By Katie Navarra
The annual Pin Oak Charity Horse Show is a time-honored family tradition for the Hopson family of Houston, Texas. As a youth competitor, Courtney Hopson and her sisters never missed an opportunity to compete in the annual horse show fundraiser.
In the years following her career as a junior rider, she has shared her love of the event with her husband, Bo, and their daughter, Sloan, who both compete in the two-week show. Bo rides in the Modified Adult Hunters aboard his horse, Gentleman Jack, and Sloan in the hunters and equitation classes.
Their involvement doesn’t end there. “They lend support by attending events put on by the Pin Oak Club during the year and also attend the dinners and parties during the horse show,” said Patty Roberts, chairperson for the Pin Oak Charity Hunter/Jumper Show.
“It has been a family tradition to compete in the show and support our charities,” she added. “They’re active participants and are in every way possible ambassadors of the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show!”
The Next Generation
“Competing at the same shows my mom and aunts have been competing at since they were young is thrilling knowing I will continue the family’s passion and tradition,” Sloan said. Today, she and her cousins Mia, Khaki and Randall all ride in the annual event. “It makes it a fun experience as a family and it gives us a topic we can talk about at the dinner table.”
Sloan started riding hunters four years ago. Training with Patty Roberts at her training stable, Memorial Park Hunters, also in Houston, Texas, has allowed Sloan to enjoy success at both a local and national level. Getting her start in the Pony Hunter and Pony Equitation divisions, she moved up to Children’s Hunters and then Junior Hunters in 2014.
“Sloan has been champion many times over in the Medium, Large, Small Green and Large Green Pony Hunter divisions,” Patty said. In 2013 she qualified her horse, Happy Feet, for the Devon Capital Challenge, Pennsylvania National and WIHS, bringing home ribbons from all of those competitions.
“This year Sloan added many Children’s Hunter champions to her collection along with champions in the 3’3″ Junior Hunters and just recently in the Small Younger Juniors,” Patty added. She also competed in WIHS Pony Equitation qualifying classes this year and, by the end of the qualifying period, she had the second highest point total of all the competitors in the WIHS, consistently scoring in the 80s all year long.
Though Sloan acknowledges the hard work and dedication it takes to win at the highest level of competition in the hunter world, she always finds satisfaction with improving her skills and breaking bad habits. “Whether it’s breaking habits, such as gazing into the mirror, which I’m still trying to stop doing, or techniques that you need to learn as a rider, riding is a very rewarding sport,” Sloan said.
Looking ahead to 2015, Sloan will add equitation to her repertoire of events. “Sloan has recently purchased an equitation horse, Ventura, and I’m looking forward to her transition from pony equitation rider to big equitation rider on her new horse,” Patty added.
The 2015 Pin Oak Charity Horse Show marks the event’s 70th anniversary. Since the event’s inception in 1945, the charity horse show has donated more than $5.5 million to Texas Children’s Hospital, the Ronald McDonald family rooms (located at Texas Children’s), and Candlelighters Houston to support their work at the Texas Children’s Cancer Center.
The charity horse show is one of the few remaining shows in the United States to host a variety of breeds and disciplines as a major event. The multi-breed extravaganza features classes showcasing American Saddlebreds, Andalusians, Lusitanos, the classic hunters, international show jumpers and horses competing in working equitation. In recognition of the event’s diverse breeds and disciplines, it was designated a Heritage Competition by the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF).
At the 2015 show, hunter/jumper riders have additional opportunities to compete. A newly added 70th Anniversary Equitation Championship class will be held in addition to the Pin Oak $30,000 Grand Prix and the Breed Championship finals. A national and international Derby, one held each week of the competition, has also been added to this year’s event. The second week of competition features the $25,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby, the Hatter Derby and the $30,000 Pin Oak Grand Prix events.
“In addition to new events in 2015, we also have our old favorites such as the $10,000 High Children’s Jumper Invitational and the $10,000 High Adult Jumper Invitational,” Patty said.