Christine Reupke, the Director of Equestrian & Breed Sport at the Royal Horse Show, has developed a unique online tool that makes instruction opportunities accessible to all. Horsemanship Society International Inc. is an affordable membership-based global competition opportunity which offers education, interactive lesson programs and competitions designed to encourage riders to become more knowledgeable horse people and better athletes.
Reupke, a 30-year veteran of equestrian sport as competitor, coach and official, developed the site along with former Director of Sport for Equestrian Canada, Jon Garner, “I had the idea in late 2018, and then we started building the site slowly in 2019. It’s a fledgling site right now, but with every new session we hope to have different well-respected officials specializing, for example, in pony hunters. When we have the young jumper classic, we’d like to get to the point where we have Axel Verlooy or McLain Ward have a look at the young horses that are submitted online. I’ve been thankful to have Jon working on this with me, because with his contacts he’s able to generate a lot of key people which will give the site credibility as well.”
Participants download the course requirements, set up their own ring according to the specs provided, video the round and submit it for judging. “We open a series of competitions and there can be anywhere between six and nine classes at any given time. For example, the next competition opens July 6, closes on the 20th, and then on the 24th the athletes will get their results. Once that competition closes, another will open up the next Monday, and so on,” explains Reupke. Competitions range from the riding school level up through Open Hunters and Young Jumper classes on a rotational basis.
The timing is rather precognisant, as online shows are suddenly becoming extremely popular while there is not a lot of other choices for many people. “I’d like to say I had foresight that some kind of disaster was going to happen, but that’s not it!” Reupke said, laughing. “It’s just kind of a gap that I’ve seen in our industry/business/sport ‒ not everybody has free and open access to good training.”
This program is especially welcome for people who live in remote areas, but still would like some sort of input to improve their riding. “When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time riding by myself and I wasn’t very good because I couldn’t afford access to A Circuit trainers,” admits Reupke.
A free membership level provides limited access to winning rounds, education and horsemanship videos and a one-time complimentary competition entry, after which the entry fee per competition is $40.00 CDN. A premium yearly membership ($59.95 CDN) provides full access to all past competitions, education platforms and other exclusive content and includes two complimentary competition entries per year with the entry fee per competition set at $25.00 CDN (all prices plus applicable taxes).
Even though it’s still early in the game, the reaction has been extremely positive. “So far, most of our marketing promotion has been pretty organic and word of mouth, but we’ve been getting really, really good response from local trainers,” says Reupke, “and we’ve had some people sign up from Quebec, the UK, and Germany, so I’m really encouraged.”