One of La Cañada Flintridge's longest-running — and jumping and galloping — traditions is undergoing a major transformation this year.
After 90 years of children's horse shows, the Flintridge La Cañada Guild's annual horse show will be open to all comers of all ages. The event, which draws riders from around the nation and raises tens of thousands of dollars each year for Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, will also feature new events and categories, including a Saturday night Grand Prix offering a $25,000 prize for the winner.
The show runs April 26-29 and will be held at the Flintridge Riding Club.
Kris Korkunis, the show's publicity chair, said the shift was needed to keep the show relevant to riders.
“The equestrian community has changed and we weren't changing with it,” she said. “The attendance wasn't what it used to be and we wanted to know why.”
In a sign of the changing times, Korkunis said that by 2011, the Flintridge event was the last children's horse show affiliated with the U.S. Equestrian Foundation in the nation.
“It was a wonderful title to have, but there was a reason” the show was the last one standing, she said. “All the other children's horse shows had gone the way of the horse-drawn carriage.”
The guild formed a committee to visit successful horse shows on the West Coast, Korkunis said, to see what worked and what didn't.
“Frankly, we were doing a lot of things that don't work,” she said.
The first major move was to bring in Dale Harvey, a manager with 25 years of experience in the Class A shows that the guild is hoping to emulate.
Harvey said the main obstacle for organizers of the Flintridge show was sticking to the children-only format, which limited the field of entrants during difficult economic times.
“There was definitely a hesitation to make that kind of change, but I think it's been embraced by the guild, the riding club and the horse show community,” he said.
Korkunis said she doesn't yet have information about ticket sales, but that a key to the show's success will be whether organizers can sell out space in all 280 available horse stalls.
Meanwhile, she said the reaction from the equestrian community has been positive.
“As far as I know, we haven't had one person call and say, 'Well, since it is not a children's horse show, we're not coming,” she said. “That was what we feared and we haven't gotten that response at all.”
For more information on the event, visit www.jumpflintridge.com.