The Weirdness That Is National Academy, A Blogger Non-Meetup

I’ve been to a lot of horse shows. National Academy is the weirdest.

First, the age level. Hundreds of kids and a handful of adults acting like kids. Us grown-up riders were not there in our capacity as mature human beings. We were there as students. Expected to sit down, shut up, and listen to our instructors. It’s hard not to feel 12 years old in that situation.

Second, the experience level. Academy is the beginner level of saddle seat. By definition, none of the riders have developed coping mechanisms for show stress. Even those of us who have been to other types of shows are new to this discipline. A build-up of novice nerves.

Third, the cut-offs. One-quarter to one-third of the entries are done after Friday’s classes. Another wodge are done after Saturday. Surviving to ride another day is a huge concern. This turns the tension level up to eleven.

Finally, the schedule. On Friday, we had five people to go twice (technically, me three times & the leadliner once). That’s ten times of getting ready, cheering on, acting as a spotter, coming back to the barn to congratulate/commiserate, and so on. The Stepping Stone Farm contingent was on the small side. Some barns had many more riders. Either you are riding, or someone from your barn is. There is never enough time.

A case in point. There is another blogger. She rides saddle seat. She shows Academy in the Adult division. Clearly, we are soulmates in the making. This year, her barn was at the other end of the aisle from us. I could see their stalls from ours.

Was I able to track her down to introduce myself? HA!

Either she was busy, or I was. Or both. Yes, we were often both busy because we were in the same classes. I FREAKING STOOD NEXT TO THIS WOMAN IN LINE UP. And yet I left Murfreesboro on Sunday without ever meeting her. That’s how weird Nationals is.

Maybe next year. (Twitch. Shudder.)
And thus we bring to a close this year’s recap of the National Academy Championship Horse Show. Best of times. Worst of times. It was Nationals.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott


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