCA Championship Show.

In order to make it to the WSCA Championship Show, competitors need to place first or second in what’s called a qualifying show. Saddle clubs around the state host qualifying shows throughout the year, but in order to be a qualifying show, it must follow the rules established by the WSCA and be judged by a WSCA-approved judge.

“WSCA, in a nutshell, governs the clubs,” said Tibbetts. With more than 230 clubs and more than 12,000 individual memberships, this is no small task.

In fact, the WSCA was created almost 60 years ago, in 1955, when it became apparent that a uniform approach to shows was necessary.

The first horse show at the Minnesota State Fair had taken place four years earlier, and the fair wanted to work with the saddle clubs to ensure quality entrants and promote the show.

At that time, only 21 clubs were part of the WSCA. The first rule book was published in 1958, and the first Championship Horse Show took place in 1959. The event has grown from one Sunday afternoon and 14 classes to span five days and 72 classes at the Coliseum at the Minnesota State Fair grounds.

The event includes both pleasure riding competitions and games, such as barrel racing. There is also a royalty contest in which a queen is chosen to represent WSCA for the next year, along with a princess, Ms. Horsemanship, and Ms. Games and Ms. Congeniality.

Tibbetts has chaired the WSCA Championship Show for more than 15 years and has seen it grow tremendously in that time.

“The championship show was growing by 10 to 15 percent a year for awhile,” Tibbetts said. The last couple years it has stayed about the same, according to Tibbetts, which is OK for now.

“We don’t have a lot of room to expand,” Tibbetts said. Stall space is an issue and the show already spans five days in duration.

Eventually, the WSCA would like to get its own facility with a clubhouse, and host the show on its own grounds, according to Tibbetts.

To make this a reality, the association would like to find a sizeable land donation of 50 or more acres and an architect with an interest to work pro bono, according to Tibbetts.

Beyond competition

The WSCA was founded and exists to provide rules and regulations, but it also enriches members’ experience with their horses, according to its mission statement, and brings families closer together.

“WSCA is more of a family-oriented thing – for families to show horses and get together,” Tibbetts said. “I wouldn’t have the relationship right now with my daughter if it wasn’t for the WSCA.”

Tibbets fondly recalls showing horses with his daughter nearly every weekend while she was growing up. Now that his daughter has a family of her own, Tibbetts shares the same bond with his grandkids, who have also started showing horses.

“The whole point is, we’re very close, and it’s all because of horses,” Tibbetts said. He explained that it isn’t just time spent going to shows, but also training time that builds family bonds.

“Horses take a lot of time. If you want to show a horse, you have to ride that horse three to five times a week. You have to keep the horse in shape and you have to keep yourself in shape.”

The WSCA also promotes trail-riding and supports 4-H and other youth programs, according to its website.

A scholarship program was started in 1977, for members of the saddle clubs.

“The WSCA gives scholarships out every year for any education – anyone can apply, young and old,” Tibbetts said.

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