Photo submitted by Savannah Smith
Photo submitted by Savannah Smith

National Academy Championship Horse Show

These riders are racking up ribbons at the National Academy Championship Horse Show.

Junior Savannah Smith and senior Mia Rossini competed at the National Academy Championship Horse Show (NACHS) in Muffsburo, Tenn. as a part of the Louisville Equestrian Center team.

“I placed 10th and ninth, so I made it to Saturday but then I didn’t place,” Smith said. In order to advance to the next day of competition, riders must place in the top 10 of their class. Classes are split up by age and discipline.

Photo submitted by Savannah Smith

“The cool thing about nationals is that you can see the judges cards, so you can see what they wanted to place you because there’s three judges and they basically average how they wanted to place you, one of them had placed me seventh and also sixth so that was pretty good. I didn’t get that but I thought it was cool how I could see that they wanted to place me,” Rossini said.

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“I definitely learned a lot. It was really good. You can go there and not even place and like you can still learn so much because it’s all about placement within the arena. That’s like I think the number one thing is finding a good spot to be by yourself in the arena,” Rossini said. While riding, you need to have a place for yourself for your horse to perform to its best ability. Generally, you want to have at least one horse length in between you and the rider in front of you.

“I learned how to work around the ring more and to always look and listen for trainers because they are not everywhere,” Smith said. For many athletes, competitions are the biggest learning opportunity. NACHS is at the end of the academy season, and they compete at shows prior to NACHS. Smith showed four times prior to Nationals but next year hopes to do at least six.

“I wish that they made you go to nationals first. I’m not going to be showing next year probably, because I graduated and so a lot of people do it again but they wait a few years because it’s very expensive. Unfortunately, Academy is very expensive,” Rossini said. She doesn’t plan to show next year due to the high cost. Simply registering to go to the show is over $2,000 plus the cost of show outfits and lessons.

“I did the winter tournaments last year because Anna, my instructor, made me do them because you need show experience because I didn’t have any. I didn’t have any show experience before this year and only did little fun shows. And then I started doing the winter tournaments. And those were really helpful,” Rossini said. The LEC puts on fun shows throughout the year to help prepare riders for shows. They are good for experience in the show ring, but they are competing against people they already ride with and know, so it’s difficult to gauge how they are performing.

“I just have like a year to do whatever I need to do, I take videos of myself so I can see what I need to work on, mostly just my lower body,” Smith said. Smith plans to compete in the winter tournament series in Lexington. Smith has a youtube channel called ‘Saddleseat Savannah’ where she documents her riding journey and uploads videos and edits of her riding.

Photo submitted by Mia Rossini

“Getting closer with my teammates, because I don’t ever really get to do that much because we usually just have one lesson and then we do whatever we need to do, so we got to do a lot of fun things before nationals and then during by cheering people on,” Smith said. NACHS is a massive opportunity for riders at the same barn to get closer, being on a show team is a huge commitment for these riders, and they spend so much time together but never have a chance to get close until the big day. “I also have to say that the LEC team, every time I passed by it was ‘You got this, chin up, growl at him, do it’,” Smith said. Having a support system makes huge shows like this even more special for these athletes.

Every rider comes to the barn for a different reason, and everyone gets something different from the time they spend around horses. “It’s an athletic thing for me, and it takes away any thoughts that are upsetting me, so they’re (horses) are just kind of like my therapy,” Smith said. “It’s almost like therapy for me because like before, it helps me to regulate my anxiety because I used to get very anxious to ride. You challenge yourself more and then it gets easier and it gets less stressful,” Rossini said.

“I had so many pet peeves at Nationals. There were just some people that I thought didn’t need those bridles or didn’t need that whip, and like people, there’re some people who don’t pay attention to other people in the ring, like, yeah, you zone in but like don’t do it too much,” Smith said.

“I don’t like the competitiveness because it’s not it’s not about that like once you make it to nationals. you’re just there to have fun that’s what everyone there, like Anna, Betsy, they were all saying, it doesn’t matter how you placed,” Rossini said. How competitive everyone is and how determined they are to prove that they are better than everyone else was one of Rossini’s greatest pet peeves at the show.

“I feel like people are just normally judgmental of other barns, like there is beef between the barns . It’s dumb,” Rossini said. At this level, many riders are judgemental of how everyone else does things, even though everyone is there for the same reason, to showcase their skills and spend time with the animals they love.

“Oh my gosh, the parade of barns was so fun, I carried this girl the whole time around; That hurt but she was very excited, I was very excited. We got to take photos. We got to scream as loud as we wanted to. That was fun,” Smith said. The Parade of Barns is a NACHS tradition where all riders and barns come together and parade around the arena to kick off the event. The Parade of Barns is often considered one of the best parts of the NACHS and is what sets it apart from other shows.

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