|Merlin likes Satin too|
Inevitably some of the ladies who have been in Hunter Land for a while talk about how much classier the prizes used to be, and how they used to be meaningful mementos of past victories. I understand that there are so many classes and so many divisions that if shows really held themselves to the silver plate standard of years past, we'd all be paying $400 a division and grumbling about entry fees more than we already do.
However it is an interesting topic. I'm grateful to be surrounded by women in our barn who love their ribbons and trophies almost as much as I do, so I feel less like a greedy Grinch and more like a normal ammy who somehow enjoys the process of watching cold hard cash turn into cheap, shiny ribbons.
Before I dive further into this (not researched or educated) post, I want to clarify that if horse shows disappeared off the face of the earth (tear) I would still ride, still enjoy the process of learning and progressing (and not progressing). The grooming sessions, the rehab work, the tack hoarding, the smell of the barn, the early mornings etc. I love it all with or without ribbons.
But since there are ribbons - naturally I have developed an un-authorized opinion on them.
I'm a believer that prizes, (inclusive of ribbons) should serve as a way to remember successful outings, and should reflect the level of accomplishment that they represent.
To me prizes in Hunter Land fall into three distinct categories.
First Place Prizes
There is a definite challenge for show managers in picking the right level of lux on all three. Go too cheap and you piss off your competitors who paid good money and want to feel that their efforts are valued. Go too over the top and those neck ribbons and 4' long streamers seem cheapened when you only had to beat one errant pony to collect them. (though I've never refused either...)
Ribbons seem like the easiest prize to get right. If I were Ribbon Queen of the World, I would encourage everyone to stay traditional and add an inch to the streamers or a fancier rosette for every couple hundred of horses at a show.
Fun show? Single streamer with a small rosette. Small schooling show? Simple 6" ribbons are fine. Larger rated show? Please bump that up to a 10" streamer and maybe a layered rosette. Big AA show with more than 1000 ponies playing around? I want tassels and something that stands out - at least for the tri-colors.
(The exception that proves this rule are the exceptionally simple class ribbons handed out at Devon)
|Totally lovely ribbons for a Schooling Show|
|In contrast, ribbons from an AA Show|
|Novelty ribbons get exiled to the end of the ribbon wall...|
First Place Prizes are more controversial.
At our local shows I always pick up the $10 gift cards to my favorite tack shop. It's fun at the end of a show (or season) to save up and put them toward a pretty new pad, or show shirt, or bucket of fancy treats for the mare. It (almost) feels like I'm earning back prize money (lol), and I enjoy stacking up my little gift cards like poker chips. (though I do feel like an idiot when I'm purchasing something large boots, cough cough and literally swipe 35 $10 cards through the register one at a time... its the equestrian equivalent of the little old lady paying for $100 of groceries with pennies and nickels)
Aside from gift cards, there seem to be two schools of thought with regard to First Place Prizes at our regional shows. The first is a focus on logoed, usually horsey themed items that you can use around the barn. Brushes, totes, water battles, etc. A few shows stock a prize "store" where you can combine blue ribbons to get more substantial prizes like fleece jackets, horse boots, etc.
The other school of thought is that people are sick of crap that says "Jump Into Spring Pony-palooza 2004" and the prizes tend toward small hostess gift type items. Lotion sets, candles, cheese knives, etc. generic items, but less distinctive, and in theory maybe easier to use/gift/whatever.
|Random horsehair keychain? made it onto the Truck Keys.|
My preference at this point is still for a healthy mix of both. If the gift cards are available, I snap those up. If they aren't, I gravitate toward logo items I can reasonably use (coffee mugs, always more coffee mugs). I hate wine glasses, though I know several people who love their horse show wine glass collection (didn't know that was a thing) so I get why managers keep ordering them. I just can't imagine setting my table with weird mismatched glasses - but that's probably more of a reflection on my neuroses.
|Fact: I have never used this glass. Ever.|
Finally - Championship Prizes.
IMHO once you hit a A show, these should be coolers, scrims, or something equally lovely.
|Appropriate Ribbon, Appropriate Cooler.|
What it seems to come down to is how long you've been showing. If you've been campaigning a bad ass horse for years and years and years, then it appears you tend to be anti-cooler. If you're newer to the scene, or don't consistently dominate your division - you're pro-cooler. And I understand both sides of the fences.
After this year, Prairie will have collected eight (that's sort of embarrassing) coolers from HITS Thermal. I'll get into my personal review of how HITS does on the prize front shortly, but in general that's a lot of the same cooler (the fact that its the exact same cooler is part of my criticism), but still.
I understand that winning a million coolers might (hypothetically) at some point get old, but I'm not sure what the better substitution is. Replace them with jackets and jackets will get old too. replace them with nice frames and suddenly you're trying to design a prize that works with people's varying taste... To me there's no easy replacement for the traditional cooler or scrim sheet, and for the folks who win all the time - well, anything will get old by the end of the season anyway.
I appreciate when shows try to offer something unique, but sometimes that backfires. For instance, a couple of years ago when Prair and I first crossed over into Hunter Land, I saved up and went to one "A" show the whole season. It was a great show. Mediocre ribbons, great first place prizes, but CRAP Championship gifts.
I mean crap. Here I was at my first big show with Prair, our first time out at 2'6" and we managed to win both our Hunter and our Eq divisions (by the skin of our teeth). And when I rolled up to the prize tent with out tri colors, I was a tad crestfallen to discover that our prize was a.... beach towel.
Not even a super nice beach towel. It said champion and whatnot, but I was a tad cranky.
Now, for a C show or schooling show? great prize. But for a two week summer A show? I was disappointed. I suppose it ended up being really useful since I hacked it up into rags and still use the bits for cleaning tack, boots or wiping Prair's nose.
|Champion tack rag!|
So what about you guys? What are your thoughts and preferences on Prizes? Functional? trophies? coolers? What say you.