This piece originally appeared on our sister site, Eventing Nation and was written by Marion Maybank.
No one in the United States is immune to the financial ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic—least of all independent contractors. The sport horse industry, by and large, is populated by those who don’t draw a paycheck from the same organization year-round: ring crew, grooms, braiders, in-gate crew, security, announcers, office staff and myriad other professionals. Each of these positions has been terminated with the forced closure of horse shows mandated by United States Equestrian, placing people in precarious financial situations.
PerfectYourRide, founded by Alexia Honegger and co-managed by Marion Maybank, has teamed up with trainers from around the country to help alleviate some of the financial burdens placed on horse show staff who may not have a financial safety net. The new online equestrian education platform has gathered some of the most prominent trainers in the hunter/jumper world, including Missy Clark, Stacia Madden, Daniel Bluman, Natascha Gates, Matt Cyphert, Patricia Griffith, Amanda Steege, Lainie Wimberly, Matt Piccolo and Andrea Throckmorton, to name a few.
To participate in the fundraiser, riders simply visit PerfectYourRide.com, pick a trainer, and pay the associated fee to get riding and showing advice from a respected professional. Riders submit a video or videos and are able to ask questions like, “What would make this round cleaner?,” “What are some exercises to make my roll backs better?” or “What would you advise to keep [my horse] settled during the course?” Trainers will address questions via email, phone or FaceTime within one week of receiving them.
The payment for this service will benefit the industry in two ways:
• Half of the payment goes to the trainer who is offering advice (many barns have had to close to all but key staff, drastically affecting farm income)
• Half of the payment goes to the Show Jumping Relief Fund, an entity that disseminates funds to those in need. Many trainers are donating their half of the fee to Show Jumping Relief Fund as well.
The Show Jumping Relief Fund was created and is managed by a task force of Daniel Bluman, Ariel Bluman, Liz Soroka, AJ Holmes, Steven Wilde, Megan McDermott, Angela Pritchard, Lourdes de Guardiola and Juan Palacio. Currently the team is running an online-only Stay at Home Equitation Classic on multiple social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, and offers two ways for riders to participate. In the first, professional trainers will submit videos of themselves over a course. Each day, two rides will be posted on the SJRF website and visitors are encouraged to make a donation and numerically score each round. One day after the rounds are posted, a licensed judge will post his or her score for each round, as well as an explanation of their scores.
Once the professional’s Equitation Classic has ended, the participants who commented with scores closest to the judge’s score will win prizes, one of which is a riding lesson with one of the participating professionals during the 2021 Winter Equestrian Festival show season. Knowing that many riders can’t go to the barn currently, they are invited to upload an old video to the SJRF Facebook page. Once a donation has been made, the round will be judged. Riders are then encouraged to post the same video on PerfectYourRide.com for professional advice on how to get more out of their horse and trip.
“These crew guys, braiders and horse show staff help us get through a show day and focus on our business–I’m happy to be involved in helping them out while there aren’t any shows,” said PerfectYourRide trainer Matt Cyphert.
Funds raised from the joint efforts of PerfectYourRide.com and the Show Jumping Relief Fund will directly assist horse show industry personnel who have been laid off because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Trainers interested in assisting with the effort can get involved here. Those in need of assistance can fill out the Assistance Form here. For additional information, email PerfectYourRide@gmail.com.